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Oliver Thomas Denies Religious Credibility

on November 25, 2006
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USA TODAY: When religion loses its credibility

Baptist minister Oliver “Buzz” Thomas, in a USA TODAY opinion piece, takes aim at those who take aim at homosexuality, suggesting that such anti-homosexual statements by churches are causing religion to “lose its credibility.” Let's analyze a few of Thomas's statements.

  • Religion's only real commodity, after all, is its moral authority.

This statement is not surprising in the context of a society who has deprived religion of a voice in areas of history and science. As the foundation of the Bible as a nonfictional book that touches on many subjects has been undermined, we're left with a vague “moral authority” that supposedly belongs to the church. But, as atheists, agnostics, and humanists are quick to point out, what is it that gives the church moral authority? Abandon the Bible, and the church loses the foundation for its voice.

All we can do is tell others what the Bible says-that is, what God says-about sin.

  • Leviticus is filled with laws imposing the death penalty for everything from eating catfish to sassing your parents. If you accept one as the absolute, unequivocal word of God, you must accept them all.

Rev. Thomas seems here to be ignoring the distinction between believing something was said by God versus believing something was said to you. The Bible's moral codes were not always given to all of humankind, but instead were given to specific individuals (e.g., Abraham), groups of people (e.g., Nazarites), nations (e.g., the Hebrews), and so forth.

  • A better reading of Scripture starts with the book of Genesis and the grand pronouncement about the world God created and all those who dwelled in it. “And, the Lord saw that it was good.” If God created us and if everything he created is good, how can a gay person be guilty of being anything more than what God created him or her to be?

Answers in Genesis supporters should not hesitate to find the flaws in this paragraph. Thomas accurately points out God's “very good” of Genesis 1. Yet he seems to have forgotten the Fall of Genesis 3 and the sin nature that now exists in us. After all, according to Thomas' logic, if someone is born a kleptomaniac, he or she can't be held responsible, because that's just how God created him or her to be.

  • Turning to the New Testament, the writings of the Apostle Paul at first lend credence to the notion that homosexuality is a sin, until you consider that Paul most likely is referring to the Roman practice of pederasty, a form of pedophilia common in the ancient world.

So in other words, Thomas is taking a crystal-clear verse like Romans 1:27 and reading into the text something that it doesn't say! We shouldn't be surprised if, after Thomas' explanation is accepted, pedophiles come along and allegorize the verse, claiming it merely has a “spiritual” meaning and does not pertain to real life at all!

  • On the other hand, Jesus spent a lot of time talking about how we should treat others. First, he made clear it is not our role to judge. It is God's. (“Judge not lest you be judged.” Matthew 7:1) And, second, he commanded us to love other people as we love ourselves.

Now, we can't agree more that it's not our place to judge the sin in an individual's heart; all we can do is tell others what the Bible says-that is, what God says-about sin. But isn't it interesting that Thomas himself is pronouncing the same sort of judgment that he decries others for?


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