I read your letter with interest. You see, I too had a very powerful born again Christ centered experience while in college. I then went to a Christian college, and two different seminaries. I became a minister of a conservative Evangelical Free Church, and taught part time in a conservative seminary. I was taught, and believed that the Bible was the basis for solving all of my problems, including sexuality.
Many of your questions and observations sound similar to my own back when I began to question things 15 years ago. I could respond to your letter of inquiry in one of two ways:
1. I could remain within the boundaries of traditional Christian doctrine and examine various interpretations of the Bible about sex. I did that for years.
2. I could simply show you the end of the process for me, and why I am where I am. I shall go with number two, because there is literally no end to the debate when you assume that the Bible is the answer book for all of life's problems. There are infinite interpretations.
WHERE I AM AND WHY
First, a parable: Once upon a time, a man and his wife moved into the little log cabin that his great grandfather had built 8o years earlier. It was a very small dwelling, with only a bedroom and a living room/kitchen. There was no indoor plumbing or electricity and the toilet was in an outhouse 30 yards from the cabin. The man loved his family cabin. As time went on, the couple had some children, one, two and finally a third. The cabin was cramped to say the least and very hard to live in. His wife begged him to buy a larger house, or at least knock out a wall and add on some rooms. He refused, declaring that his great grandfather had raised 7 kids in that cabin, his grandfather had raised 6 kids, and his father had raised 5. He said over and over, "If it was good enough for my forefathers, it was good enough for me!" One day he got home from work and found his wife and 3 kids gone with the following note: "My dear husband - Just because your family suffered through the misery of these cramped quarters does not mean we have to. I have taken the kids and left for a bigger house that meets our current needs. If you want to join us, feel free; if not, enjoy your old cabin."
Life changes, and if we don't change with life, we will continue living in conditions which were once necessary and worked for others, but are no longer necessary. The way people communicate in 2007 has changed drastically since the time of Jesus, and the way we travel, acquire food, do medical treatment, make clothing, deliver mail, warm our homes, and a 10,000 other areas have changed dramatically over 2,000 years. Why would religion be any different? If all of these other areas of life expand with greater learning and human experience, why wouldn't spiritual understanding? The Christian God has always been characterized by giving newer, clearer and more relevant information to every age. For example, when Moses heard God at the burning bush, the message was:
"God also said to Moses, "I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them." [Exodus 6:2-3]
Here, we see a new name for a new era, a new way that God made himself known and new ways to think about life and act. Sadly, humans tend to freeze the old information and disallow the new, even when people claim the new is from God. Many old timers prefer to stay in their old religious cabins, built by Abraham, David and Paul. But even the Bible teaches that God brings new revelation; there is a new testament. Why not a newer testament? Is the eternal God limited to two names, or two testaments?
As long as you stay in the old cabin of the Bible, you will never experience the depth of God's infinite teaching. Sexuality in the time of Abraham was different than that of Moses, and Moses than that of David, and David than that of Jesus. Sexuality does not have a single biblical basis. People in every age struggle with how to balance the powerful personal sexual urges with social decorum. The Bible bounces from monogamy, to polygamy and finally to voluntary celibacy with Jesus and Paul. There were times when incest was normal and times when it was a mortal sin. There were times when men could have sex slaves called concubines, and times when they were to be the husband of one wife. Using the Bible to establish an absolute code of sexual conduct is like using the wheel to construct the one and only automobile.
Humans in every era have been meant to struggle with these issues. You are as important to the biblical God as Abraham, Moses, David or Paul - and they each struggled with God to know the Truth. The word Israel means 'to wrestle with God.' Stop wrestling with a book, and meet God face to face like Jacob - then you will move out of your current depression, anxiety and frustration. We are surrounded by other information about sexuality. Have you heard of the person who was searching the night sky for comets with an old set of binoculars, ignorant of the fact that he was standing right next to the Mauna Kea observatory with the world's largest telescope? Truth is real, alive, present and in your very mind and soul. But as long as you set the Bible up as a theological idol, Truth will not take you as deep as you want to go.
Stop being a Pharisee trapped in the cabin of the Christian Torah. Neither Paul nor Jesus expected people 2,000 years later to take their limited first century words as the basis for sexual exploration, any more than they expected people to take their words, or the Bible, as the eternal basis for communications, transportation, clothing or any other area of modern life. Only a few people, like the Amish, are consistent in following their old traditions in EVERY area. Why do you not dress like Moses or build your house like David? After all, they are 'biblical.' If you are free to drive a car instead of a chariot, prepare food on the Sabbath rather than be executed for doing so, dress in a suit rather than a robe, use a light bulb instead of an oil lamp - then you are free to examine sexuality in the light of modern advances.
Bottom line _________: You are using the Bible as the Pharisees did, a book of laws. You have been convinced by your dear old minister and a host of Pharisaic Christians that God is trapped in a book, incapable of speaking to us directly. They have also brainwashed you into believing there is some single, objective, absolute view of sexuality in the Bible. Be courageous and go directly to the Spirit of Truth, wrestle, ask, experiment, fail, explore and learn; or play it safe and debate a few contradictory texts. I can almost guarantee you, that if you take the later route, you will be consistently inconsistent with your sexual struggles. Look at Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggert and a host of modern conservatives who constantly harp on sexual purity and constantly fail living up to their own 'godly' values again and again. Why? Because they are following laws rather than Spirit. Go to Spirit directly.
Now do you see why Jesus was put on trial and executed?! He dared to come to God directly, without a book, without the Law, without the letter or text as final authority - Jesus followed the Holy Spirit and refused to put new wine into old wine skins. The old wine skin is the Bible; the new wine is your heart expanding with sexual struggles and other spiritual questions. If you keep pouring the new wine of your questions into the old wine skins, you will find no satisfaction or answers.
Follow the Spirit of Christ; then you will really KNOW what it means to take up your cross and follow Jesus, because your peers will crucify you for leaving the idol of the Bible behind.