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12.21.2004    |    "totally true and trustworthy"
The Southern Baptist Faith and Message includes the statement that Scripture "has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy." This would seem to leave very little room for interpretation, and there are many who we call fundamentalists who take the Holy Bible as literally, i.e., word for word, true.

This poses problems for those who would use Biblical text to support a position, but then show themselves inconsistent when challenged with other, inconvenient, portions of Scripture. I maintain that the only inconsistency is with those who would deny the plain text meaning of Scripture.

The specific issue is homosexuality, which is starkly condemned throughout the Old and New Testaments (e.g. Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:27). Those who would support homosexual clergy use twists and turns to assure us that Scripture's plain meaning is actually its opposite. Or, that Scripture was written in a different time, place, and culture, and is not relevant to us.

One favorite tactic is to cite some legalistic portion of Leviticus or elsewhere in the Old Testament where crimes such as prostitution are dealt with as capital offences. As in, by way of example, Leviticus 21:9, which cheerily notes that if "a priest's daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire." Ouch.

Another tactic is to ask those who condemn homosexuality with a pesky question such as, "why do you shave or cut your hair, since Leviticus 21:5 clearly enjoins us not to?" And so forth. Call me a liberal (them's fightin' words), but God has given us Scripture along with brains to interpret His word.

I cut my hair, and shave, because I am not a priest engaged in temple worship. Jesus has done away with the need for a literal temple (and for a priestly caste, but that's a whole 'nother argument), and Scripture is a package deal. If my daughter was a prostitute, I surely wouldn't burn her -- I would do my best to get her to repent and sin no more, and whether she did repent or not, know that God alone is fit to be her judge. But make no mistake -- because we would not have a prostitute burned to death does not mean that prostitution is acceptable. The truth that sin is sin remains. The trustworthy part? Trust in God to carry out His judgments.

The truth is that those who sin, like prostitutes, will be judged, and may burn, just not in the here and now. God will do both, not me, not thee. Those sinners we "burn" in the here and now would be those we must, in order to protect society. Stated another way, the truth in Leviticus is that sinners may burn if they do not repent, in which burning can be taken as a stand-in for the hell to which such unrepentant sinners will be consigned by God. Call it the unrepentant sinner's separation from God, which is another way of saying "hell."

Well, John Luke, that still doesn't explain away the literal burning called for in the here and now by Leviticus 21:9. My answer is that some portions of the Bible simply can not be taken literally out of context. The underlying truth remains, however. My explanation goes to the underlying truth that must be seen in the context of both God's mercy and God's judgment. At the time of the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai, the flame of the one true God had to be kept alive by what seem to us today to be extreme measures. But they were necessary in their time and place in order to preserve the knowledge of God's revelation.

Revelation continues throughout history, especially with the coming of our new High Priest, Christ Jesus (Hebrews 5:1-6). That is why we should not carry out the literal heinous penalties called for -- Jesus has taught us to love the sinner, and to know that He will carry out judgment in the end.

This is the greater truth.


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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.