I’m Jonathan and I was raised Evangelical, where ‘God’ and ‘sex’ didn’t usually appear in the same sentence. I set out to learn more. Turns out, Bible scholars have some info I didn’t know.
I’m thinking back to 1999, when the woman who’d been the face of popular Christian music for two decades got a divorce. Seventeen years and three kids into her marriage, she’d fallen for another man—country singer Vince Gill. Or as she says: “We got along like two peas in a pod and made no bones about it.”
If she was Cinderella, this was her midnight. Christian radio quit playing her music and Christian bookstores took her products off the shelves. That she kept her record deal was front page news. As far as Evangelical America was concerned—Amy Grant was canceled.
“Since the beginning of 1994, they had what I would call an inappropriate friendship, which was destructive to our marriage,” he tells People in 1999. …
Does religion mean you don’t get fact-checked? I grew up with that thinking. But come to find out, there is such a thing as Bible scholarship, and sometimes it’s really just about facts.
Let’s look at ten frequently terribly misread Bible verses—why are they so often about sexual subjects?—and be reminded the world runs on facts. This is an ancient text in ancient languages, and you have to know facts.
The phrase “one flesh” in Genesis 2:24 is often thought by Christians to mean the basic function of marriage is having sex. …
Back in my church days, I thought the pastors knew everything? Like, he went to seminary and knew Greek and Hebrew and basically everything about Christianity. Come to find out, they “knew” the assumptions filtered through a few languages—and centuries of speculation.
Everyone knows what faith means. You know something so deeply that you don’t need to listen to facts? It’s “the opposite of reasoned judgment in consideration of the evidence,” as Matthew W. Bates explains. “Faith was reckoned not just an alternative but a superior way of knowing what is true and what is false.”
In his 2017 study, Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King, Bates explains the word pistis actually means, not any traditional idea of ‘faith’, but—‘allegiance’ for a leader. …
If you grew up Christian, you might’ve noticed a weird problem? Many Bible stories feature heroes with a lot of wives. And concubines. It’s a book about a world where masters have sex with slaves, and stop off at prostitutes as desired. It’s all legal!
But the great clerics of Christianity, claiming the Bible as their sacred text, say that God demands—monogamy?
Christians do sometimes disagree. “Well it’s right there in the Bible, so it must not be a sin,” sings Rich Mullins in 1991 in “Jacob and 2 Women.”
Or Martin Luther writes in 1524, in a private letter: “I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture.” …
When I started to read Bible scholarship, I didn’t realize that I’d be seeing a different Jesus than the one I heard about in church. In a strict textual analysis it doesn’t even seem to be the same character. After awhile, I realized I liked this one better.
Growing up, I guess I had an image of Jesus from paintings or stained glass windows. Isn’t he distant, emaciated, in pain? But there he is in Luke 10:21—“full of joy.” This word, agalliaō, notes Robert H. Mounce, is “a very strong word depicting unrestrained joy.”
The pacing and tone of his speech seem to have been badly misread. Jesus jokes. He tells one in Luke 14:14–24 that is a bit sexual. The set-up is: three guys get invited to a party. All three say they can’t come. Karl Hand, in “A Wicked Sense of Humor,” maps out the…
When you grew up a smart Evangelical kid — which I guess was me — you’d be sent to him to learn how to defend the faith. With books like A Shattered Visage: The Real Face of Atheism, Ravi Zacharias was the religion’s intellectual. I had a pile of his books, only later to realize how little I’d actually learned from him.
How to be a scholar? How to think and speak clearly? …
To grow up Evangelical, you knew about Jim Elliot. He was one of five missionaries speared to death by natives in Ecuador, and declared a ‘martyr’. His widow, Elisabeth Elliot, wrote bestselling books about him like Through Gates of Splendor in 1956, and in 1958, Shadow of the Almighty.
Then in 1984, Passion and Purity a portrait of Jim as a model Christian lover. This book launched the famous ‘purity culture’, as a new generation of Evangelical kids struggled to be as good as him.
You might wonder, though, at the young man who writes of some kind of overwhelming inner conflict, and seemed happiest when imagining himself in love, not with his wife, but with Jesus. …
In late 2019 I posted “The Purity Hoax,” a book review of the recently published letters by Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. I suggested both had “unclear psychosexual profiles.” The article went viral (now over 74k views) and many readers concluded Jim was gay.
Months pass. I buy the brand new official biography, Becoming Elisabeth Elliot, by Ellen Vaughn, and reading along, realize I’m reading about me.
What’s that line in The Joker? “First they call you crazy, then they call you for advice.”
header image: Jim Elliot, 1954, from Becoming Elisabeth Elliot, colorized.
When you grew up a smart Evangelical kid—which I guess was me—you’d be sent to him to learn how to defend the faith. With books like A Shattered Visage: The Real Face of Atheism, Ravi Zacharias was the religion’s intellectual. I had a pile of his books, only later to realize how little I’d actually learned from him.
How to be a scholar? How to think and speak clearly? Not really. Listening to him, you’d get swept up in the rush of his brilliant mind, or something. Watching his speeches now, I’m struck by how rapid, and vapid, it was.
But for thirty years, an Indian guy worked American college campuses and Christian conferences, a revered if odd presence in the land of white Evangelicals. …