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O Me of Little Faith

In the 17th century, in response to his support for Copernicanism, the Church condemned Galileo and his heliocentric ideas. Good Christians fought opposed the idea that the sun was at the center of the solar system. Why? Because the Bible seemed to indicate that the earth was stationary, and everything revolved around it, including the sun. For instance: “The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.” (Psalm 93:1) Not to mention all the verses about the sun rising and setting. But eventually science won out, and other than this guy, almost all Christians believe in heliocentrism despite what the biblical writers said.

In the 19th century, a large number of Christians condoned slavery. Many Christians in the South actually owned slaves. They didn’t question it because the Bible seemed OK with slavery. Yes, it set some conditions on owning slaves (Deut. 16:14 commands that they be treated like extended family), but it also allows conquered tribes to be turned into slaves. The Apostle Paul famously advocated that slaves obey their masters. But it wasn’t until the abolition movement (led by Christians who, it should be noted, also based their beliefs on the Bible) that Christianity turned against slavery — despite what the Bible teaches.

Throughout the 20th century (but less so today), divorce was stigmatized in the Church. Jesus taught that remarrying after divorce was like committing adultery. The Apostle Paul echoed this teaching in Romans, and divorce was frowned upon by the Church. Many churches refused to marry divorcees, or allow divorced people to serve in important positions. Some still do. But slowly, divorce is becoming much less of a stigma — despite what the Bible teaches.

Today, in the 21st century, no one bats an eye at charging interest. Yet the Bible expressly forbids usury. “Usury” used to be defined as “charging interest.” ANY kind of interest. An Israelite could charge interest to a foreigner, but not to his “brother.” Jesus teaches that we should lend without expecting anything in return — not even the tiniest bit of interest — but you know what? I’ve never heard a sermon denouncing bankers. We’ve even redefined the word “usury” to mean charging EXCESSIVE interest. But I’m not sure that’s what the Bible meant. It seems that any amount of interest was considered sinful. But when Christians make loans, they probably charge interest. Churches have no problem paying interest. Interest is just the way the world works today — despite what the Bible says.

Why do I bring these up? It’s for a thought experiment:

• The idea that the earth is at the center of the universe is biblical. But we no longer believe it.

• Acceptance of slavery is biblical. But we no longer accept it.

• Divorce is put on a level with adultery in the Bible. But we no longer stigmatize it the same way.

• Charging interest on a loan is expressly forbidden by the Bible. But we do it, and pay it, all the time, without thought.

Despite our calls to return to the “biblical” standard of this or that, we have let other things — like science or reason or equality or the free market — take precedent over a clear biblical teaching. Religion evolves, and sometimes it evolves in good ways. (Honestly, I would be really suspicious of any Christian who advocates slavery or believes the earth doesn’t rotate around the sun.)

So here’s the question: There are a number of issues today in which society or science or culture seem to be in conflict with the Bible. Homosexuality. Feminism. Abortion. Evolution. The second season of “Jersey Shore.”

Do you see Christianity moving toward acceptance of any of these ideas…and away from a clear biblical teaching?

And if so, which ones would you be OK with? Which ones would bother you? Why? 

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