In considering the clarity of Scripture, another pitfall is the teaching that there are such incredible degrees of complexity — with even the most straightforward biblical teachings — that they hopelessly obscure what the Bible makes simple. One example, of many possible, would be the vacillation with regard to homosexuality. Though the issue is clear cut in Scripture (Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; cf. Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3-5; 1 Timothy 1:9, 10; Jude 7), many remain unsure.
Although the Bible is clear on the subject, many don’t know what they should think about homosexuality. The world has heard all sides but no position has yet won the confidence of so many. Liberals and conservatives seem to know exactly what we should think. Even if some are convinced that all homosexual behavior is always sinful, they are encouraged to treat gay and lesbian people with respect, dignity, and gentleness. The argument is that if we think that there may actually be a legitimate context for some homosexual relationships, the biblical arguments are multilayered and nuanced, and the pastoral ramifications are extremely complex. The argument continues that we can’t be sure if or where lines are to be drawn, nor can we know how to enforce with fairness whatever lines are drawn.
This kind of thinking and teaching is dangerous
This faulty thinking brings so much complexity — in both the biblical prohibition and the contemporary practice regarding homosexual behavior — and the claim is that there is no way to respond definitively to the question of homosexuality. While such a blatant disregard for the straightforward teaching of Scripture hardly needs a response, Doug Wilson’s rebuttal seems particularly apropos.
If someone were to ask me whether the Bible teaches that Jesus went to Capernaum, I would say yes, it does. I would not be in agony over the question. It is not the most important question, but it is clear. If someone were to ask if the apostle Paul taught that homosexual behavior (both male and female forms) is the dead-end result of idolatry, I would say yes again. No agony in the exegesis whatever. There is only agony if you are lusting after respect from the world, which they will not give to you unless you are busy making plenty of room for their lusts. And that is what the emergent movement is doing — this is really all about sex. And, conveniently enough, this has the added benefit of making room for evangelical lusts. Son of a gun. All that agony paid off. (Online source)
Other areas of ambiguity (or even outright disregard for the straightforward reading of Scripture) include doctrines like eternal punishment, eternal life, biblical inerrancy, divine sovereignty, divine masculinity, any doctrinal “distinctive,” and any teaching that would exclude other denominations or even other religions from being enthusiastically embraced (cf. A Generous Orthodoxy, 19, 74, 81, 100, 113-14, 159-60).
Even truth itself is presented as a concept too complicated for most people to understand. Some argue that the levels of complexity are so deep we can’t know anything for certain. They argue that although we can know truth, we are never in a position where we shouldn’t stand open to the possibility of correction, and the outcome is when people use the word truth, they can mean a lot of different things.
The Bible, however, is clear and God’s word is truth. (John 17:17)
Today, Jesus’ Kingdom message is often presented in a way that most closely aligns with the non-eschatological, social activism of twentieth century liberalism. But such an understanding hardly accounts for many of the clear New Testament statements as to the true essence of the gospel message (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, for instance).
This article is adapted from a John MacArthur article from The Master’s Seminary Journal.
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