It’s fairly common today to hear religious conservatives say something like, “Where the Bible speaks, God speaks.” They’re affirming this idea that scripture is the word of God, that he breathed it out to us. We’ve looked at this before in Matthew 22, Jesus says, “Have you not read what God spoke?” Claiming scripture is the word of God. Paul, in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is God breathed.” Or 2 Peter, “That men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God in scripture.” There’s this type of idea that where the Bible speaks, God speaks. And when we say something that we get out of the Bible, we say it’s a biblical point of view. Now, this doesn’t mean everyone agrees, and we’ll talk about that in a minute.
So, that’s that’s a common conservative view. Now, liberal Christians, often will say, “Well, there’s no such thing as a biblical view. One interpretation is as good as another. There are multiple interpretations.” And some people will say things like, “I wish folks would stop using the words biblical to distant themselves from the impact of their views. So you think same sex marriage is immoral? Then own it. Own the implications that has on people. Own the discrimination that’ll come from that. You don’t just get to say, ‘The Bible says.’ Because You’re interpreting the Bible by reading it and your interpretation could very well have serious consequences. Anti-LGBT theology, feeds a tribal mindset. It feeds bullying, and it feeds teen suicide.”
I’m actually reading someones statement here, that said these things in response to people claiming that a pro-traditional marriage reading of scripture is a biblical view. That God only views as holy and God honoring a marriage between one man and one woman, for one lifetime, and these types of ideas. So in response to that, some people have said, “There isn’t such a thing as a biblical view.” Everyone’s just interpreting scripture.
Let’s talk about that. Like many things, there’s a kernel of truth here. Yes it is true that what we’re doing is comparing one interpretation to another interpretation, or at least hopefully that’s what we’re doing. But we also can reason from different perspectives here. As a conservative, I’m going to reason from the perspective that, where scripture speaks, God speaks. That scripture is the word of God. Jesus affirmed this. He constantly points people back to God speaking in the Old Testament. He speak authoritatively in the New Testament. So I’m going to start from the position that scripture is the word of God. But even if you don’t start there, you could still potentially claim a view as biblical or not, or at least more biblical or less biblical.
I want to point something out in this statement I read. This person seems to be contrasting the view conservatives hold with saying, “That view leads to harm, therefore that view is wrong.” That view leads to people having a negative self image. That view leads to people committing suicide or being depressed, so we can’t hold that view.” I think that’s an incorrect way to look at how we form views. I don’t want to take away at all from the trauma that some people have experienced. From how damaging it could be to hear that God views your lifestyle as sinful; I don’t want to downplay any of that. In fact, we’ll speak about that in future weeks. But none of those things, the outcome from sharing a view, for instance, can be used to say that that view is not biblical. In fact you cannot even use that outcome to say the view is wrong.
Now, you might say it’s a compelling reason to reject it, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Just because someone is harmed (let’s just say for the sake of argument, that’s true) by holding a view or by the propagation of a view, that doesn’t mean that view is wrong. For instance, I think it’s totally reasonable to assume that some people were given great anxiety by Jesus teaching about hell. In fact, he speaks more about hell than Heaven. Now, the fact that some people probably were freaking out, because of that, does that mean Jesus shouldn’t have said it? Does that mean hell doesn’t exist? No, it doesn’t mean either of those things. It means someone was greatly bothered by that being the case.
Now, this isn’t all things equal with the modern LGBT situation, but nonetheless we need to be able to say what logically necessitates a view being false, and what doesn’t. Just because something comes from a view, that doesn’t mean that view is inaccurate.
So, with that being said, let’s talk about if there even is a biblical view of something. At a baseline, we do have to affirm that everyone is interpreting the Bible, hopefully. I don’t think some people are. But let’s just say that that’s the noble goal; everyone is comparing they’re interpretation of the scriptures with another interpretation. Does that mean we can’t just say that there’s a biblical view? No, it doesn’t, because there are some interpretations that are better than others. There are some beliefs that are more accurate than others. There are some ideas that we should believe and some ideas that we shouldn’t. It’s not just an equal landscape out there where every view is just as equally valid as another. That’s just totally false, in fact.
What makes a view biblical? Well, the question is, “What does the Bible say?” Not, “What do I make it say.” But, “what does the Bible say?” Here’s how we attempt to answer that question. We ask the question, What did the original author intend to communicate and how would the original audience have understood it when it was communicated?
We want to understand what was attempted to be communicated, when it was written by the person who wrote it. And that is the consideration that is all to often jettisoned today, or just not taken into account. If we come and we read a passage that says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And we say, “That means, that bananas rot by Thursday.” That’s not a biblical point of view. Maybe, that what’s you think that verse is saying, but what evidence do you have for that? That would be the question.
How did you get that view—which seems like a non-sequitur—out of that passage. Well, no reasonable person is going to say that you got that there. Now if on the other hand, you read Paul’s argument from Romans 7 and Romans 8, and he says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ,” and you say, “You know what that means is, when God looks at me as a Christian, someone who’s been clothed in the righteousness of Christ, he doesn’t see and hold my sin against me. In fact, he sees the perfect righteousness of his son.” Well, that a biblical point of view, because it comes from the biblical argument and it takes seriously what Paul was attempting to communicate in Romans. Something can be more biblical or less biblical, but the question is Not “is it an interpretation”, because yes it is, but, “Is it a good interpretation?”
For instance, when it comes to LGBT concerns, Conservatives are going to say that Romans 1 condemns same-sex activity. In fact, in the passage Paul is saying men and women denied the truth in unrighteousness. And the example he gives of this is men exchanging their natural passions for unnatural ones, and becoming inflamed in their attractions and desires for each other. Men committed shameless acts with men. Some people are going to say, “If you say that that means, lesbianism and homosexuality is wrong, than your Anti-LGBT.”
I had someone ask me once, “Are you Anti-LGBT?” I had to say, “I don’t know what that means. Can you tell me what you mean by that?” I’m not against those people, I simply want them to understand what God says about their behavior. But even saying that would repulse, or at least turn off this person whose statement we’re looking at today. Because they would say, “That’s not what God says, that just what a man says.”
Then, we have to ask the question, for those people who say there is no biblical view, “Do they believe that when scripture speaks, God speaks?” If we don’t start there, we will almost necessarily come to different conclusions. Because I think the Bible is a book by God about his experience and his coveants and his interaction with people. Yes, it was pinned by men, but it was also inspired and breathed out by God. It has a dual authorship.
Many people, who are theological liberals today, are going to say the opposite, almost. That the Bible is man writing about his experience with God. Well, if that’s the case, than man could get things wrong. Man could simply be a product of his time period and maybe he didn’t understand same-sex orientation or attraction. Or maybe that would have changed what he would have written, if he had understood same-sex orientation and attraction. But the fact of the matter is that when it comes to Romans 1, the question isn’t so much, “Did Paul understand sexual orientation?” It’s, “What did he say?”
He’s critiquing people who are inflamed in their desires for each other. What a pattern of desires? It’s an orientation. It doesn’t matter if Paul had the robust psychological understanding we do today of same-sex attraction, he’s basically saying, “If you’re a man, don’t put a certain thing in another place.” Not to be crude with it, but it’s the action that he’s condemning in 1 Corinthians 6, for instance, and in 1 Timothy 1, but he’s also addressing the attraction aspect of things here. He talking about people who have unnatural attraction. Now, some people will say that’s lust, but he’s talking about people who burned in their attraction for each other; that’s a pattern of desire.
It’s a desire for someone who is not your spouse, your opposite sex spouse. Now, what does it need to be opposite sex? Let’s look at Matthew 19, where Jesus affirms, “That from the beginning God’s design for marriage was one man and one woman for one lifetime.” That’s when the Bible speaks for itself. When we try to pull out what the scriptures say. What did they mean in their original context when they were written, as opposed to saying, “What do I know now, and how can I read that into the Bible.”
There is actually a common way today that people will nullify the word of God. They’ll say something like, “Well, The Bible is just man writing about God. Man gets thing wrong, so it doesn’t matter if the Bible said this, we know better today.” That’s not actually a biblical point of view, in fact, in that case we’re not comparing our interpretation of the Bible with their interpretation. We’re comparing their modern scientific/psychological/etc understanding with the biblical understanding that we have, or at least our interpretation of scripture.
So what’s the source of our view? Scripture. What the source for their view? Not scripture. In fact, they’re rejecting scripture, because of things they now understand. So it’s not even always that we’re comparing biblical interpretations, it’s that we’re comparing someone’s secular, non-biblical authority with a biblical authority; that’s incredibly important for us to understand.
We must understand when we’re talking with someone, what their source of authority is? Where are they reasoning from? I’m reasoning from the position that the scripture is the word of God, because it says it is, and because Jesus affirmed it. Someone else may very well be reasoning from some other source. They can very well say, “you don’t have a biblical point of view, that’s just your interpretation.” I’m going to say, “What does the Bible say on this? Maybe you think the Bible’s wrong, but what does it say?” That’s the question we’re asking here. What did the original author intend to communicate to his original audience and how would they have understood it.
We are trying to arrive at original intent. It would be the same way if you read Charles Darwin, and can we say there’s a “Darwinist” understanding of a thing. What we mean is, how Charles Darwin in his book, On the origin and Species, presents something. Now, we might disagree with some part of that, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t say this isn’t a Darwinist view. If we’re attempting to understand what Darwin wrote and the way he wrote it, to the people he wrote, and we say, “This is what he’s saying.” That’s a more valid way to reason than to say, “Well, I have this other authority and that just nullifies this. So you just have your opinion. I just have my opinion, and there’s no correct answer here.” That’s not true.
If I can show you with good reason that this is what Darwin is communicating, and the language and grammar and context that he wrote in, at the time period he wrote, then that we can say is a Darwinist understanding. In the same way, if we read the Bible and we say, “This is what Paul is communicating, in the language and culture of the time,” that’s a biblical understanding.
I think this is really important for us to understand, and to be able to root out, in conversation: what is someone’s primary authority. What are they reasoning from? And if you ever do get this objection, “Well, there’s no such thing as a biblical point of view.” We can ask the question, “Do you think some views are more biblical than others? Some are more faithful to the Bible than others?” I think the answer would have to be, “Yes.” In the same way that saying, Romans 8, where is says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, is not about bananas,” wouldn’t we say it’s more accurate to say this says something about salvation and justification, and maybe more accurate still to say that, “When the father looks at us, he sees the perfect righteousness of Jesus.” Yes, we have just gone from not an accurate view to a slightly more accurate view, to a much more accurate view.
There are more accurate and less accurate views of things, but what makes something biblical is if we’re pulling the original intent and meaning out of the text.
We won’t do it perfectly, that’s why we disagree on things, but I think it’s also worth pointing out that for the last two thousand years of Christian history, the church has almost unanimously agreed on marriage and sexuality, and homosexuality. Then let’s take that back further, in Judaism, where it was still viewed as wrong. This view, as a Supreme Court Justice mentioned—that same-sex marriage is good, and should be legal—It’s not even as old as the cellphone. I think that should give us great pause, even just from a social experiment point of view.
The fact of the matter is, if you reason from non-biblical, non-godly presuppositions, you will arrive at non-biblical conclusions; almost assuredly. That’s why some people look at the Bible and they come up with a totally different interpretation, because they’re not trying to pull out the original meaning, they’re trying to reason from some other authority and apply that over top of scripture to then say, “Whatever aligns with this other authority is true.”
Friends, I just have to tell you, if your reasoning and your primary authority is something outside the Bible, you probably have not arrived at what God thinks on an issue; you’ve arrived at what you think, or what that authority thinks. May that never be true of us, and may we be more equipped to point that out, and root that out in conversation when we talk with others.
I’ll talk with you next week, on Unapologetic.