Where did it begin, this notion that the Bible is a living document, specifically designed to be maleable with the times? I speculate that it began with the decline of Bible literacy among the populace. The Bible has been inching further and further from its former-central role in American life.
Just last night I was reading 1776, and I was struck that in one paragraph I read the names of generals with the following given names: Israel, Israel, and Jabez. Of course, these men may or may not have been Christian. But their names indicate a society where Biblical literacy and knowledge existed in far greater degree than now.
Who knows what twists and turns Biblical literacy took along the course of the last 200 years. But at some point people, even non-Christians, moved from having a pretty good grasp of the Bible, and began treating every verse as though it came from Proverbs. Who hasn't heard someone cite Jer. 29:11 as proof that God has a specific plan for them, or been slapped in the face with, "judge not, lest ye also be judged"? (Is there a class secularists take on when to cite that verse?)
If we moved from the state of general Biblical literacy to the proverbalization of the Bible on a gradual arc, then we as a society when straight of the cliff to get to the point where "serious people" describe the Bible as a "living document."
I read this poppycock this morning here. The author of the article seeks to prove that gay marriage is perfectly acceptable in the Bible, and besides, Christians are drooling idiots for looking to such an unreliable text as the Bible to ascertain answers to 21st century questions anyway.
From the Newsweek article, "Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history." Ugggh. First, what is a "Biblical literalist"? Is that one who takes each passage literally, and thinks that Christ is really a door, a vine, water, or bread? I consider myself a Biblical literalist because I believe the Bible is literally true. And what on earth is a "living document"? In constitutional law, a living document is whatever a majority of Supreme Court justices say it is. Who are the robed men who sit in judgment on the meaning of Scripture? And does a document have to be "living" to speak to people over the course of 2,000 years? If that was the case, then the Pharisees would have been prancing around Jerusalem saying, "Genesis, you know, is a living document. One mustn't take things written therein too seriously, you see."
The article goes on to cite old-liberal standbys in Leviticus, without any effort to explain to the reader why Christians believe the dietary laws of the Old Testament are no longer applicable.
Although the author admits that the Bible condemns gay sex, he explains those texts away, writing in part that two Leviticus references "are throwaway lines." Perhaps they'll be revived as the document evolves. The author enlightens this Christian by explaining that a condemnation by Paul of men who "'were inflamed with lust for one another'" . . . is really a critiqu of the worst kind of wickedness: self-delustion, violence, promiscuity and debautchery" and is ultimately a reference "to the depravity of Roman emperors, the craven habits of Nero and Caligula, a reference his audience would hav grasped instantly." Apparently, that verse has not evolved to apply to others besides Nero and Caligula.
The author even questions the heterosexuality of King David, who had a great love for Jonathan. No word on whether David eyed Jonathan taking a bathe, however.
Reasonable people can disagree about the meaning and import of particular texts in the Bible. But there is no doubt about whether the Bible teaches homosexuality is a sin. One can argue that the Bible is irrelevant, or that public policy should not be influenced by its contents. However, no serious person, who really wants to know the truth, can deny that the Bible roundly denounces homosexuality in both the Old and New Testaments.
I don't mind secularists, really. But I'd rather them not tell me what my religion teaches. By the same token, I won't tell them what secular-atheists should believe.