Friday, September 01, 2017

The Authority of Scripture?




“When [LGBTQ-affirming Christians] tell me that I am wrong for saying that [homosexuality] is a sin, in the simplicity of my faith in the Holy Scriptures, I point him to this sacred record [the Bible], and tell him, in all candor, as my text does, that his teaching blasphemes the name of God and His doctrine.
"“The tree of [affirming homosexuality and transgenderism] is evil and only evil…[it] is nourished by an utter rejection of the Scriptures. – Rev. Henry Van Dyke

Many Christians today would agree whole-heartedly with Pastor Van Dyke's statements here. But keep in mind that what he was actually defending here was slavery and his opponents were Abolitionists. Still, his position in favor of slave-holding was very strongly supported by the Holy Scriptures. One cannot deny that he was right about the fact that the Bible did not condemn slaveholding outright.
But we cannot miss the fact that it is more than possible for someone to be Biblically-correct about something and still be very, very wrong at the same time.
The struggle for many of us is that we have been told for so long that we need to be "Biblically-minded" that we have forgotten that this same Bible teaches us to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd and affirms that we have the mind of Christ.
Furthermore, the same Bible also teaches us to love extravagantly - as Christ has loved us - which was unconditionally and before we did anything to change our minds about Him, or how we live.
Here are Van Dykes actual comments about Abolitionists made in 1860:
“The tree of Abolition is evil and only evil…[it] is nourished by an utter rejection of the Scriptures....When the Abolitionist tells me that slaveholding is sin, in the simplicity of my faith in the Holy Scriptures, I point him to this sacred record, and tell him, in all candor, as my text does, that his teaching blasphemes the name of God and His doctrine.”-– Rev. Henry Van Dyke (1860), “The Character and Influence of Abolitionism” (sermon), p.11.

Now, listen to what pro-slavery Christians said in the 1800’s about Abolitionists and substitute the topic of homosexuality and you’ll see that the arguments used today are exactly the same:

“[Opponents of slavery] decide a priori [in advance] what the Bible ought to speak, and then turn it over in order to see how they can make it speak what they wish…When Moses speaks the words of the God of the Hebrews, it is for us to listen, not to call into question.” – Bernard Whitman (1831), Two Letters to the Rev. Moses Stuart: On the Subject of Religious Liberty”, p. 30-42.

“If the present course of the abolitionists is right, then the course of Christ and the apostles were wrong.” – Charles Hodge (1860), “Bible Argument on Slavery” in E.N. Elliott’s “Cotton Is King”, p. 849.

“The tree of Abolition is evil and only evil…[it] is nourished by an utter rejection of the Scriptures.” – Rev. Henry Van Dyke (1860), “The Character and Influence of Abolitionism” (sermon), p.11.

“Those who oppose slavery are engaged in willful or conscious opposition to the truth…Who are we, that in our modern wisdom presume to set aside the Word of God, and…invent for ourselves a ‘higher law’ that those holy Scriptures which are given to us as ‘a light to our feet and a lamp to our paths’ must answer?”-  Episcopal Bishop John Henry Hopkins (1864), “Scriptural, Ecclesiastical, and Historical View of Slavery.”, p.16

Those who opposed slavery [the Abolitionists] had very little scriptural support for their position, but they were on the side of Christ all the same.

Why is it so hard for us today to see that there are times when we need to listen to the mind of Christ and the voice of the Good Shepherd in order to fulfill the law of love?

As Henry Brinton said recently: 

“An answer based only on Biblical quotations may put us on the side of Southern theologians who supported slavery and lost their way.” [Quoted from CNN, Oct. 15, 2014] [John Blake, “How the Bible Was Used To Justify Slavery, Abolitionism.”]

Sometimes, to obey Jesus we might have to admit that the Bible falls short. In those cases, we must cling tightly to the Good Shepherd and remember His command:

“Love one another as I have loved you.” – Jesus

Today, almost no Christian would argue in favor of slavery, in spite of the fact that it is quite “Biblical.”

So, the question of “authority” immediately comes to mind. Some argue for the inerrant and infallible authority of Scripture as the rule for a Christian’s life. But others, like me, suggest instead that our authority is Christ and that it is still the Holy Spirit who cries out to the Body of Christ today.

Sadly, many of us will not, or cannot, listen because we are convinced that our Bibles – and only our Bibles – have authority over us.

Are we willing to submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit? Are we courageous enough to allow Jesus to be our guide?

Keep in mind that the Bible never holds itself up as our final authority. Instead, the Bible points us to Jesus and reminds us that He is the Head of the Church.

In the words of our Abba Father who thundered from heaven, “This is my Son. Listen to Him!”

-kg












3 comments:

Kirk Leavens said...

Excellent thoughts. I seem to be in constant conflict on Patheos with those who've got their orthodoxy down pat yet don't manifest the fruits of the Spirit. The spirit of the age among the new fundamentalists seems to be the assumption that correct doctrinal knowledge is more important than ethical behavior towards one's neighbor.

T Aagard said...

There may not be commands to end slavery or to forbid it, except that whatever the relationship, it is to be ordered by love. But there are commands that forbid homosexuality or any altering of God's design for sexuality. The issues of slavery and homosexuality are not treated the same in the Bible. What is so hard about this to understand? Probably the flesh, man pleasing, or demonic drive to reject God's word, or at least to marginalize it a little bit at a time over generations so that eventually it is dismissed as a whole.

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." Did Jesus speak specifically to the order of creation and marriage with male and female? Yes.

Lionel Woods said...

I think there is clear biblical teaching on "men-stealing". No one was to take a man by force against his will. I think Paul is giving us New Covenant Christ Centered clarity to Exodus 21:16 when he tells us that those involved in the slave trade were not to inherit the kingdom (at least in some way). I do believe that homosexuality is sexual immorality. I do believe that such a "practice" is not blessed by God; however, I do believe that God's grace through Christ helps us in our weakness.

I don't want to "demonize" the slave traders but Christ is clear that "you are to love one another as I have loved you" and echoing John "you can't say you love God who can't see when you don't love your brother who you see". Homosexuality is unique in the fact that the only way to deem it "unloving" is by equating it to encouraging others to not obey God. Outside of that I can't label it unloving, but I do put it in the same category as Adultery, Fornication and other acts of sexual immorality.