Jennifer Wright Knust, Baptist pastor and professor of religion at Boston University, makes a number of shocking and unorthodox claims in her new book, Unprotected Texts: The Bible's Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire (Harper One). Her primary arguments are more than jarring, and even go so far as to challenge fundamental parts of the Christian faith.
She retells classical Bible stories, such as those of Ruth and King David, and reinterprets them to be stories of seduction and scandal. She argues that Ruth snagged Boaz as her husband by having sex with him one night, and that God blessed their union. She claims that David—as in King David, the one who killed Goliath with a slingshot—obtained his kingship by having a homoerotic relationship with Jonathan, the prince. Once again, she believes that God's blessing was upon him in this instance. A New Study Seeks Genetic Clues To Homosexuality
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Yet, the most baffling part of all is that Knust concludes her study by declaring that in light of those arguments, the Bible can no longer be seen as an authoritative reference point for anything. She writes:
"Looking to the Bible for straightforward answers about anything, including sex, can only be a disappointment. When read as a whole, the Bible provides neither clear nor consistent advice about sex... If one biblical writer condemns those who engage in sex before marriage, others present premarital sex as central to God's plan. Just about every biblical commandment is broken, and not only by biblical villains... It is therefore a mistake to pretend that the Bible can define our ethics for us in any kind of straightforward way."
Ouch. As someone who strongly believes that the Bible is God's word to his people, reading Knust's assertions really stung. But more than that, I was left feeling utterly confused. Why would a Baptist pastor who had dedicated her entire life to studying religion want to undermine all that she was seemingly devoted to? Her Hand in Marriage: Biblical Courtship in the Modern World
It made little sense until I remembered the introductory chapter of her book. In it, she tells the story of how she and her family moved to a different state when she was twelve, and how the girls at her new school picked on her. They labeled her a slut for absolutely no reason and, to this day, she said it makes her empathize with others who are marginalized and mistreated by self-righteous religious groups. Knust writes, "It is a tragedy, not a triumph, every time some young person somewhere is crushed by the weight of taunting and shame inspired by cruelty masquerading as righteousness."
Cruelty masquerading as righteousness. Ohhhh... That's what all of this is about, isn't it?
For centuries, people have used the Bible to justify any number of inhumane acts—things like slavery, gay-bashing, bombing of abortion clinics, and even genocide. I'm guessing this: Knust seems to think that if she proves the Bible is fallible and untrustworthy, people will no longer be able to use it as an excuse for their monstrous behavior. She speaks of how it was written and translated by men with various political agendas, and that we cannot discount the amount of errors and bias they could have potentially infused into it. Can We Cure and Forgive Adultery? Staying not Straying
Granted, she is not the first person to make this argument, and I doubt she will be the last. In How to Read The Bible for All Its Worth, authors Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart acknowledge the Bible's obvious human authorship, yet recognize that it was also divinely inspired by God. They write, "Historically, the church has understood the nature of Scripture much the same as it has understood the person of Christ—The Bible is at the same time both human and divine."
Specific passages from the Bible lay testament to this as well:
II Timothy 3:16 states, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (NKJ version).
II Peter 1:20-21 says clearly, "No prophesy of scripture is of private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (NKJ version).
Hebrews 4:12 states, "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitude of the heart" (NIV version). Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To: Divine Answers to Life's Most Difficult Problems
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