Taking Scripture Seriously

‘Both sides take the Bible seriously.’ This is a common claim heard in the debates about women-in-office and homosexuality. Christians who favor the approval of women-in-office and of homosexuality make this statement in order to establish their views as legitimate interpretations of the Bible. So they make it appear that they and their opponents are the same in that both take Bible seriously. But even if those who approve of women-in-office and homosexuality do take the Bible seriously, whatever that may mean, their view and approach to Scripture must be recognized as radically different from those who believe the Bible prohibits women-in-office and condemns homosexuality.

In 2002 JI Packer walked out of an ecclesiastical assembly in protest over a decision by that assembly that gave approval to homosexual unions. In this 2003 article in Christianity Today Packer explained why he walked out of the assembly. I only share with you his explanation of how the two sides have radically different views of Scripture. After reading the second paragraph I immediately thought of Rob Bell. Here is what Packer wrote about the two views of Scripture,

One is the historic Christian belief that through the prophets, the incarnate Son, the apostles, and the writers of canonical Scripture as a body, God has used human language to tell us definitively and transculturally about his ways, his works, his will, and his worship. Furthermore, this revealed truth is grasped by letting the Bible interpret itself to us from within, in the knowledge that the way into God's mind is through that of the writers. Through them, the Holy Spirit who inspired them teaches the church. Finally, one mark of sound biblical insights is that they do not run counter to anything else in the canon.

The second view applies to Christianity the Enlightenment's trust in human reason, along with the fashionable evolutionary assumption that the present is wiser than the past. It concludes that the world has the wisdom, and the church must play intellectual catch-up in each generation in order to survive. From this standpoint, everything in the Bible becomes relative to the church's evolving insights, which themselves are relative to society's continuing development (nothing stands still), and the Holy Spirit's teaching ministry is to help the faithful see where Bible doctrine shows the cultural limitations of the ancient world and needs adjustment in light of latter-day experience (encounters, interactions, perplexities, states of mind and emotion, and so on). Same-sex unions are one example. This view is scarcely 50 years old, though its antecedents go back much further. I call it the subjectivist position.

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