an Evangelical’s Change of Heart, by Mark Achtemeier (a summary by Pat Evert)
Chapter 1: The harvest of despair: why traditional condemnations of gay relationships cannot be right. The condemnation of same gender relationships is a tragic and destructive misinterpretation of the Bible’s message. To require some people to embrace a lifetime discipline of chastity can be cruel and overly demanding. Instead of a fruitful, abundant life one sees brokenness and alienation.
Chapter 2: Jesus and the law: how biblical fragments can lead us astray. There are seven fragments of Scripture used by traditionalists to form a doctrine against same-sex relationships. The New Testament gives us a good picture of those who zealously strived to follow all the rules of God’s law and were misled, so much as to instigate the crucifixion of Jesus and to try to destroy the church.
Chapter 3: With all your mind: reading the Bible faithfully and responsibly. Without the big picture of the Bible’s witness we can easily miss recognizing its central theme, which is Jesus. Rule number 1 to faithful interpretation of the Bible, it should make coherent good sense. God’s commandments are not capricious demands to test our devotion. But they are God’s purpose to realize the good that he intends for us. Biblical and historical context will lead us in the common-sense reading of Scripture and help us to properly understand it.
Chapter 4: This is My body, given for you: God’s plan for love, marriage and sexuality. We were created in the image of God. His intention is to be married, one with human beings. Marriage is designed to help our human love grow into the image of God’s own love for us, to bring us to a fuller reflection of the divine image. He gave his all, body soul and spirit for us, that we might give our all to him.
Chapter 5: Special blessings: why gay people have an honored place in God’s heart. Gay or straight we have the same opportunity to grow in His love and grace. Procreation is a wonderful result of marriage, but not an essential requirement in it. Complementation of the sexes is clearly the majority pattern for marriage set forth in Genesis. But God delights in confounding standard expectations and conferring blessing on the unconventional ways of doing things.
- Sarah and Abraham, infertile elderly couple.
- God’s people falling into slavery in Egypt.
- Jesus birth and crucifixion outside Jerusalem.
- The inclusion of the Gentiles into the church.
- A new faith-based path to God’s blessing.
The Bible gives us every reason to believe that God’s blessings of love, marriage and sexuality is available to gay couples, just as they are to straight couples.
Chapter 6: Reclaiming the witnesses part 1: making sense of the O.T. fragments. Genesis 19 and Judges 19 Sodom and Gomorrah were a demonstration of lust and hatred of outsiders, sexual violence and rape leading to murder. Leviticus 18 through 20 all about sexual immorality and idolatrous prostitution. This cannot be compared to, nor applicable to marriage.
Chapter 7: Reclaiming the witnesses part 2: making sense of N.T. fragments. Sexual orientation was unknown to the writers of the Old and New Testament. Romans 1 was Paul setting a trap to bring all under the condemnation of the law. Jude 7, Romans 1, I Corinthian 6 and I Timothy 1 are all regarding out of control lust of immorality or idolatrous prostitution, pederasty and shameless debauchery, the casting off of divine and natural restraints. Again they have nothing to say about a love commitment of marriage.
Chapter 8: Testing the spirits: how do we know we are on the right track? Having departed dramatically from traditional teaching, how do we know we are not equally misguided? The church was facing a new situation. It was now possible for ordinary people to live out same-sex, faithful, loving, and egalitarian marriages. This option did not exist in biblical times. The Bible does not speak on this issue one way or the other. The possibility was never anticipated.
Chapter 9: The word of life: biblical teaching for the real world. Life’s journey without faith is like a fearful passage through a dangerous minefield. Awareness of God’s perfect will for us reminds us of our need of Him. It also gives us more compassion for the flaws of others. To remember myself as being an anti-gay church activist fills my heart with gratitude. It leaves me in awe of the Bible’s continuing ability as a living Word to change us, even those parts we thought needed no change. God’s Word is for the gays, as well as those that are straight. The Gospel is for them. Christ’s love, and God’s gifts of love, marriage and sexuality are for them. And the church of Jesus Christ needs to be for them also. Biblical faithfulness requires it.