Themelios, Volume 42, Issue 1
254 Pages

Themelios, Volume 42, Issue 1

254 Pages


Themelios is an international, evangelical, peer-reviewed theological journal that expounds and defends the historic Christian faith. Themelios is published three times a year online at The Gospel Coalition ( and in print by Wipf and Stock. Its primary audience is theological students and pastors, though scholars read it as well. Themelios began in 1975 and was operated by RTSF/UCCF in the UK, and it became a digital journal operated by The Gospel Coalition in 2008. The editorial team draws participants from across the globe as editors, essayists, and reviewers.
General Editor: D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Managing Editor: Brian Tabb, Bethlehem College and Seminary
Consulting Editor: Michael J. Ovey, Oak Hill Theological College
Administrator: Andrew David Naselli, Bethlehem College and Seminary
Book Review Editors: Jerry Hwang, Singapore Bible College; Alan Thompson, Sydney Missionary & Bible College; Nathan A. Finn, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Hans Madueme, Covenant College; Dane Ortlund, Crossway; Jason Sexton, Golden Gate Baptist Seminary
Editorial Board:
Gerald Bray, Beeson Divinity School
Lee Gatiss, Wales Evangelical School of Theology
Paul Helseth, University of Northwestern, St. Paul
Paul House, Beeson Divinity School
Ken Magnuson, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Jonathan Pennington, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
James Robson, Wycliffe Hall
Mark D. Thompson, Moore Theological College
Paul Williamson, Moore Theological College
Stephen Witmer, Pepperell Christian Fellowship
Robert Yarbrough, Covenant Seminary



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Published 12 June 2017
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DESCRIPTION hemeliosan international, evangelical, peer-reviewed teological journal tat expounds and defends te istoric is Cristian fait. Its primary audience is teological students and pastors, toug scolars read it as well. hemelios began in 1975 and was operated by RTSF/UCCF in te UK, and it became a digital journal operated by he Gospel Coalition in 2008. he editorial team draws participants from across te globe as editors, essayists, and reviewers.hemelios is publised tree times a year online at he Gospel Coalition website in PDF and HTML, and may be purcased in digital format wit Logos Bible Software and in print wit Wipf and Stock.hemeliosis copyrigted by he Gospel Coalition. Readers are free to use it and circulate it in digital form witout furter permission, but tey must acknowledge te source and may not cange te content..
EDITORS BOOK REVIEW EDITORS General Editor:D. A. CarsonOld TestamentSystematic heology and BioeticsTrinity Evangelical Divinity ScoolHans MaduemePeter Lau 2065 Half Day Road Malasian heological Seminary Covenant College Deerfield, IL 60015, USASeremban, Malasia14049 Scenic Higway temelios@t peter.lau@tegospelcoalition.orgLookout Mountain, GA 30750, USAans.madueme@t Managing Editor:Brian TabbNew TestamentBetleem College & SeminaryDavid StarlingEtics and Pastoralia 720 13t Avenue Sout Morling CollegeJeremy Kimble Minneapolis, MN 55415, USA 120 Herring Road Cedarville University brian.tabb@tegospelcoalition.orgMacquarie Park, NSW 2113, Australia251 N. Main St. david.starling@tegospelcoalition.orgCedarville, OH 45314, USAAdministrator:Andy Naselli jeremy.kimble@t Betleem College & SeminaryHistory and Historical heology720 13t Avenue SoutJonatan ArnoldMission and CultureMinneapolis, MN 55415, USABoyce CollegeJackson Wu temelios@tegospelcoalition.orgInternational Cinese heological2825 Lexington Road Louisville, KY 40280Seminary jonatan.arnold@tegospelcoalition.orgEast Asia jackson.wu@t EDITORIAL BOARD Gerald Bray,Beeson Divinity Scool; Hassell Bullock,Weaton College; Lee Gatiss,Wales Evangelical Scool of heology; Paul Helset,University of Nortwestern, St. Paul; Paul House,Beeson Divinity Scool; Ken Magnuson,he Soutern Baptist heological Seminary; Jonatan Pennington,he Soutern Baptist heological Seminary; Mark D. hompson, Moore heological College; Paul Williamson,Moore heological College; Stepen Witmer,Pepperell Cristian Fellowsip; Robert Yarbroug,Covenant Seminary.
ARTICLES hemeliostypically publises articles tat are 4,000 to 9,000 words (including footnotes). Prospective contributors sould submit articles by email to te managing editor in Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) or Ric Text Format (.rtf ). Submissions sould not include te autor’s name or institutional affiliation for blind peer-review. Articles sould use clear, concise Englis and sould consistently adopt eiter UK or USA spelling and punctuation conventions. Special caracters (suc as Greek and Hebrew) require a Unicode font. Abbreviations and bibliograpic references sould conform tohe SBL Handbook of Style(2nd ed.), supplemented byhe Cicago Manual of Style(16t ed.). For examples of te te journal's style, consult te most recent hemelios issues and te contributor guidelines.
REVIEWS he book review editors generally select individuals for book reviews, but potential reviewers may contact tem about reviewing specific books. As part of arranging book reviews, te book review editors will supply book review guidelines to reviewers. Printed by Wipf and Stock Publishers, 199 W. 8th Ave., Eugene, OR 97401. ISBN: 978-1-5326-3204-4
hemelios42.1 (2017): 1–12
Subtle Ways to Abandon te Autority of Scripture in Our Lives  D. A. Carson 
D. A. Carson is researc professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity Scool in Deerfield, Illinois, and general editor ofhemelios.
1 ecently Eerdmans publisedhe Autority of te Cristian Scriptures. It is a rater big book, R wit about tirty-five contributors, all of tem experts in teir fields. he ope and prayer tat guided te project were tat tis volume of essays would be used by God to stabilize worldwide evangelicalism—and not only evangelicals, but all wo old to confessional Cristianity. More recently, owever, I ave been pondering te fact tat many Cristians slide away from full confidence in te trustwortiness of Scripture for reasons tat are not so muc intellectual as broadly cultural. I am not now tinking of te college student brougt up in a confessional ome wo goes to university and is for te first time confronted wit informed and carming intellectuals wose reasoning calls into question te structure and fabric of is or er Cristian belief. Clearly tat student needs a lot more information; te period of doubt is often a rite of passage. No, in tese jottings I’m reflecting onsubtleways in wic we may reduce Scripture’s autorityin our lives—and te “we” refers to many Cristians in te world, especially te Western world, and not least pastors and scolars. If tey ten introduce intellectual and cognitive objections to te autority of Scripture in order to bolster te move toward skepticism tat tey ave already begun, a focus on suc intellectual and cognitive objections, owever necessary, is in danger of addressing symptoms witout diagnosing te problem. It migt be useful to try to identify some of tese subtle factors.
1. An Appeal to Selective Evidence
he most severe forms of tis drift are well exemplified in te teacing and preacing of te HWPG— te ealt, wealt, and prosperity gospel. Link togeter some verses about God sending prosperity to te land wit oters tat reflect on te significance of being a cild of te King, and te case is made— provided, of course, tat we ignore te many passages about taking up our cross, about suffering wit Crist so tat we may reign wit im, about rejoicing because we are privileged to suffer for te name, and muc more. hese breaces are so egregious tat tey are easy to spot. Wat I’m tinking of now is someting subtler: te simple refusal to talk about disputed matters in order to sidestep controversy in te local curc. For te sake of peace, we offer anodyne treatments of ot topics (poverty, racism,
1 D. A. Carson, ed.,he Autority of te Cristian Scriptures(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016). his editorial is a condensed version of a talk given to te Council of TGC in May, 2016.
omosexual marriage, distinctions between men and women) in te forlorn ope tat some of tese topics will eventually go away. he sad reality is tat if we do not try to sape our tinking on suc topics under te autority of Scripture, te result is tat many of us will simply pick up te culture’s tinking on tem. he best antidote is systematic expository preacing, for suc preacing forces us to deal wit texts as tey come up. Topical preacing finds it easier to avoid te ard texts. Yet cultural blinders can easily afflict expositors, too. A Cristian preacer I know in a major Muslim nation says e loves to preac evangelistically, especially around Cristmas, from Mattew 1 and 2, because tese capters include no fewer tan five reports of dreams and visions—and dreams and visions in te dominant culture of is country are commonly accorded great respect. Wen I ave preaced troug Mattew 1 and 2, I ave never focused on tose five dreams and visions (toug I aven’t entirely ignored tem), precisely because suc dreams and visions are not customarily accorded great credibility in my culture. In oter words, rutless self-examination of one’s motives and biases, so far as we are aware of tem, can go a long way to mitigating tis problem.
2. Heart Embarrassment before te Text
his is a more acute form of te first failure. Not infrequently preacers avoid certain topics, in part because tose topics embarrass tem. he embarrassment may arise from te preacer’s awareness tat e as not yet sufficiently studied te topic so as to give im te confidence to tackle it (e.g., some elements of escatology, transgenderism), or because of some general unease at te topic (e.g., predestination), or because te preacer knows is congregation is sarply divided on te topic (any number of possibilities), or because te preacer simply really does not like te subject even toug it surfaces pretty often in te Bible (e.g., ell, eternal judgment). In its ugliest form, te preacer says someting like tis: “Our passage tis morning, Luke 16:19–31, like quite a number of oter passages drawn from te life of Jesus, depicts ell in some pretty socking ways. Frankly, I wis I could avoid tese passages. hey leave me distinctly uncomfortable. But of course, I cannot ignore tem entirely, for after all tey are rigt ere in te Bible.” he preacer as formally submitted to Scripture’s autority, wile presenting imself as someone wo is more compassionate or more sensitive tan Jesus. his is as deceptive as it is wicked—and it is easy to multiply examples. Contrast te apostle Paul: “herefore, since troug God’s mercy we ave tis ministry, we do not lose eart. Rater, we ave renounced secret and sameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort te word of God. On te contrary, by setting fort te trut plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in te sigt of God” (2 Cor 4:1–2).
3. Publising Ventures hat Legitimate Wat God Condemns
2 Recently Zondervan publisedTwo Views on Homosexuality, te Bible, and te Curcbook; tis bills tese two views as “affirming” and “non-affirming,” and two autors support eac side. Bot sides, we are told, argue “from Scripture.” If te “affirming” side was once viewed as a stance tat could not be eld by confessional evangelicals, tis book declares tat not only te non-affirming stance but te
2 Preston Sprinkle, ed.,Two Views on Homosexuality, te Bible, and te Curc, Counterpoints (Grand Rap-ids: Zondervan, 2016).
Subtle Ways to Abandon te Autority of Scripture
affirming stance are represented witin te evangelical camp, so te effect of tis book is to present alternative evangelical positions, one tat tinks te Bible proibits omosexual marriage, and te oter tat embraces it. All wo read tese lines will of course be aware of te many books tat proffer tree views or four views (or two, or five) on tis or tat subject: te millennium, election, ell, baptism, and many more. Surely tis new book on omosexuality is no different. To tis a couple of tings must be said. (a) he format of suc volumes, “x views ony,” is intrinsically slippery. It can be very elpful to students to read, in one volume, diverse stances on complex subjects, yet te format is in danger of suggesting tat eac option is equally “biblical” because it is argued “from Scripture.” Of course, Jeova’s Witnesses argue “from Scripture,” but most of us would asten to add tat teir exegesis, nominally “from Scripture,” is woefully lacking. he “xviews ony” format tilts evaluation away from suc considerations, baptizing eac option wit at least teoretical equivalent legitimacy. In sort, te xviews ony” format, as useful as it is for some purposes, is somewat manipulative. As I ave argued 3 elsewere, not all disputed tings are properly disputable. (b) Oterwise put, it is generally te case tat books of te “xviews ony” format operate witin some implicit confessional framework or oter. hat’s wy no book of tis sort as (yet!) been publised wit a title suc as “hree Views on Weter Jesus is God.” We migt bring togeter a liberal committed to pilosopical naturalism, a Jeova’s Witness, and a confessional Cristian. But it’s ard to imagine a book like tat getting publised—or, more precisely, a book like tat would be tagged as a volume on comparative religion, not a volume offering options for Cristians. Most books of te “xviews onysort restrict te subject, tey-component, to topics tat are currently allowed as evangelical options. To broaden tis list to include an option tatnoevangelical would ave allowed ten years ago—say, te denial of te deity of Jesus, or te legitimacy of omosexual practice—is designed simultaneously to assert tat Scripture is less clear on te said topic tan was once tougt, and to re-define, once again, te borders of evangelicalism. On bot counts, te voice of Scripture as tenorma normans(“te rule tat rules”), toug teoretically still intact, as in fact been subtly reduced. Inevitably, tere ave been some articulate voices tat insist tat adopting an “affirming” stance on omosexual marriage does not jeopardize one’s salvation and sould not place suc a person outside te evangelical camp. For example, in is essay “An Evangelical Approac to Sexual Etics,” Stepen Holmes concludes, “Sola Fide. I ave to stand on tat. Because te Blood flowed were I walk and were we all walk. One perfect sacrifice complete, once for all offered for all te world, offering renewal to all wo will put teir fait in Him. And if tat means me, in all my failures and confusions, ten it also means my friends wo affirm same-sex marriage, in all teir failures and confusions. If my faitful and affirming 4 friends ave no ope of salvation, ten nor do I.” But tis is an abuse of te evangelical insistence onsola fide. I do not know any Cristian wo tinks tat salvation is appropriated by means of fait plus an affirmation of eterosexuality. Fait alone is te means by wicsola gratia is appropriated. Neverteless, tat grace is so powerful it transforms. Salvation by grace alone troug fait alone issues in a new direction under te lordsip of King Jesus. hose wo are sold out to te “acts of te fles ... will not inerit te kingdom of God” (Gal 5:19–21). he apostle Paul makes a similar assertion in 1 Corintians 6:9–11:
3 D. A. Carson, “Editorial: On Disputable Matters,”hem40 (2015): 383–88. 4 Stepen Holmes, “An Evangelical Approac to Sexual Etics,” ttp://
Or do you not know tat wrongdoers will not inerit te kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neiter te sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers not men wo ave sex wit men nor tieves nor te greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inerit te kingdom of God.And tat is wat some of you were. But you were wased, you were sanctified, you were justified in te name of te Lord Jesus Crist and by te Spirit of our God(empasis added).
In te context of Paul’s tougt, e is not saying tat witout sinless perfection tere is no entrance into te kingdom, but e is saying tat suc sins—weter greed or adultery or omosexual practice or watever—no longer caracterize te wased, sanctified, and justified. In oter words, it is one ting to affirm wit joy tatsola fidemeans tat we appropriate te merits of Crist and is cross by fait alone, not by our oliness—tat oliness is te product of salvation, not its condition—and it is quite anoter ting to say tat someone may self-consciously affirm te non-sinfulness of wat God as declared to be sin, of wat God insists excludes a person from te kingdom, and say tat it doesn’t matter because sola fidewill get tem in anyway. he Scriptures make a lot of room for believers wo slip and slide in “failures and confusions,” as Holmes put it, but wo rest in God’s grace and receive it in God-given fait; tey do not leave a lot of room for tose wo deny tey are sinning despite wat God says.Sola gratiaandsola fideare always accompanied bysola Scriptura, bysolus Cristus, and bysoli Deo gloria. Or again, one really must question te recent argument by Alan Jacobs, from wose books and 5 essays I ave gained a great deal over te years. In is essay “On False Teacers: Bleat te hird,” owever, Jacobs argues tat wen we warn against doctrine tat is so dangerous it must be labeled and condemned, one naturally tinks of 2 Peter 2, were Peter warns against false teacers analogous to false propets in te old covenant, and 1 Timoty 4, were Paul warns us against doctrines of demons. Wat is remarkable, Jacobs argues, is tat wen Paul rebukes Peter in Antioc (Gal 2:11–14), e tells im e is not walking in line wit te gospel, but e does not label im a “false teacer.” If Paul can be so restrained in rebuking Peter over conduct tat callenged te very eart of te gospel, ten sould we not allow a very wide swat of wat we perceive to be inappropriate conduct before we assert someone is a false teacer and expounding doctrines of demons? As Jacobs summarizes: “So if we can be as wrong as Peter was about someting as foundational for te Gospel and still not be denounced as a false teacer, ten I tink it follows tat if people do not ‘walk correctly’ in relation to biblical teacing about sexuality, tey likewise sould not be treated aspseudodidaskaloi[false teacers] but can be seen as broters and sisters wom tose wo old te traditional views patiently strive to correct, witout coming out from among tem, speaking wit te patience and gentleness commended in 2 Timoty 3:24–25.” Against tis, te following must be said. (a) In Galatians 2:11–14, Paul is building off is argument (2:1–13) tat Paul and Peter enjoy teological agreement. Peter’s problem, Paul tinks, is tat Peter’s conduct is inconsistent wit is teological commitments. his is all te clearer wen we see tat Peter’s preference for eating wit “tose from James” as to do not wit any alleged confusion in is mind about justification, but wit tis concern for te persecution is fellow Jews are enduring back ome in Jerusalem at te ands of 6 “te circumcision group.” In any case, tis is rater different from te current situation in wic some
5 Alan Jacobs, “On False Teacers: Bleat te hird,” ttps://ers-bleat-te-tird/. 6 D. A. Carson, “Mirror-Reading wit Paul and against Paul: Galatians 2:11–14 as a Test Case,” inStudies in te Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo, ed. Mattew S. Harmon and Jay E. Smit (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 99–112.
Subtle Ways to Abandon te Autority of Scripture
voices are insisting tat omosexual marriage is not wrong. Paul is not saying tat Peter’s teology is wrong, but tat is conduct is not in line wit is teology. Incidentally, Jacobs assumes, probably correctly, tat te Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) occursafter tis episode in Antioc, prompting im to comment, “... and of course Paul’s view won out at te Council of Jerusalem (were, I ave always 7 tougt comically, Peter presents it as is own view, wit no reference to Paul aving corrected im).” But tere is noting comical about Peter’s stance at te Council: Paul imself insists tat so far as teir teological understanding goes, e and Peter are in agreement, so it is neiter surprising nor comical to find Peter saying te same ting. (b) It is not clear to me wy Jacobs rests so muc weigt on te “false teacer” passage in Peter and te “doctrines of demons” passage in Paul. here are plenty of oter passages tat deploy quite different terminology and tat insist tat false doctrine or untransformed beavior keep one out of te kingdom: Mattew 7:21–23; 11:21–24; Luke 16:19–31; Romans 1:18–3:20; Galatians 1:8–9; Revelation 13–14, to name but a few. (c) Despite te best efforts of bad exegesis, te Bible makes it clear tat treating omosexuality as if it were not a sin, but a practice in wic people sould feel perfectly free to engage, keeps one out of te kingdom (as we ave seen: e.g., 1 Corintians 6:9–11). here is noting more serious tan tat, and te seriousness is present weter or not a particular term, suc aspseudodidaskalos(“false teacer”) is used. From time to time, expansion of te frame of reference of wat as traditionally been called evangelicalism as been influenced by William J. Webb’s trajectory ermeneutic, wic argues tat sometimes it is not wat Scripture actuallysaystat is autoritative but rater te direction to wic 8 it points. His favorite example is slavery; is favorite application of tat example is te role of women. 9 his trajectory ermeneutic as been adequately discussed elsewere; it would be inappropriate to reearse te ermeneutic ere. Wat cannot be denied, owever, is tat tis way of reading te Bible diminises te autority of wat te Bible actuallysays in favor of wat te interpreter judges to be te end goal of te Bible’s trajectory after te Bible as been written and circulated. One of te latest examples is te defense mounted by Pete Briscoe and is elders as te Bent Tree Bible Fellowsip in 10 Dallas embraces egalitarianism, a defense tat specifically references Webb’s work. Furter, Briscoe says e as moved te debate over egalitarianism and complementarianism into te “agree to disagree” category, wic may function well enoug in te cadre of evangelicalismas a movement,but can only function practically at te level of te local curc if one side or te oter is actually being followed at te expense of te oter. In any case, te “agree to disagree” argument nicely brings us to my fourt point:
7 Jacobs, “On False Teacers.” 8 See especially William J. Webb’sSlaves, Women and Homosexuals: Exploring te Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001). 9 Wayne A. Grudem, “Review Article: Sould We Move Beyond te New Testament to a Better Etic? An Analysis of William J. Webb,Slaves, Women and Homosexuals: Exploring te Hermeneutics of Cultural Analy-sis,”JETS47 (2004): 299–346. See also Benjamin Reaoc,Women, Slaves, and te Gender Debate: A Complemen-tarian Response to te Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic(Pillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2012). 10 “he Future of Leadersip at Bent Tree,” April 2016, ttp://6pe4zj.
4. “he Art of Imperious Ignorance”
he words are in quotation marks because tey are borrowed from Mike Ovey’s column in a recent 11 issue ofhemeliosis te stance tat insists tat all te relevant biblical passages on a stated subject. his are exegetically confusing and unclear, and terefore wecannot(ence “imperious”) te mind know of God on tat subject. he istorical example tat Ovey adduces is te decision of a curc Council during te patristic period wose decisions ave mostly been forgotten by non-specialists. At a time of great controversy over Cristology—specifically, over te deity of Crist—te Council of Sirmium (357), wic sided wit te pro-Arians, pronounced a proibition against using terms likeomoousios(signaling “one and te same substance”) andomoiousios(signaling “of a similar substance”). In oter words, Sirmium proibited using te tecnical terms espoused bybotsides, on te ground tat te issues are so difficult and te evidence so obscure tat wecannotknow te trut. Sirmium even adduced a biblical proof-text: “Wo sall declare is generation?” tey asked: i.e., it is all too mysterious. Neverteless, te ortodox faters Hilary of Poitiers and Atanasius of Alexandria assessed te stance of Sirmium as worse tan error: it was, tey said, blaspemy. hey decried te element of compulsion in Sirmium’s decree, and insisted tat it was absurd: ow is it possible to legislate te knowledge of oter people? But te blaspemous element surfaces in te fact tat te decree tries to put an end to te confession of true propositions (e.g., te eternal generation of te Son). Practically speaking, te claim of dogmatic ignorance, ostensibly arising from Scripture’s lack of clarity, criticizes Scripture wile allowing people to adopt te positions tey want. his art of imperious ignorance is not unknown or unpracticed today. For example, bot in a recent 12 book and in an article, David Gusee argues tat omosexual marriage sould be placed among te tings over wic we agree to disagree, wat used to be calledadiapora, indifferent tings. He predicts tat “conservatives” and “progressives” are eading for an unfortunate divorce over tis and a andful of oter issues, precisely because tey cannot agree to disagree. He may be rigt. In all fairness, owever, in addition to te question of weter one’s beavior in te domain of sexuality as eternal consequences, it must be said, gently but firmly, tat te unified voice of bot Scripture and tradition on omosexuality as not been on te side of te “progressives”: see especially te book by S. Donald Fortson III and Rollin G. Grams,Uncanging Witness: he Consistent Cristian Teacing on Homosexuality in Scripture and 13 Tradition. As Trevin Wax as pointed out, on tis subject te “progressives” innovate on teacing and conduct and tus start te scism, and ten accuse te “conservatives” of drawing lines and promoting 14 scism instead of agreeing to disagree. A somewat similar pattern can be found in te arguments of Jen and Brandon Hatmaker. Most of teir posts are winsome and compassionate, full of admirable concern for te downtrodden and
11 Micael J. Ovey, “Off te Record: he Art of Imperious Ignorance,”hem41 (2016): 5–7. 12 David Gusee,A Letter to My Anxious Cristian Friends: From Fear to Fait in Unsettled Times(Louisville: Westminster Jon Knox, 2016); idem, “Conservative and Progressive US Evangelicals Head for Divorce,”Religion News Service, 12 February 2016, “Cristians, Conflicts and Cange,” ttp:// 13 S. Donald Fortson III and Rollin G. Grams,Uncanging Witness: he Consistent Cristian Teacing on Ho-mosexuality in Scripture and Tradition(Nasville: B&H Academic, 2016). 14 Trevin Wax, “Can We ‘Agree to Disagree’ on Sexuality and Marriage,’he Gospel Coalition, 25 February 2016, ttps://blogs.ty-we-cant-agree-to-disagree-on-sexuality-and-marriage/.
Subtle Ways to Abandon te Autority of Scripture
oppressed. heir recent move in support of monogamous omosexual marriage as drawn a lot of attention: after devoting time to studying te subject, tey say, tey ave come to te conclusion tat te biblical texts do not clearly forbid omosexual conduct if it is a monogamous commitment, but condemn only conduct tat is promiscuous (weter eterosexual or omosexual), rape, and oter 15 grievous offenses. In is explanation of teir move, Brandon testifies tat after seeing so muc pain in te omosexual community, te Hatmakers set temselves “a season of study and prayer,” and arrived at tis conclusion: “Bottom line, we don’t believe a committed life-long monogamous same-sex marriage 16 violates anyting seen in scripture about God’s opes for te marriage relationsip.” Quite apart from te oddity of te expression “God’s opes for te marriage relationsip,” Brandon’s essay extravagantly praises eticist David Gusee, and ends is essay by citing Jon 13:34–35 (Jesus’s “new command” to is disciples to “love one anoter”). 17 Among te excellent responses, tree deserve mention ere. (a) Speaking out of er own remarkable conversion, Rosaria Butterfield counsels er readers to love 18 teir neigbors enoug to speak te trut. “Love” tat does not care enoug to speak te trut and warn against judgment to come easily reduces to sentimentality. (b) Wit is inimitable style, Kevin DeYoung briefly but decisively callenges wat e calls “te 19 Hatmaker ermeneutic.” To pick up on just one of is points:
I fail to see ow te logicformonogamy andagainstfornication is obvious according to Hatmaker’s ermeneutic. I appreciate tat tey don’t want to completely jettison ortodox Cristian teacing wen it comes to sex and marriage. But te flimsiness of te ermeneutic cannot support te weigt of te tradition. Once you’ve concluded tat te creation of Adam and Eve as noting to do wit a procreativetelos(Mal. 2:15), or te fittedness of male wit female (Gen. 2:18), or te joining of two complementary sexes into one organic union (Gen. 2:23–24), wat’s left to insist tat marriage must be limited to two persons, or tat te two persons must be faitful to eac oter? Sure, bot partners may agree tat teywantfidelity, but tere is no longer anyting inerent to te ontology and tetelosof marriage to insist tat sexual fidelity is a must. Likewise, wy is it obvious tat sex outside of marriage is wrong? Peraps tose verses were only dealing wit oppressive situations too. Most foundationally, once stripped
15 See, for example, Jen Hatmaker’s interview wit Jonatan Merritt, “he Politics of Jen Hatmaker,”Religion News Service, 25 October 2016,ttp://e-politics-of-jen-atmaker-trump-black-lives-matter-gay-marriage-and-more/. 16 ttps:// 17 See also Justin Taylor, “he Only Four hings You Need to Read in Response to te Hatmakers,”he Gospel Coalition, 2 November 2016, ttps://blogs.te-only-four-tings-you-need-to-read-in-response-to-te-atmakers/. Taylor igligts te articles by Butterfield and DeYoung men-tioned below. 18 Rosaria Butterfield, “Love Your Neigbor Enoug to Speak Trut: A Response to Jen Hatmaker,”he Gospel Coalition, 31 October 2016, ttps://www.tbor-enoug-to-speak-trut. 19 Kevin DeYoung, “A Few Brief hougts on te Hatmaker Hermeneutic,”he Gospel Coalition, 2 Novem-ber 2016, ttps://blogs.tind-te-istoric-understanding-of-biblical-sexuality/.
of te biological orientation toward cildren, by wat internal logic can we say tat consensual sex between two adults is wrong? And on tat score, by wat measure can we condemn a biological broter and sister getting married if tey truly love eac oter (and use contraceptives, just to take te possibility of genetic abnormalities out of te equation)? Wen marriage is redefined to include persons of te same sex, we may tink we are expanding te institution to make it more inclusive, but in fact we are diminising it to te point were it is someting oter tan marriage.
(c) And finally, I sould mention anoter piece by Kevin DeYoung, presented in is inimitable style as a “Breakout” session at T4G on 13 April 2016, titled, “Drawing Boundaries in an Inclusive Age: Are Some Doctrines More Fundamental han Oters and How Do We Know Wat hey Are?” I ave not yet seen tat piece online, but one opes its appearance will not be long delayed, and e as given me permission to mention it ere. I ave devoted rater extended discussion to tis topic, because nowere does “te art of imperious ignorance” make a stronger appeal, in our age, tan to issues of sexuality. By te same token, tere are few topics were contemporary believers are more strongly tempted to slip away from wole-earted submission te Scripture’s autority in our own lives. he rest of my points, altoug tey deserve equal attention, I sall outline more briefly.
5. Allowing te Categories of Systematic heology to Domesticate Wat Scripture Says
Most empatically, tis point is neiter belittling systematic teology nor an attempt to sideline te discipline. Wen I warn against te danger of systematic teology domesticating wat Scripture says, I neverteless gladly insist tat, properly deployed, systematic teology enrices, deepens, and safeguards our exegesis. he old affirmation tat teology is te queen of te sciences as muc to commend it. he best of systematic teology not only attempts to bring togeter all of Scripture in faitful ways, but also at its best enjoys a pedagogical function tat elps to steer exegesis away from irresponsible options tat depend on mere linguistic manipulation, by consciously taking into account te witness of te entire canon. Suc teology-disciplined exegesis is muc more likely to learn from te past tan exegesis tat sucks off everyting except te faddis. So tere are ways in wic exegesis sapes systematic teology and ways in wic systematic teology sapes exegesis. hat is not only as it sould be; it is inevitable. Yet teautorityof Scripture in our lives is properly unique. Systematic teology is corrigible; Scripture is not (altoug our exegesis of Scripture certainly is). Failure to tink troug te implications of tis trut makes it easy for us to allow te categories of systematic teology to domesticate wat Scripture says. he categories we inerit or develop in our systematic teology may so constrain our tinking about wat te Bible says tat te Bible’s own voice is scarcely eard. hus diminised, te autority of te Bible is insufficient to reform our systematic teology. Recently I was re-reading Exodus 7–11. After eac of te first nine “plagues” wit wic God castened te Egyptians, we read variations of “Parao ardened is eart” and “God ardened Parao’s eart” and “Parao’s eart was ardened.” I could not elp but remember wit same and regret some of te exegetical sins of my yout. Barely twenty years old at te time, I was invited to speak to a group of young people, and carefully explained te tree stages: first, Parao ardens is own eart; second, as a result, Parao’s eart is ardened; and finally, God imposes is own final
Subtle Ways to Abandon te Autority of Scripture
sanction: e judicially ardens Parao’s eart. Of course, I was aware tat te narrative did not display tose tree expressions in tis convenient psycological order, but te omiletical point seemed to me, at te time, too good to pass up—it simply is te way tese tings develop, isn’t it? So my teology of te time, sallow as it was, domesticated te text. Only later did I learn ow commonly te Bible juxtaposes uman responsibility and divine sovereignty witout te smallest discomfort, witout allowing te sligtest int tat te affirmation of te one dilutes belief in te oter (e.g., Gen 50:19–20; Isa 10:5–19; Acts 4:27–28). It is te part of umility and wisdom not to allow our teological categories to domesticate wat Scripture says.
6. Too Little Reading, Especially te Reading of Older Commentaries and heological Works
he more general failure of too little reading contributes, of course, to some of te pats tat tend wit time to obble te autority of Scripture, pats already articulated. he obvious one is tat we do not grow out of youtful errors and reductionisms; we prove unable to self-correct; our sallow teology becomes ossified. hus too little reading is partly to blame for my irresponsible exegesis of Exodus 7–11 (#5, above), or to downplaying te cultural importance of dreams and visions in oter parts of te world (cf. #1, above). But a more focused problem frequently surfaces, one tat requires separate notice. Too little reading, especially te reading of older confessional material, not infrequently leads to in an infatuation wit current agendas, to intoxication by te over-imbibing of te merely faddis. Of course, te opposite failure is not unknown. Many of us are acquainted wit ministers wo read deeply from te wells of Puritan resources, but wo ave not tried to read muc contemporary work. heir language, tougt-categories, illustrations, and agendas tend to sound almost four centuries old. But tat is not te problem I am addressing ere, mostly because, as far as I can see, it is far less common tan te failure to read older confessional materials, not least commentaries and teological works. he problem wit reading only contemporary work is tat we all sound so contemporary tat our talks and sermons soon descend to te level of kitsc. We talk fluently about te importance of self-identity, ecological responsibility, tolerance, becoming a follower of Jesus (but rarely becoming a Cristian), ow te Bible elps us in our pain and suffering, and conduct seminars on money management and divorce recovery. Not for a moment would I suggest tat te Bible fails to address suc topics—but te Bible is not primarilyaboutsuc topics. If we integrate more reading of, say, Jon Crysostom, Jon Calvin, and Jon Flavel (to pick on tree Jons), we migt be inclined to devote more attention in our addresses to wat it means to be made in te image of God, to te dreadfulness of sin, to te nature of te gospel, to te blessed Trinity, to trut, to disciplesip, to te Bible’s insistence tat Cristians will suffer, to learning ow to die well, to te prospect of te new eaven and te new eart, to te glories of te new covenant, to te seer beauty of Jesus Crist, to confidence in a God wo is bot sovereign and good, to te non-negotiability of repentance and fait, to te importance of endurance and perseverance, to te beauty of oliness and te importance of te local curc. Is te Bible truly autoritative in our lives and ministries wen we skirt tese and oter truly important temes tat oter generations of Cristians rigtly found in te Bible?