Romans 1: 26-27 and Other Excuses for Theological Illiteracy

The demise of the church is in part down to a complete transformation in the way in which people think about life and its deepest questions and at least partly also due to the unwillingness of many church members to read, think, engage with theology at anything other than the most superficial level. There is a host of other reasons for the decline in the church and a great deal of the fault lies within and with the church itself. There is no blame but there has to be a sense of responsibility and some of this has to lie with those whose job it is and whose vocation it may be to teach and to lead. It is, I think, fair to say that in the average congregation or in some congregations no-one is encouraged to read, explore, discuss or think very much at all. The sermon should challenge and unsettle. The fault will inevitably lie with the preacher and the hearer, with both and between the two.

All of this said, we live in interesting times and even in the most isolated community there is ample opportunity to delve into the deeper questions of theology. The internet is packed with nonsense and it also provides an almost limitless number decent podcasts, blogs, free articles. There is little excuse for the ill-informed to remain ill-informed and for anyone not to be reading and thinking about something. It is my view that the serious follower of Jesus does require to engage with scripture on a daily basis, to immerse her or himself in some kind of contemplative prayer and meditation practice and to engage the intellect and imagination and to stretch both through what would have been at one time reading of books and serious journals but may now also or alternatively include podcasts and articles and blogs.

All it takes is curiosity, imagination and a little persistence. You will read rubbish. You will encounter the theological equivalent of snake oil salesmen. You will come across nuggets of gold which may change and challenge you to the depth of your faith and being. What you will risk becoming is theologically literate and a much better equipped member of a much richer church because of your presence in it. You will be infinitely more useful to the leadership of your church. Your siblings, children, parents and friends will at last have an opportunity to engage with someone who has through through their faith and, who knows, everything may change because you have changed.

This (on Romans 1 26,27) will challenge you to think differently about this misused and misunderstood text but it will open you to a wholly new way of reading Romans, Paul and scripture itself. Read this,
Romans 1:26-27: A Clobber Passage That Should Lose Its Wallop. If it does nothing else, I hope that it awakens in you a desire to read and to think and to find a mature and thought-out faith.

By way of addendum or postscript I include and link to two further blog posts on a similar subject. The first is this We Can’t Agree to Disagree on Homosexuality and the second is a response to that post, We Agree: We Can’t Agree to Disagree on Anti-Gay Bigotry. If you read them together then you begin to find yourself engaging not only with whichever position agrees with your own but with the wider set of questions which arise from this question which itself takes you into the complex question of hermeneutics.

A podcast to which I listened recently is this one LBTQ Intercectionality and the Fruit of the Spirit.



One thought on “Romans 1: 26-27 and Other Excuses for Theological Illiteracy

  1. To the outsider it looks like the Church can seek to contort and twist its perspective to try elicit a constructive meaning from certain “iffy” passages that they might conform to a more humane and developed insight than might have been the case hundreds and even many thousands of years ago, when the passages were first written, transcribed and translated.
    – These were not Pauls actual views, but he was articulating and paraphrasing others views to then argue another alternative view. … Sounds a bit weak to me. Why not just acknowledge that some passages are plain NOT OK, and should no longer be accepted as of value. To err is human, be it the Transcriber, Translator, or Paul himself, and if what is written cannot be justified when considered honestly, then accept it as mistaken, and ditch it.
    This very web site is interesting, not only because of the content, but in that the process has involved Neil in writing down his views, and inviting others to do likewise. To write down your thoughts, especially when still developing, is a challenge, knowing that in some weeks, months or years time, your opinions and understandings might change. The words however remain, written against your name.
    To write down and “publish” your thoughts at all requires some courage. Its a bit risky in its own right, (of exposure as foolish, of accusation of arrogance, grandiosity,) but further challenging in that your stated views, errors and all, will remain there for the world to see for as long as the Site remains online.
    However, if we only speak when we are absolutely certain of something, then we would all be mainly silent. That would be crazy.
    Hats off to Neil who has sermons over a long period of time posted. I would be mortified if everything I had ever pontificated on remained visible to haunt me for ever. Understandings change, develop, mature over time.
    Well is it not the same for Biblical texts? Its a miracle that most passages stand the test of time and remain of value to this day, but very understandable that a few passages and expressed sentiments from a time of very different circumstances and context are no longer valid today. Again I would say, “Let them go”. Christian scriptures might be more palatable to outsiders like me if passages that a decent and honest person can see to be Wrong, are acknowledged as such, rather than seeking to twist ones perspectives to try accommodate and justify them.
    So from the outsider perspective, the business of starting with the texts, and trying to contort ones constructs to accommodate passages that jar, is a bit contrary to the spirit of honest enquiry. Better I would suggest to use the texts as a useful mechanism to further develop our own insights, valuing the wisdoms contained but not elevating the texts to a pedestal of eternal infallibility, especially when some can try use archaic passages to try justify some dreadful attitudes and acts.

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