The Bible is the Dividing Line

Kevin DeYoung has just delivered what may be the touchstone message of the 2014 Together for the Gospel conference. As usual, he was both witty and insightful. But that’s not why the message was so powerful. The message was weighty because he spoke from God’s word about God’s word. In doing so, he clearly and plainly addressed the touchstone issue of our time–the authority of scripture.

In recent days, there has been a lot of division among “evangelicals” over the issue of homosexuality. But those with eyes to see and ears to hear know that homosexuality is not really the fundamental issue. The issue that “evangelicals” are facing is whether or not we will look to scripture as the supreme and infallible authority.

On the one hand, there are those who insist that the Bible is God’s word. When the Bible speaks, it is God speaking (that was the point of DeYoung’s message). On the other hand, there are those who are asking the ancient question: “Hath God really said?” Homosexuality is the debate of our time pressing that question anew, but it really is the same old question. Is God’s word reliable and true? Those who think that it is are on one path. Those who think it is not are on an entirely different path–one that does not end in eternal life.

DeYoung proves powerfully in his message that Jesus treated the Bible as the very word of God. When scripture speaks, God speaks. Thus Jesus’ view of scripture ought to be our view of scripture.

The message will eventually appear online, and you will be able to listen to it then. In the meantime, let me recommend two resources. First is DeYoung’s new book Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me. Second is John Wenham’s classic work Christ and the Bible. Both books argue that Christ’s view of the Bible ought to be ours. To this end, DeYoung writes,

If you are a Christian, by definition you ought to believe what Jesus teaches. He is the Son of God. He is our Savior and Lord. We must follow his example, obey his commands, and embrace whatever understanding of Scripture he taught and assumed. Surely this means we are wise to believe about the Scriptures whatever Jesus believed about the Scriptures (p. 95).

We’ve heard some outstanding messages here at T4G, and there are still many more to come. But this one was particularly weighty, and I commend it to you.

46 Responses to The Bible is the Dividing Line

  1. rpavich April 9, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

    That’s exactly right.

    The dividing line is, and always has been the authority of scripture.

    Period.

  2. Christopher Heslep April 9, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

    Is DeYoung’s book available on Kindle yet, or will it also come out on the 30th? Thanks.

    • Ian Shaw April 9, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

      They still do sell books in paperback, right? Some of us are still in the stoneage and/or still enjoy reading off paper.

  3. Ken Abbott April 9, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    The matter of the authority of Scripture was the formal cause of the Protestant Reformation.

  4. Ian Shaw April 9, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

    I was just about to ask about the speakers messages and if they were going to be released (as some of us can’t livestream the event). Will they be put on the T4G site as prior year’s video/podcasts are?

    I caught your twitter posts and said, “man, this is probably going to be a good one.”

  5. Curt Day April 9, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

    The above dividing line, however, doesn’t address all issues involved with how society should regard homosexuality. It does for the Church, but when society is the one that is deciding, then the clear scriptural message that homosexuality is sin does not answer all questions. For example, we know that worshipping other gods, that is adhering to other faiths than the Christian faith is sin. Should society then eliminate freedom of religion? And should we punish nonChristians for breaking the Christian Sabbath especially when Christians have diverse views of the Sabbath?

    Unlike the Old Testament, the New Testament recognizes the difference between the Church and society so that those who can no longer be counted as members in good standing in the Church can be counted as members in good standing in society. That is as much a part of the Scriptures and the verses that describe homosexuality as sin. But those verses are rarely brought into the discussion by those who push for legal sanctions that either punish homosexuals or reduce their rights.

    We should also note that there are strong emotional attachments that sometimes shades or corrupts our reading of the Bible. And most of the time, the arguments revolve around those attachments.

    So there is more than one dividing line here. And the reduction of the homosexual issue to one dividing line might show more of a penchant for binary thinking than anything else.

    • Ian Shaw April 9, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

      Curt,

      I don’t believe it was ever Mr. DeYoung’s intent to make his statement about how society should regard homosexuality, but on authority of scripture. He was speaking directly to Christians and if we believe it, there should be no question among Christians as to what it says about ANY issue, period.

      DeYoung calling for a dividing line in the sand on the authority of scripture has nothing to do with how I treat a gay co-worker or neighbor does it? Does a dividing line on authority of scripture show me that I should be disrespectful to a co-worker that neck deep in sexual sin or alcoholism?

      I have not yet heard DeYoung’s message from today. I do not know if he mentioned homosexuality in it or not (Denny did above, not Kevin). Regardless of whatever topic/issue was brought to light alongside this, authority of scripture doesn’t boil down to 1 issue…but rather it’s authority to ALL issues and how we as Christians understand them.

      But for arguments sake reagdring other issues you mentioned, I think adultery should still be punished as a crime as it is detrimental to familes and in some states it still is prosecuted under a statute of “alienation of affection” (as well as the military). Just my $.02

      • Curt Day April 10, 2014 at 9:38 am #

        Ian,
        I am basing my comments on the post above. And, according to that post, we have a dividing line between accepting a lie or regarding homosexuality as sin. And my point is that when it comes to society, such a dividing line is inadequate because there are more issues involved.

        And as for your two cents, why not criminalize flirting, questionable dress and other things that lead to adultery too. After all, isn’t that what those who strictly follow Sharia law do? And while you are defending families, you can also criminalize low pay for full-time family members as well as set the maximum number of hours a full-time family member is allowed to work. These factors are also detrimental to families. On the other hand, isn’t society to be the place for people who cannot be a member in good standing with the Church reside?

        • Ian Shaw April 10, 2014 at 11:29 am #

          Well, Denny’s commentary was on DeYoung’s message on a dividing line on authority of scripture. That’s all.

          My $.02 is just that, an opinion. I don’t make laws. If a family business wishes to treat their familiy members poorly, they will have to answer to the Lord for that in good time. You don’t know my feelings on those issues, but I respect your choice to engage in reductio ad absurdam if you wish to do so.

  6. Don Johnson April 9, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

    When kings claimed that the divine right of kings was plainly taught in Scripture, they claimed that to disagree with them meant challenging the authority of Scripture.

    When slaveholders in the South USA claimed that slavery was plainly taught in Scripture, they claimed that to disagree with them meant challenging the authority of Scripture. This is particularly relevant as this is how the SBC formed in the first place.

    In both cases, it was a question of interpretation of Scripture and not necessarily the authority of Scripture. And I think this is the case for many of the debates today. Yes, there are some that do not care about what Scripture says, but there are many other groups that accept the authority of Scripture yet disagree about what it teaches.

    • Ian Shaw April 9, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

      Authority of scripture does play a part into interpretation though. If you don’t hold scripture as authoritative and without-error, that can greatly effect your hermeneutics and your exegesis of the material

  7. Chuck Washburn April 9, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    You say that the bible is the dividing line, yet you would never stand up and preach to divorced/remarried couples that they are living continually in adultery and that they should stop being married and “go and sin no more”. However, you WOULD preach that message to a homosexual man who has been in a committed relationship with another man.

    You are inconsistent in your message. You choose what sin you want to be on each side of the dividing line. Sin is sin, yet you single out homosexual behavior like its a bigger sin than the the pride, adultery, and pure idolatry that sits on your pews every Sunday and you turn your eyes away from it and choose to isolate this sin and alienate a group of society who specifically need Jesus.

    Planks everywhere, yet you focus on the specks.

    • buddyglass April 10, 2014 at 12:17 am #

      I’d argue the divorced/remarried couple and the same-sex couple aren’t necessarily analogous. While the remarried heterosexual couple may have sinned in remarrying, that doesn’t imply the correct response is to divorce a second time.

      The gay couple they’re clearly living out a relationship that’s sinful in an ongoing way and for which there’s a remedy that doesn’t involve further sin. The better heterosexual analogy would be a heterosexual couple living together in a committed relationship without ever marrying. I suspect that the set of folks who’d advise the gay couple to separate would also advise this heterosexual couple to separate or else marry.

    • Ian Shaw April 10, 2014 at 8:08 am #

      I’d also like to respond that some pastors do preach (mine included) that divorced/remarried couples that are for reasons outside of adultery/abandonment and refuse to repent and be reconciled through the church discipline process are living with unrepentant sin.

      I’d say it just the same to any professing Christian.

      But I agree with you that many don’t and that’s why I think we shoudln’t focus on one sin specifically as much as we should make statements about ALL sin.

      • buddyglass April 10, 2014 at 8:48 am #

        So your pastor’s position is that if a couple divorces for improper reasons and then both halves remarry that the proper way to repent is for them to divorce a second time and remarry each other?

        He obviously isn’t any sort of final authority on these things, but its worth noting that Kevin DeYoung disagrees with that position:

        http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2010/11/03/a-sermon-on-divorce-and-remarriage/

        See his point #7.

        • Ian Shaw April 10, 2014 at 9:32 am #

          Buddy, I did not mean to suggest the answer, just the mere fact that if a divorce occurs for a reason not laid out in scripture, then it’s a sin. However, i said “refuse to repent. DeYoung’s #7 piece mentions that they should repent as well. It would appear that I am in lock-step with DeYoung’s position.

          That’w what I meant. Sorry for the confusion.

    • Ken Abbott April 10, 2014 at 9:44 am #

      Mr. Washburn, I submit you paint with a very broad brush. As it happens, in an adult Sunday school class on Christian ethics I taught on this very subject a few weeks ago. There is a bit more nuance to the matter of the divorced and remarried than you seem to allow in this post. Nevertheless, you may not assert that Christian leaders “would never stand up and preach” conscientiously to such persons, for such instruction does take place.

    • Don Johnson April 10, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

      If someone teaches that divorced and remarried people are continuously living in adultery, then they are taking Scripture out of context and should repent. I agree that Scripture can be misinterpreted in this way, but this is not the correct interpretation. See David Instone-Brewer’s books.

      • Ian Shaw April 10, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

        Don, I tried to correct my original statement,. I would agree with DeYoung’s point #7. Improperly divorced and remarried Christians should stay as they are, but repent and be forgiven of their past sins and make whatever amends are necessary.

        • Esther O'Reilly April 10, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

          Heh. I know exactly what the Catholics would say RE: DeYoung’s point 7, but it’s a bit extreme.

  8. Bridget Platt April 9, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    Don’t forget on the third hand you have people like Matthew Vine, who has a traditional view of Scripture as the inspired, inerrant word of God and yet he very eloquently and methodically twists God’s word to mean something completely opposite of what it clearly says and convinces a lot of people along the way. I guess satan likes to cover all the angles

  9. James Bradshaw April 9, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

    The question is not over the authority of Scripture. It’s the question of how Scripture should be read.

    Here’s a question for you all: is Scripture self-evident to humans? Are all important theological and ethical questions regarding what we must believe and what we must do or not do sufficiently clear that there is no need for questioning, explanation or debate?

    Those who hold one conservative theological views often wish to disregard dissenting opinion merely because that opinion isn’t theirs, and they do it by slandering the others by saying that “they don’t believe the Bible”.

    • Ian Shaw April 10, 2014 at 8:35 am #

      James, I do think that for some the issue is authority or not and that plays a part into how they interpret scripture.

      But you are right about interpretation. We should always read out of the text (exegesis) rather than read into the text (isogesis- my spelling is probably off). Reading into the text is where things go completey haywire and people get picky/choosy about issues, divisive or not. That’s a huge issue.

      But if you hold to it’s authority, a rule would be to always read out of the text and not into it.

    • Ken Abbott April 10, 2014 at 9:40 am #

      From chapter one of the Westminster Confession of Faith, on the perspicuity of Scripture: “VII. 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.”

      Others have put it this way: The main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things. As the Apostle Peter, and the Westminster divines, taught, there are difficult passages in Scripture, places where one has to work diligently and conscientiously to grasp the intended meaning. But even those matters, by the superintendence of the Holy Spirit and the church working collaboratively, have found historical consensus. We may legitimately say that the important theological and ethical questions regarding what we must believe and do are sufficiently clear. There may remain an important role for questions, explanations, and debate, but it is not as though these matters must be rehashed all the time, except perhaps by those who do not recognize what has gone before, either through ignorance or mule-headed refusal to submit to wiser and more experienced voices.

      Human biases are stubborn things. There can be no doubt that one must recognize, acknowledge, and attempt to get past them. It’s a tremendous temptation to make the Bible say what one wants it to say, and that has been the cause of many errors. That’s why reading the Bible in community is such a valuable practice; there is great wisdom in many counselors.

  10. Paul Reed April 10, 2014 at 8:37 am #

    Liberals have certainly abandoned scripture on the issue of homosexuality, but so have conservatives. If you disagree, read what the Bible actually says about homosexuality. Romans tells us that God has “given up” homosexuals. Leviticus tells us that homosexuality is a capital offense. With the exception of Fred Phelps and his ilk, one rarely hears conservative evangelicals who talk this way. But the problem is that nowhere in scripture do we hear God say, “Look, if you find out someone is a homosexual, make sure you point out it’s a sin and draw a hard line, but definitely treat homosexuals with respect. Don’t tell them that I have “given them over to sin”, like Paul did. Also, you can just jettison all the harsh treatment I recommended earlier in Leviticus.”

    • buddyglass April 10, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

      Mosaic Law was for Israel. Or, do you count yourself in the Rushdoony camp?

  11. Paul Reed April 10, 2014 at 9:54 am #

    Liberals Christians have certainly abandoned scripture on the issue of homosexuality, but so have conservatives. If you disagree, read what the Bible actually says about homosexuality. Romans tells us that God has given up homosexuals. Leviticus tells us that homosexuality is a capital offense. I hate to break this to you, but the Gold of the Old and New Testaments is not a moderate.

  12. Paul Reed April 10, 2014 at 9:55 am #

    Liberals Christians have certainly abandoned scripture on the issue of homosexuality, but so have conservatives. If you disagree, read what the Bible actually says about homosexuality. The New Testament tells us that God has given up homosexuals. The Old Testament tells us that homosexuality is a capital offense. I hate to break this to you, but the Gold of the Old and New Testaments is not a moderate.

  13. Paul Reed April 10, 2014 at 9:55 am #

    Hmm my comments are going through for some reason.

  14. Paul Reed April 10, 2014 at 9:58 am #

    Liberals abandon scripture, but so do conservatives. The Bible tells us that homosexuality is a capital offense, on par with murder. God is simply not a moderate on this issue.

  15. Paul Reed April 10, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    Pretty much everyone abandons scripture. The Bible tells us that homosexuality is a capital offense, on par with murder. And there was a time in human history where this was reflected in the law.

    • Ken Abbott April 10, 2014 at 10:46 am #

      Yes–during the theocratic state of ancient Israel, and in some later political organizations in which the distinctions between the old covenant and the new covenant were inappropriately blurred, some sins were capital offenses. But the entire ethic of the NT transforms all that. In Jesus Christ the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic Law were fulfilled. Because we don’t live in a divinely-instituted theocratic state and it is no longer necessary to distinguish and separate our community from the rankly pagan societies surrounding us, most of the civil penalties prescribed under the Law no longer apply. Jesus has broadened and deepened the moral aspects of the Law, however. The church of Christ has broken out of the narrow ethnic-political boundaries in which it first appeared and advances into every nation, tongue, and tribe with the message of the liberating gospel. Now the call of the Law is for inward transformation, with subsequent outward expression of renewed hearts and minds in person who live to and for the glory of God in Christ.

    • James Bradshaw April 10, 2014 at 11:40 am #

      Paul, it’s obvious that you feel the government should be executing gays. I would remind you that the death penalty was also required for working on the Sabbath. Moses had a man stoned to death for merely gathering wood. Perhaps you’re already aware of this and are preparing a whole heap of stones already?

  16. Paul Reed April 10, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    My apologies in advance if my post appears more than once. For some reason my comments weren’t going through.

  17. J.T. Smith April 10, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

    The authority of scripture is undeniable. However the interpretation of scripture is up in the air. For instance, some people take the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as being against homosexuality specifically, even though I read it completely different.

    I’ve personally written a few blog posts on the gay rights issue, and I think there is room for improvement in our interpretation of the Bible on homosexuality. However, the one thing that we cannot deny is that we should treat homosexuals as Jesus treated the sinners… with love and kindness.

    • Ken Abbott April 11, 2014 at 9:09 am #

      “The interpretation of scripture is up in the air” is far too general and vague to stand. Through the proper and conscientious application of sound hermeneutics the meaning of all but the most obscure verses (and there are interpretative problems, to be sure) can be satisfactorily obtained. I recommend resources such as R. C. Sproul’s “Knowing Scripture” as solid introductions to the subject.

      • Don Johnson April 11, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

        This is clearly not true. See the X views on Y books, such as 4 views on Revelation, 2 views on Water Baptism, 2 views on Spirit Baptism, etc. What tends to happen is that one joins a church that agrees on all the views that oneself holds.

        • Ken Abbott April 11, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

          It most clearly is true. That there are differences of opinion as to application or different emphases placed upon this or that passage is readily apparent (as in the examples you supply), but my underlying point is valid. Through diligent application of the principles of hermeneutics and a humble submission to the text to allow it to speak for itself, all but the most obscure passages become sufficiently clear. Subsequent problems usually have their origin in failure to do one, the other, or both.

          Is it really the case “that one joins a church that agrees on all the views that oneself holds”? My own experience contradicts that, and I share a weekly communion with many souls who are not in absolute lockstep with me or each other. But we have a common Lord and a common love.

          • Don Johnson April 11, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

            Can an infant be baptized in water or not? Are all the spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible applicable today? Are they some church leadership ministries restricted to men only? Should a believer keep a 7th day Sabbath or not? Is a believer to tithe to the local church? What are the valid reasons for divorce, if any? Can a divorced person remarry? Can a divorced person be a church leader? Can a believer eat meat sacrificed to idols? Can a believer eat blood?

            For each of these questions and many more there are sincere believers on both sides of the question and each of them claims they are being faithful as explained in Scripture.

            • Ken Abbott April 11, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

              Uh huh. Your point being any different than what I already posted in my first paragraph above…?

              • Don Johnson April 11, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

                The point is not that one cannot figure out something that they think is a satisfactory answer to all of these types of questions, the point is that there are others on the other side with no way to know for sure which is correct. I try to use correct hermeneutics and be humble and have the Spirit, but I am constantly learning more and on occasion get convinced to change something I previously believed.

                • Ken Abbott April 14, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

                  “I try to use correct hermeneutics and be humble and have the Spirit, but I am constantly learning more and on occasion get convinced to change something I previously believed.”

                  Amen and amen, sir. This is as it should be. Would that we all had such a spirit of submission to God’s word.

          • James Bradshaw April 11, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

            Ken writes: “all but the most obscure passages become sufficiently clear. ”

            So why do we bother with long, windy sermons on Sunday? Why have theological seminaries and study textual criticism and theology if all of this is so “self evident” that folks could just pick it up and come to near unanimity on its meaning as if it were a Good Housekeeping recipe book?

            • Ken Abbott April 14, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

              We “bother” with sermons on Sunday so that we may be edified and spiritually fed with the proclamation of the gospel. I don’t know about you, but I have a full-time job that occupies my attention all week long. While a well-prepared, thoughtful sermon does not supplant my own study of Scripture, it certainly supplements it.

              Recall what I posted from the WCF on the perspicuity of Scripture: “VII. 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.”

              “In a due use of the ordinary means.” Educated church leaders have the time and financial support (if one wants to be practical about it) to commit to this task that I may not have.

              During the course of a debate with an ecclesiastical opponent, the great Reformer and Bible translator William Tyndale vowed that he would make it so that a common ploughboy would know more about the Scripture than did his opponent simply by having it available to read in his own language. Subsequent experience has proven the truth of Tyndale’s claim.

  18. Seneca Griggs April 11, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    ” God is not a moderate.” +1

    • Ian Shaw April 11, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

      ^^^Bam.

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