One young college student wrote:
After several lengthy e-mails back and forth, this central theme emerged:
The following is a portion of my response:
That being the case, it is not fair to simply reduce our disagreement to the matter of interpretation. To do so, comes perilously close to the deconstructive approach to reading put forth by Jacques Derrida. While there is some truth to the postmodern claim that interpretations necessarily vary, it is incorrect to assume that because of this condition there is no possibility for ever discovering the truth. The truth is not found in interpretation but rather in the meaning of the text itself as established by the author. The proper approach to biblical interpretation is one in which the whole of Scripture is considered and what the Scriptures reveal to us about God and his moral character. In this way we are given a clearer picture. Certainly not complete in some cases, but neither incomplete in every instance.
We may, for example, deduce different interpretations of the Bible’s intent regarding baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or eschatology, but this is only because the Scriptures are not exhaustive on these subjects. Good Christians can disagree on these matters and remain within orthodoxy.
Furthermore, you are correct in asserting that we are “flawed” human beings and thus limited in our understanding. Our mind, along with every other aspect of our nature, is adversely affected by sin. This certainly hinders our ability to perfectly interpret God’s revelation. As the apostle Paul said, “We see through a glass darkly.” However, this is not true of everything in Scripture and it does not mean that we cannot know the truth about anything. This is where tradition and the collective wisdom of the Christian community are invaluable.
For example, are the commandments against murder, adultery, and lying subject to interpretation beyond their implicit intent? Is the divinity of Jesus subject to interpretation? What about salvation through Christ alone? Certainly not, and I think you would likely agree. We understand these as absolutes. To venture beyond what are the accepted dogma, creeds, and doctrine of the church based solely on one’s own interpretation is to regard yourself as the ultimate and final authority. Suffice it to say that such an approach is fraught with peril and often leads to error.
Suffice it to say, I went on to share numerous arguments that most of you have read before, including the New Testament passages (Romans 1: 24–28, 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 and 1 Timothy 1:8–11) that directly condemn homosexual acts. This dialogue clearly illustrates the problem within the church. However, as you can see here, the real problem is not rooted in the issue of same-sex marriage but biblical knowledge and authority. This young believer, like so many of his peers, has suffered far greater influence from the culture than discipleship from the church. It is in the church first that we must begin to create culture.
Thankfully, this young man responded with grace and humility, writing, “I must first apologize … clearly I’ve over-estimated my own knowledge …” demonstrating that being prepared with an answer given with gentleness in love can persuade or at least encourage someone to reconsider his position, which is often a starting point.
© 2008 by S. Michael Craven
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S. Michael Craven is the President of the Center for Christ & Culture. Michael is the author of Uncompromised Faith (Navpress), which is scheduled for release January 2009. (You can pre-order a signed copy HERE) Michael's ministry is dedicated to renewal within the Church and works to equip Christians with an intelligent and thoroughly Christian approach to matters of culture in order to demonstrate the relevance of Christianity to all of life. For more information on the Center for Christ & Culture, the teaching ministry of S. Michael Craven, visit: www.battlefortruth.org
Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.
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