Bible as a textbook on morality
The Bible is not a textbook on morality argued Devon Gray in a letter to the editor. His argument is 'whether the Bible's attitude towards homosexuality is of any more relevance today as a moral guide than is its teachings, for example, on divorce and remarriage (Matt. 5: 28-32), the inferiority of women (1 Cor. 11: 3-10) or slavery (1 Tim. 6:1)". He then proffered that we should use the opinion of the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association which stated that 'same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviours are normal and positive variations of human sexuality'. Therefore, the new textbook on morality should be these American organisations.
First, even if the Bible got it wrong on homosexuality, it does not mean it is wrong on divorce, slavery, and women.
Second, suppose the Russian, French, and Chinese Psychiatric and psychological associations have a different view on homosexuality, how do we decide which association is right?
Third, Matthew chapter five states that the grounds for divorce should be marital unfaithfulness. Previously, a man could divorce his wife on the flimsiest of excuses such as not liking how the wife cooked the food. At that time, the woman could not divorce her husband.
protecting a wife
The teaching attributed to Jesus is to protect a wife from the abuse of her husband from arbitrary divorce. Divorce had to be on the basis of a serious offence such as infidelity. The Jamaican law was changed to state that a wife is entitled to 50 per cent of the matrimonial home if there is a divorce. This is to protect the woman as victim which seems a moral act.
On Sunday, Clinton Chisholm, Baptist Biblical scholar, states in The Sunday Gleaner that there is mistranslating of Scripture and misquoting God on divorce. He states that what God hates is when the Jewish husbands were discarding their wives for no good reason in order to marry foreign women. Again, the attitude toward divorce was to protect the weak and vulnerable wives. Since morality is knowing the difference between right and wrong, it seems that the Bible can be used as a textbook on morality as it relates to divorce.
Fourth, on the matter of slavery, 1 Timothy 6:1 states that those who are enslaved should respect their masters. What is wrong with showing respect to a person who is oppressing you? We respect everyone, even the vilest sinner, because each person has worth and deserves respect by virtue of being made in the image of God. Everybody came into being because of the grace of God and has the potential to be good and to do good. In the sight of God, we are all equal, which is not based on what we have achieved or possess, but just by being a human being. Therefore, everybody should be shown respect.
In addition, National Hero Sam Sharpe, a Baptist deacon, said he came to the conclusion that slavery was evil, based on his reading of the Bible. He interpreted the passage that no one can serve two masters to mean that unqualified and unconditional obedience cannot be given to any one on earth but to the Almighty God only.
Finally, Jesus said that the two greatest commandments are to love God fully and love your neighbour as yourself. What is morally wrong with loving your fellow human as your equal and deserving of equal treatment? Loving your neighbour means we would not kill each other or steal from each other or be envious of each other.
The Bible can still be a textbook on morality.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.