In his recent book Making Sense of the Bible, for Adam Hamilton, a United Methodist pastor, when it comes to inspiration, the only difference between the New Testament writers and the preacher who steps into the pulpit–is proximity: “I’ve suggested that it is not greater degree of inspiration but closer proximity to the events described in the Bible” (p. 173).
Below is briefly overview of how Hamilton’s view of the Bible’s inspiration has led him to his current position on same-sex marriages and the subject of homosexuality.
The Nature of the Bible’s Inspiration
First, to understand how Hamilton has arrived at his current position on same-sex and homosexuality, the reader has to understand Hamilton’s view of the Bible’s inspiration. In the words of Hamilton,
“I am suggesting that the Spirit’s inspiration of the biblical authors was consistent with the way the Spirit inspires human beings today. As the Spirit does not preclude error or inconsistency in those the Spirit uses today, the Spirit did not preclude error or inconsistency on the part of the biblical authors” (p. 173)
The Three Buckets
Second, Hamilton has discovered that as we read and interpret Scripture there are three buckets that biblical passages fit into: (1) Passages of Scripture that reflect the timeless will of God for human beings. (2) Passages that reflect God’s will in a particular time but not for all time. And (3) Passages that reflect the culture and historical circumstances in which they were written but never reflected God’s timeless will.”
The Struggle to Make Sense
Third, Hamilton’s current position on same-sex marriage was not without a personal struggle. “For years I felt compassion for gay and lesbian people. I welcomed them into our church. But I told them that I believed it was not God’s will that they share their lives with another person of the same gender because the Bible taught that same-sex intimacy was wrong” (p. 275). But then, “As I listened to and read the stories of hundreds of gay and lesbian people, I cam to love them, to feel compassion for them, and to question whether these biblical passages actually reflected what God would say to his gay and lesbian children” (p. 276).
“But it was only as I began to recognize the complexity of scripture, its humanity, and the various ‘buckets’ into which its passages fit that I was able to see that the prevailing position within much of Christianity may not, in fact, reflect God’s will for homosexual people.”
The Challenge Moving Forward
According to Hamilton’s own United Methodist denomination prohibits her pastors from officiating in same-sex marriages, prohibits her churches from hosting same-sex marriages, forbids the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals,” and notes that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” (p. 279). But he then adds, “I believe these ideas will become increasingly problematic in the years ahead, and as people wrestle with the nature of scripture, I think they will increasingly see the passages related to homosexuality as bucket 2 or bucket 3 scriptures.”
For Mr. Hamilton what Moses wrote in Leviticus 20:13 and what Paul wrote in Romans 1:26-27, prohibiting same-sex intimacy, “does not necessarily reflect the heart and character of God” (p. 274).
Therefore, for Mr. Adam Hamilton, (1) rethinking the nature of Scripture, (2) knowing what bucket to put certain passages of Scriptures, and (3) knowing what captures God’s heart and character–is what allowed him to no longer call homosexuality sin.