I've also found myself in the midst of an ongoing argument over at Thinking Anglicans over religious authority. It's being described as a personal authority versus authority of Scripture argument, which is not quite how I see it, but how it's being framed regardless of my insistence otherwise.
If you want to follow the argument, then go here.
I'm a terrible arguer. I try not to get sucked into these things, but I do anyway. I can be very impatient and temperamental. Plus, I do not feel all that confident going up against folks with years of Scriptural and exigetical reading behind them. My seminary experience consists of a couple of campus visits and that's all. However, I stand my ground, confident in the rightness of my cause. I doubt that I make my case, but I do hold my ground, through being stubborn if nothing else.
The people I end up arguing with can be more than a little irritating. They always argue in a tone of unctuous concern, or a kind of patronizing superiority. That refusal to take me seriously common to both is a like a red flag in front of a bull. I've also noticed over time that they rarely if ever read my comments all the way through.
I'm becoming convinced that the whole argument over gays and Christianity is but a flashpoint in a conflict between 2 fundamentally different forms of Christianity. One that is legalistic and another that is, for lack of a better word, prophetic. I usually identify the legalistic type of Christianity as including everything from Penal Substitution Atonement to Biblical Literalism (of course, one does not inevitably mean the other, but they are very compatible). The other more prophetic Christianity is more anti-legalist, more interested in the spirit of the whole message and less interested in its letter. On the matter of Atonement, this second type of Christianity is closer to Scotus than to Anselm. Prophetic Christianity is less interested in the exclusive claims of the Christian religion and more in the universality of the Christian message. I most emphatically belong to that more prophetic type.
I reject the whole idea of the Gospel as a legal contract. I reject the whole idea of the Wrathful Patriarch in the Sky that comes with it. I reject the whole idea of a divine father demanding the blood of his own son as the price to pay for an ancient slight that contaminates all of the world. I reject the idea of a Bronze Age book written by a nomadic pastoral people 3000 years ago as legally and absolutely binding upon 21st century humankind. I reject the idea of the Bible as God's oracle.
I believe that the Bible is what it says it is, testimony. It is the Muslims who claim that God wrote their holy book. Some Muslims believe that the Quran is so holy that it is uncreated, with God from before the Creation. No one in Judaism or Christianity has ever made such a claim for the Bible or for any part of it (at least until recently). The Bible was written by mortals with all the partiality that comes with a mortal point of view. It is the witness to God's actions in history. Though divinely inspired and recording or commenting upon divine actions, the authors are very singular and partial witnesses, as are witnesses to anything. Anyone who has spent time on a jury knows that no 2 people see the same event in exactly the same way. The Bible is the witness that we have inherited, and as such is the touchstone of our faith. It is not a legal contract, nor is a script that God should feel in any way obliged to follow.
A loving and just God acts lovingly and justly, not like an arbitrary tyrant. We know God is just and loves us because He acts that way toward us, not simply because some text tells us so.
God gave us our wits to find our way in the world and to find Him. We are His children and not His lobotomized automatons. We are His children with all the complexity that the term "children" implies. A God who demands absolute and unquestioning obedience to archaic laws that mean nothing anymore would be a monster, a Moloch, not a loving parent.
I chose to be gay in exactly the same way that my antagonists chose to be male (it's almost always men). My gayness is exactly as pathological and sinful as their maleness. It is a natural variation no different than left-handedness or red hair. On that subject, that Bronze Age text has very little to say (truly very little, only the 6 "clobber verses"). And none of what it says about that subject means anything in the light of reason, experience, and evidence. When I was very young, I couldn't just willfully ignore the growing conflict between what I was told and what I experienced. A just and loving God would accept each of us as we are, as we would our own children.
I've often wondered sometimes why I haven't completely chucked this obscurantist religion called Christianity behind me. Like most religion, Christianity too often plays the willing spiritual enforcer of the Established Order. I often think of Marx's quip that the priest is the landlord's best friend. Too often the Church seems to be the refuge of the bigoted and the superstitious, and I wonder why I waste my time with it.
What keeps me with Christianity is the radical nature of its promise, the idea that the salvation of all people who have ever lived and ever will live has already been accomplished for them by God Himself. The very idea that God became incarnate and became not just human, but fully human and even less than ordinary, is extraordinary. The Muslims are horrified by the whole idea and begin many of their prayers with "O God who begets not nor is begotten ..." The idea that a God Man came out of nowhere and lived as the least among us, and willingly accepted failure, defeat, and death as the path to victory over the world is about as radical a rebuke as I can think of to the whole grim algebra of power vs. powerlessness, success vs. failure, strength vs. weakness by which the world has always worked. Salvation is no longer a test, an ordeal, a quest, a trial, but a free gift to people who could not possibly achieve it on their own. It is no longer heroes, moral, spiritual, or otherwise, who gain eternity. God took on our flesh and in our full humanity in solidarity with us, took that full humanity into His eternity. God knows our joys and our sorrows because He lived them with us. In that radical rejection of power and success is our hope.
Piero della Francesca, Resurrection