A Case Study in Authority

by | Oct 13, 2015

This post is prompted by a Facebook post from a friend of mine who is finishing up his dissertation on how the methods used to interpret the Scripture regarding the subject of homosexuality.  He pointed to a quote that was, frankly, sad and yet all too common within the Church.

His post caused me to reflect on my recent trip to Serbia to teach theology.  One of the main subjects I taught was the doctrine of the Bible and a key portion of that teaching was on its inherent authority in the life of all who claim to follow Christ.  Bottom-line, it is not optional, but the reality is that it is in the minds of far too many. Here is the quote:

“The authority of Scripture and of the church’s tradition is scarcely trivial. A real challenge confronts those of us who perceive God at work among all persons and in all covenanted and life-enhancing forms of sexual love. That challenge is to take our tradition and the Scripture with at least as much seriousness as those who use the Bible as a buttress for rejecting forms of sexual love they fear or cannot understand.”

The task demands intellectual honesty. I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says. But what are we to do with what the text says? We must state our grounds for standing in tension with the clear commands of Scripture, and include in those grounds some basis in Scripture itself. . . .

I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us. By so doing, we explicitly reject as well the premises of the scriptural statements condemning homosexuality—namely, that it is a vice freely chosen, a symptom of human corruption, and disobedience to God’s created order.”

This situation, like any other issue, is seldom a textual problem where the bible is somehow unclear.  It is an issue of whether the bible is held to be truly authoritative in the life of one claiming Christ as Lord.  Here is a theologian who blatantly admits the biblical text is clear on the issue of homosexuality, he just doesn’t care.  Until the Church is willing to begin to cleanse itself from within this sickness will continue to pervade its every nook and cranny.

1 Corinthians 5 is still true today as it reflects the grace shown toward those outside of Christ (something we frankly stink at more than we like to admit) and the relentless demands of true holiness within the Church (something we frankly stink even more at).  And we scratch our heads and wonder how all of this happened.

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.'” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)