The other day my wife handed me her phone and asked, do you remember these people? On it was a picture of two ladies we attended Bible College with. As I looked at the picture, my wife informed me that they were now married and had a child ‘together.’ Then she informed me that a friend who stood up for me at my wedding had attended their wedding as well. He and his wife were now the child’s godparents.
About a week later, my wife informed me that another acquaintance from college had just posted a bunch of material on his Facebook page supporting the transgender movement. These things trouble me deeply.
What is going on? I sat in the same classes, lived in the same dorms, and attended the same chapels. The school did not endorse any of these things while I attended there. On the contrary, I received superb biblical and theological training. So how have my peers come to embrace views that I believe contradict the Bible? They are not embracing these things because they have rejected Christianity. They are embracing them as a part of their faith. This leaves me scratching my head because they seem to be mutually exclusive.
Yet my generation is simply doing to portions of their Bibles the same thing my parents’ generation did.
Last Sunday I preached on 1 Timothy 2:11-15. As the Scripture was read, tension in the room was visible. Backs got stiff, eyes were wide open, and the room fell eerily silent as people wondered how I was going to handle a text that started off by saying a woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.
Now some gracious words and a posture of humility from the pulpit dispelled the tension because I am blessed to serve a congregation that wants to be obedient to God’s word. Yet the very fact that I had to be so careful with what I said and how I said it served as a constant reminder that the things I was saying were very countercultural. And they were not only counter to the culture outside the church. They were largely counter to the culture inside the community of faith.
The reason for this is that my parents’ generation decided that this passage no longer applied. Folks who do not adhere to the restrictions of this text today do so because they believe Paul’s instructions were limited to the cultural context of 1st century Ephesus. Yet as I studied these verses I looked at the reasons given for the restrictions in the text: the order of creation and the fall. So Paul goes back to the very beginning to substantiate his comments. It seemed to me that whatever it is that Paul limits in verse 12 is not something new, but a principle rooted in the origination of mankind. Yet many from my parents’ generation felt free to set these principles aside and go their own way in this portion of Scripture.
But then it dawned on me that my grandparents’ generation did the same thing. One of the battle grounds of the liberal theology movement was over the plausibility of evolution as a Biblical explanation for our existence. As scientific theory was imposed on the Biblical text, one of the elements of the text that had to be mythologized was historical Adam and Eve. The creation account could no longer be read literally, as if the words on the page meant what they said.
Yet when you remove historical Adam and Eve, you remove the foundation for the Bible’s teaching on marriage, the home, and morality. What defines sexually immoral behavior in the Bible is anything that falls outside the bounds of the covenant relationship established in Genesis 2:23-24. When Jesus was questioned about marriage, He quoted these verses. When Paul wished to speak to anything related to the roles and responsibilities of men and women, he quoted these verses. Why? Because they reveal God’s desire for men and women as they relate to Him and to each other. When we lose historical Adam and Eve, we corrode the Biblical foundation of our homes and set ourselves up for the moral decay we see in the church today.
I raise this point, not to convince anyone of a literal, six-day view of creation, open a debate on complementarianism versus egalitarianism, or to suggest that I have solved the moral crisis that the church is facing today. Instead, I raise it to demonstrate that there is a common denominator between these issues: how we read our Bibles.
When theories questioning the literal reading of Genesis 1 & 2 first appeared, they were hotly debated and largely rejected. Yet today they are largely accepted. When 1 Timothy 2 was first being redefined as a cultural issue rather than a universal principle, it was hotly debated and largely rejected. Yet this re-interpretation is largely accepted today. And unless the North American church changes the way it is handling God’s word, then by the time I am an old man, the redefinition of the genders and sexuality that is being introduced today will likely be largely accepted. Yet the reason they will be accepted goes beyond the loss of morality. It has to do with how we are reading our Bibles.
When scholars wanted to accept evolutionary theories, they found a way to fit them into the biblical text. When they wanted to ordain women as pastors, they found a way to fit it into the biblical text. Now my generation thinks that homosexuals should be allowed to enter into loving, committed relationships with people of the same sex, so we are finding a way to fit it into the biblical text.
The problem is that we are sitting in judgement over Scripture as we determine what we want it to say. When the literal meaning of a text says something other than what I want, I conveniently explain it away as moral mythology or culturally confined and no longer applicable. But when we mythologize Genesis 1 & 2, we unwittingly smash the foundation for the home and family, which is bearing the fruit of moral decline today. I believe there is a direct thread to the issues we are seeing in the church today, and evangelicalism’s refusal to fully reject liberal theology’s approach to Scripture.
Yet the solution is not to simply reaffirm the existence of a historical Adam and Eve and therefore restore the foundation of Genesis 2:23-24. That may solve the issues right now, but it will not close the window through which biblical revisionists are climbing. What is needed is a fundamental change to the way we are handling God’s Word.
Recently I sat in a room of pastors and church leaders who shared a common belief in a historical Adam and Eve. But the reason we affirmed this belief was because we affirmed something else: that the Bible is God’s inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word that gives us everything we need to know for life and godliness. This belief drove us, not to sit in judgment over the Scriptures, but to ask in humility, what does the Scriptures say and how do we bring our lives into conformity to that? Granted, as fallen men, we do not always come to the right conclusion on the meaning of the Biblical text. But that does not mean we cannot come to many proper conclusions. We need to recapture our commitment the authority of the text, the belief that the text says what it means and means what it says, and that we can determine truth with certainty from its text. Why? Because this is why God has given it to us.
It is time to close the window that liberal theology opened and to treat the Scriptures like they are the very breath of God. Sola Scriptura was a cry that revolutionized the church 500 years ago. I believe it would do so again if we would quit treating the Bible as an object to be analyzed and begin to treat it like the authority it is.