FAITHFULNESS IN OUR PRESENT CONTEXT, PART 2
1. Taylor Mali, a former teacher and a poet, wrote this poem entitled “Totally Like Whatever, You Know?”
In case you hadn’t noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you’re talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you’re saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)’s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions? You know?
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true, okay,
as opposed to other things that are, like, totally, you know, not—
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don’t think I’m uncool just because I’ve noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It’s like what I’ve heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I’m just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?
What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally . . .
I mean absolutely . . . You know?
That we’ve just gotten to the point where it’s just, like . . .
And so actually our disarticulation . . . ness
is just a clever sort of . . . thing
to disguise the fact that we’ve become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since . . .
you know, a long, long time ago!
I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.
2. This poem speaks to our situation today where uncertainty is cool; but if we are going to stand firm for the truth in a world that opposes our view of sexuality, we will need conviction more than anything else.
3. If we are going to stand firm for the truth, we must stand on certain convictions about Scripture.
4. Protestantism has historically spoken of four primary attributes of Scripture: authority, clarity, necessity, sufficiency. We will focus on two of these today:
I. The Bible Is Clear.
1. This doctrine is key to the Reformation; the Roman Catholic Church claimed that the Bible is obscure and, therefore, must be interpreted by an authoritative magisterium.
2. The claim is not that everything in Scripture is equally clear. Westminster Confession 1.7: “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”
3. The question at hand: does the Bible present a clear and consistent sexual ethic?
- Sexual intimacy creates and maintains a one-flesh union of a husband and wife who are committed to one another in covenant; it symbolizes Christ’s complete giving of himself to the church (and vice versa) in covenantal union.
- Therefore, all sexual intimacy outside of marriage (which requires a one-flesh union of male-female complementarity) is a perversion of God’s design.
- Jesus affirms this ethic in Matt. 19:10-12: either you are married or you are a “eunuch” (i.e., celibate).
4. Attempts to cloud the clear teaching of Scripture in confusion will continue. Matthew Vines just published God and the Gay Christian, an attempt to argue that Scripture allows for the legitimacy of committed homosexual relationships.
5. One reviewer said that Vines will succeed in his purpose, not by winning many people to his side, but by creating enough confusion around the issue to make it seem too controversial for strong conviction.
6. Is this an issue on par with the mode of baptism? Can we disagree on a sexual ethic but still regard one another as brothers and sisters in fellowship? No!
- The church has held one consistent position on this issue for 2,000 years.
- Scripture consistently presents false teachers as those who push boundaries of sexual activity: Jude 4: “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Rev. 2:20: [to the church at Thyatira]: “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.”
- Paul identifies sexual behavior as a gospel issue: 1 Cor. 6:9-10
7. If we are going to be faithful in our generation, we must hold to the conviction that God has spoken clearly to us.
II. The Bible Is Authoritative.
1. One could agree that Scripture takes a strong stance against homosexual behavior and yet argue that Scripture’s teaching is not our final authority.
2. Why do we accept that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God?
- The primary reason we accept the Bible as God’s Word is because we trust the claims that it makes about itself.
3. What claims? The Bible presents itself as God’s covenantal speech preserved in writing. God’s covenant people are to regard the covenant documents (e.g., Israel’s tablets from Mount Sinai) as the supreme authority over their lives
(1) Developing canon evident in the OT:
- Ex. 24:4: “And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD.”
- Deut. 4:2: “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.” (recognizable canon)
- Yet Joshua does add to the canon; Joshua 24:26: “And Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God.” How can Joshua have the audacity to add to God’s Word?
- The key is Deuteronomy 18:9-22: The office of prophet will continue in Israel.
- How many times do the Prophetic books claim to be the word of the Lord? Too many to number.
(2) Recognized OT canon in the NT:
- Luke 24:44: “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (references to the three divisions of the Hebrew canon)
(3) Recognition of NT writings as Scripture in NT:
- Col. 4:16: “And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.” (Paul regards his letter as worthy of being read in the public worship gathering of multiple churches.)
- 1 Tim. 5:18: “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain’ [Deut. 25:4] and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages’ [Luke 10:7].” (Paul recognizes Luke’s Gospel as Scripture.)
- 2 Pet. 3:15-16: “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
(4) The nature of God’s written word:
- Psalm 12:6: “The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” (Scripture is pure, free from error)
- Matthew 5:18: “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Even the smallest details of Scripture are infallible, meaning they are incapable of failing in any way).
- John 10:35: “…and the Scripture cannot be broken…” (infallibility)
- 2 Peter 1:20-21: “knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (process of inspiration)
- 2 Tim. 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (product of inspiration: a text that is God-breathed)
4. The claims of the Bible for itself are consistent and pervasive. If we claim to recognize biblical authority to any degree, we must recognize its authority to define itself.
5. Don’t other books claim to be God’s word as well? Yes, but not very many, and they are all Christian heresies (Islam, Mormonism) that collapse on themselves because they claim continuity with Scripture but clearly contradict it in their teachings.
6. In fact, every non-Christian worldview will collapse on itself; why? Because this world has been created and is ruled by the triune God of the Bible. Any denial of that fact is a denial of reality itself.
7. We must recognize the attempt to move beyond Scripture in our sexual ethic for what it is: an attempt to live autonomously in God’s world, where there is no true autonomy.
8. Therefore, let us hold as firm convictions not only the clarity of Scripture, but also its authority. But there is one more conviction I want to add:
III. The Truth Is Worth Suffering For.
1. Peter Leithart on last summer’s SCOTUS decision in United States vs. Windsor:
“Windsor presents American Christians with a call to martyrdom. In Greek, martyria means ‘witness,’ specifically witness in a court. At the very least, the decision challenges American Christians to continue to teach Christian sexual ethics without compromise or apology. But Windsor presents a call to martyrdom in a more specific sense. There will be a cost for speaking the truth, a cost in reputation, opportunity, and funds if not in freedoms. . .
Many churches have already capitulated to the Zeitgeist, and many others will. Some Christians and some churches won’t be up to the challenge. For those who heed Paul’s admonition not to be conformed to the pattern of this world, things are going to get sticky. But we are servants of God. He opens our ears to hear, and he gives us tongues to speak truth. If that means we are insulted and marginalized, if it means we yield our back to the smiters and our face to those who spit on us, so be it.
This will force a major adjustment in conservative Christian stance toward America. We’ve fooled ourselves for decades into believing that Christian America was derailed recently and by a small elite. It’s tough medicine to realize that principles inimical to traditional Christian morals are now deeply embedded in our laws, institutions and culture. The only America that actually exists is one in which ‘marriage’ includes same-sex couples and women have a Constitutional right to kill their babies. To be faithful, Christian witness must be witness against America.
God has his winnowing fork in his hand, and he’s ready to use it. There’s likely to be a lot of chaff, blown away like mist. But there will be a harvest. We’re being sent into an oven, but Jesus will crush the grain of the harvest so that, baked in the fire of the Spirit, it will become bread for the life of the world.”
2. Our eschatology grounds this conviction: Revelation 14:9-12
- If we identify ourselves with the beast (worldly anti-Christian powers), we will be spared his wrath now, but we will face the wrath of God.
- If we endure by keeping the commandments of God and “the faith of Jesus” (i.e., “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” [Jude 3], or a body of teaching that Jesus gave us and that is focused on him), we will escape the wrath of God that is coming.
- Suffering is our pathway to glory.
1. In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image.
- Weren’t there other Jews in Babylon at the time? Were they bowing down?
- Imagine their attempts to justify it: “Times have changed. We’re in a new situation. The Law of Moses doesn’t speak directly to this question. If we refuse to bow down, we will only cause people to think less of our faith. We will appear to be intolerant of the views of others.”
- Daniel 3:17-18: “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
- That is the sound of conviction speaking. We must have the same conviction if we are going to endure the fiery furnace that we will be thrown into. The same God is with us.