Historically, to be an evangelical included a commitment to the authority, supremacy and truthfulness of scripture—to its inerrancy. Now, what we’re seeing is this line, this commitment that used to be not crossed, is getting more and more squishy in some people’s minds.
What I have in mind here is just one event among many. Recently, within the last week or so, Jen Hatmaker—who is a very popular and famous Christian writer and speaker—came out in favor of the full inclusion “LGBT Christians.” She believes these relationships that are not heterosexual can still be holy as long as they’re monogamous.
She and her husband say they’ve come to this position through years of a journey they had been on. They’ve been searching the scriptures and they have been praying a lot. They have been talking with people and hearing their experiences. Really, this is a very common set of explanations for how some people have come to affirm LGBT relationships as God honoring.
This should raise the question. What are our sources of authority? How should we think about them? Is there an order to them?
One of the the doctrines that came out of the Reformation was called Sola Scriptura. In my experience, there’s a lot of misunderstanding surrounding what Sola Scriptura is. Now, if you’ve never heard of this, sola means alone and scriptura just mean scripture. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura means that scripture alone is… something.
Generally, when people define what the something is, the train goes off the tracks. Some people have interpreted scripture alone to mean that all I need as a Christian is me and my Bible on an island and I’m good. That’s not what it is and that’s never what it’s been. Some people think that Scripture alone is the only source of truth, but that’s not what it is either. We can learn things from natural revelation. Scripture even holds us accountable for what we can know from natural revelation. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Romans 1 says that people are without excuse because what can be evident about God is clear from creation.
Scripture isn’t our only source of truth. Now, is it the only authority? Well, no. There are other authorities too, but here is what’s Sola Scriptura is, and this definition is very important.
Because the Scriptures are the only example of God-breathed revelation in the possession of the church, they form the only infallible rule of faith for the church.
When we’re looking for the highest authority, it should be an authority that is directly breathed out from God. As we see in 2 Timothy 3:16. “All Scripture is God breathed.” Your translation might say inspired but the Greek word behind that is theopneustos and it means, “God breathed.”
It’s the words of God poured out through men as the Holy Spirit came upon them. Jesus says the same thing in Matthew. Basically, he says,” have you not read what God spoke?” Referring to the Old Testament. Once again, this was the revelation of God that was breathed out. Since Scripture alone—there is no other source we have—is the very words of God, then it’s our only highest authority. There can be no authority higher than it. There can be no authority parallel to it in.
That last claim is controversial today. Because the Roman Catholic Church effectively teaches that the church sits above Scripture in terms of authority. At the very least, it’s parallel to it. Some other denominations have a multiple authority paradigm: where Scripture and tradition and reason are all parallel authorities.
Scripture gives us no reason to believe that our reason is of the same importance and authority and truthfulness as God’s revelation to us. When God speaks, he does not err. In the same way, tradition and how things have been understood historically is in no way a totally reliable standard.
So, Scripture alone is our sole and highest infallible authority.
How should we think about this authority when it comes to our feelings, the leading of the Spirit, prayer and advice. I want to use this Jen Hatmaker situation to think about authorities. You might say, well, we’re talking a lot of different topics today. True.
We’re actually going to hit a lot of different interconnected things and I’m not going to be able to go into a lot of detail in each one. Sometimes, we have to talk about how all of these ideas intersect. Because all too often, the topics we talk about in apologetics conversations are connected to so many other things. We can’t just look at them in isolation.
One thing that has been evident in many people’s journey to affirming LGBT relationships has been prayer. They might include the leading of the Spirit and their feelings. What I hope should be clear is that if Scripture is clear on something, firstly, God is never going to contradict himself. We’re never to come to learn something via prayer that God has expressly told us the opposite of in his word.
When we’re talking about homosexuality, let’s see what God’s word says. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul says, “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived.” (Isn’t that pertinent today?) “Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Well, that’s pretty clear, right? “Not men who have sex with men.” (I do go into this in more in my book), but some people want to say, “The word in the Greek isn’t homosexual.” That’s true. Some people will say, “Paul made up the word that’s translated here as homosexual or ‘men who have sex with men’.” That’s true. He did make it up. That doesn’t mean we can’t know what it meant. It’s the word arsenokoites.
It’s actually the combination of two Greek words. Arsenos, “man.” Koiten, “bed.” Paul made it a verb. He made the word “man-bedder.” I think that’s extremely clear. What does it look like for a man to go to bed with a man? Homosexuality. We can’t say that this passage doesn’t teach clearly that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God. Now, it doesn’t single them out. It says, adulterers too. What is this saying? Well, it doesn’t say you can’t sin and be a Christian because it goes on to say in verse 11:
That this is how some of you were but now, you’ve been washed. You’ve been sanctified. You’ve been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Paul makes it clear in 1st Corinthians 5 that the issue isn’t so much with their sin in the church—because we are still sinners who have been saved by grace, we’re not transformed in a righteous people—He makes the issue that there’s prideful unrepentant sin. The issue isn’t that someone is sinning. Now, that should not be the case but it sadly will be the case until we receive our glorified bodies and natures. Nonetheless, the issue is prideful unrepentant sin. What does it look like to be prideful about your sin? Well, I would suggest at the very least, it looks like identifying as it. If someone who went around identifying as an “adulterous Christian” we would say, there’s a problem there.
For some reason now, if you go around identifying as a homosexual Christian, people think that that’s a good thing and we should have a parade for you and celebrate it. The problem is that love rejoices in truth. When we celebrate things God is against, we have not loved that person, we have not loved God. This passage is clear about what homosexuality is in terms of not being accepted by God.
If you are to say, I’m a robbing-Christian and I rob people all the time and I’m not repentant about it. That would not be acceptable either. You couldn’t be a Christian and be that. In the same way, you can’t be actively prideful in your homosexuality and be a Christian. Or you can’t be actively prideful and unrepentant in your heterosexual sin and be a Christian. Because that’s what the authority of Scripture says.
Now, what is our highest authority? Because Scripture is the only example of God breathed revelation in the possession of the church, it is our highest authority. It doesn’t matter if we pray and come to a different conclusion. That does not supersede the only example of God breathed revelation in our possession.
It doesn’t matter if you have a “feeling.” All too often today, people baptize their feelings with be authority of the Holy Spirit and say, “God told me you should do this, or God told me I should do this.” Well, we don’t have enough time to get into that topic today but I would question: “where in Scripture do you see it as a paradigm, as a model, where we are taught to anoint our feelings with the authority of God? Or where are we are told that God communicates through our feelings?” Some people will point to being “led by the spirit” and being “in the spirit” or not in the spirit.
This generally comes from Romans 8 and Galatians 5. When you read these passages, what you see is, Paul isn’t talking about a state where “I was in the spirit for lunch but after lunch, man, I was in the flesh.” No, Paul sees two categories of people and you don’t move back and forth between them. If you’re in the flesh, you are not a Christian. You can do nothing pleasing to God. That’s what being in the flesh means, if we let the context speak for itself. Being in the Spirit is one who’s been regenerated. You have the Holy Spirit. You don’t waffle back and forth between these. Now, yes, you can go from the flesh to the spirit but that is the only transition that is ever made between those categories. Walking in step with the spirit doesn’t look like listening for a hidden voice. It doesn’t look like having a sixth sense.
Our small group got together for a fun night this last week and we’re playing corn hole which is that game where you toss bean bags filled with corn into a hole a ways away.
One person said, “You know, trust in the spirit.” So, I closed my eyes and through the beanbag and it went in the hole! I think this speaks to how Christians sometimes interpret their feelings. They say, “I’m just going to let go and let God lead me.” And sometimes It works out, something good happens but that doesn’t mean that God was the actual one who communicated to them, any more than it means that me saying or pretending that I was going to close my eyes and trust God as I threw the beanbag means that God made it go in the hole.
We have to be very careful that just because we have a feeling that turns out to represent reality, that doesn’t mean that God speaks through our feelings. We need scriptural support for that. What we can’t do is nullify the Scriptures because of our feelings or because of some things that we feel like we learned through prayer. God will never say something in prayer or in any other form that contradicts something he’s revealed in Scripture.
We must see that as the highest authority. Now, there’s so much more that could be said here. Like we said last week when we’re talking about, “is the Christian bookstore a safe place?” Well, we compare everything we read both in Scripture and outside of Scripture to Scripture. Why? Because it’s our highest authority. Because it’s the only example of God breathed revelation in the possession of the church, in the possession of you and of me. It is our highest authority.
We can’t set it aside. We can’t change direction because of some other lesser authority, some other fallible authority. My feelings are fallible. Gosh, if we’re honest with ourselves, how many times do our feelings tell us the wrong thing? How many times do the wrong things feel right, and the right things feel wrong? Oftentimes, the right things to do are hard. They’re difficult. They’re costly, and none of that feels good. That’s why we must rest on the unwavering word of God.
The last thing I want to say is that, some people want to say, “Well, look at the LGBT community. Sometimes, LGBT people who exhibit more fruit of the spirit than Christians.” I’m going to ask for clarification on what they mean by “LGBT people.” Do you mean people who are actively participating this lifestyle. If they say, “Yes,” then, I’m going to say, “No. Then you actually don’t know LGBT people who exhibit more fruit of the spirit.” Because Paul in 1 Corinthians writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit doesn’t leave open to us the possibility of them exhibiting the fruit of the spirit. Because these people are not Christians. That’s the sad, hard truth. In the same way that you wouldn’t be able to say, “Well, there’s an adulterer who just goes to every woman’s house in the neighborhood. He’s unrepentant and he is just the most Holy Spirit filled person who exhibits the fruit of the spirit.” No, he’s not.
It might seem like that, but when you actually go through the fruit of the spirit, you’ll see that that’s not the case. (Now, I actually am in the minority position when it comes to Galatians 5 and the fruit of the spirit. I only think there’s one fruit. I think it’s love. The fruit of the spirit is love and then, Paul goes on to give examples of what love looks like.)
Regardless of how you read that passage, if love delights in the truth and not in wrongdoing, is participating in sexual sin loving? No. It’s not loving to yourself. It’s not loving to the person you do it with and it’s not loving to God. Does it show patience? Well, no. A lot of times, the argument is “You’re telling me I have to go the rest of my life and not have sex unless I’m married to a person of the opposite sex?” “Well, yes.” People aren’t patient with that.
What about goodness? Is it good? Is it wholesome? Is it participating in God’s design to be in LGBT “Christian”? Well, no. In Matthew 19, Jesus grounds and tells us what the only correct sexual expression is, and he grounds it in Genesis. That God made man and woman to leave their parents and join to each other. That was the goodness of God’s design, that is now being tossed aside.
What about faithfulness? Does it show fidelity and faithfulness to Scripture and God, when we act in ways that Scripture, for instance in 1st Corinthians 6, has said are wrong. No. That doesn’t show faithfulness.
I think perhaps most obviously, it doesn’t show self-control. In the same way that the person who can’t control their heterosexual lusts and bring those under the authority of Christ and of Scripture, does not show self-control. Well, the homosexual, the lesbian, and the bisexual person does not show self-control by exhibiting and expressing their sexual desires in a way that God has forbidden.
We can’t allow ourselves to redefine authority sources to then redefine God’s good and perfect design. Part of this is understanding what Sola Scriptura means. It doesn’t mean that we can’t learn things from outside of Scripture, but it does mean that Scripture alone is the highest authority. It is the only infallible authority because it’s the only example of God breathed revelation in the possession of the church. We can’t redefine things like holiness and fruits of the spirit in response to what we in our own estimation think should be holy, if God’s word has taken that category away as a possible option.