A reader writes: the LGBT debate, sola scripture, not convinced but open

A reader writes …

I wanted to make an observation about the argument over LGBT debate in the Church, in particular the way in which its opponents have been framing the argument.
The evangelical tradition has relied on interpreting the Bible with the doctrine of sola scriptura as foundational to their approach, in contrast to some established authority or council. The debate itself takes place on the grounds of biblical interpretation; that is, we sit down together and argue over the meaning of the texts in question or the validity of the hermeneutics employed.
What I’ve observed, quite ironically, is this: now that solid scholarship has offered compelling and plausible alternatives to the traditional interpretation of the various texts related to this issue, the typical response, “So you’re saying the Church has been wrong all this time?” is unwittingly an abandonment of reliance on sola scriptura!
In the face of new and compelling evidence (even if that evidence is wrong, which I’m sure you’d agree is possible), they jump ship on interpretation and appeal to extra-biblical authority. This seems to me to undermine their entire project of reliance on sola scriptura because it exposes the fact that anyone can, as Brian Zahnd said, “make the Bible stand up and dance a jig” if they need it to.
I’m not sure how relevant the point is, and there are notable books being written about the texts themselves, but on a popular level, the “we’ve always believed it this way” claim seems to have more staying power.
P.S. – I’m still unconvinced to your perspective on this, but I’m still open.

Thanks for your note. It is curious, as you say, to see Evangelicals “jumping ship” from sola scripture to the appeal to authority and tradition. The vulnerability of the “we’ve always believed it this way” argument is that, once you know a bit of history, you realize how many things “we” used to believe but no longer do, and how many things we now believe but didn’t used to. It’s fascinating to note, as I mentioned in a recent Reform Magazine interview, how different the current Evangelical mainstream position is today from five, ten, and twenty years ago.

Fifteen or 20 years ago it was: “If you’re gay, it’s a choice, it’s a sin, you should repent and change.” Five or 10 years ago it was: “If you’re gay, you have a psychological problem and you can be healed.” Fewer and fewer evangelicals are saying that; they’re saying: “If you’re gay this is your sign that you should be celibate.” … it’s interesting how those answers change.

I imagine that there will be more small steps in the right direction in the years ahead. Reality has a way of modifying our theories – in religion as well as science.