Here’s a quick bible quiz. Tell me where it asks someone to become a Christian. How about this one – where does Jesus say that I should accept Him into my life/heart? Find for me the “sinner’s prayer.” Where does it say to go to church? When did Peter become a Christian?
Should I go on? You get the point.
As protestants we love to say that the Bible is ultimate authority. Whether protestant or not, we all agree that it is authoritative. The problem is that it is not authoritative in the way that we often want it to be to make our point.
What we want are simple clear rules, answers and one liners. No where is this more clear than in the realm of singleness, dating, and marriage.
I remember when I was in my twenties the big push in much of evangelical dating (just typing that phrase is sort of disturbing) was the idea of courting. Now I don’t really have a problem with courting per se. But what these folks tried to do is to say that their version of courting was the biblical way to find a spouse. What I failed to realize at the time is that they had absolutely no biblical backing for this. As I’ve written before there is not a biblical dating model.
But we want so bad for it to be simple. We want a tweet sized answer to sexual ethics. #whatcanIgetawaywith #justifymyactions
What’s funny about this is that many on the evangelical right keep arguing bible verses that aren’t clear and others that don’t even exist while many of our more liberal churches are arguing contextual loopholes against those very same “verses”.
For example, one night I was having dinner with some friends and the topic of homosexuality came up. One gentlemen said, “Jesus said that it was an abomination.” Uh which verse was that again? In a different conversation a friend said, “Jesus never addresses homosexual marriage.” Sort of, except that He does address marriage.
The problem is that when we try to make verses mean something they don’t or insert our Christianese into the bible we set ourselves up to be discredited or worse set someone else up to fall when they later realize it.
But the problem with the other way of looking at the bible – using the context of a particular verse that we don’t like to say it doesn’t mean that or “the bible doesn’t really say. . . ” – is that we end up all over the map
Here’s what I mean. Sticking with the “hot” homosexual issue, I’ve heard some pastors and leaders say that the bible really doesn’t say explicitly (as in an exact sentence) that a monogamous homosexual relationship is wrong. They say that whole point is the one on one relationship for a lifetime. They point to the couple of verses that deal with the homosexual act and say that it wasn’t talking about one of these types of relationships.
The problem with that – and it’s a big one – is that the same could be said of a lot of other things. So I ask the people who believe this are you then ok with:
- The bible doesn’t say explicitly say that two unmarried people can’t have sex
- It doesn’t say that two unmarried people can’t live together, have sex together or even have children together – so why even worry about marriage
- The bible says nothing about viewing pornography, masturbation or reading shady literature.
- It says nothing about oral sex.
- It doesn’t say anything about appropriate dating behavior.
So basically by this argument, until I’m married, short of sex with an animal, I’m good to go. You can say that’s a slippery slope argument, except for the fact that we are already there in our culture.
(Whats ironic of course is that neither side seems to follow the very explicit instructions on divorce and remarriage. Did anyone picket state capitols as almost every state instituted no fault divorce? Do they stand outside divorce courts? Do they avoid making wedding cakes for two divorced people getting remarried?)
The key to all of this is obvious of course. No straight reading of the bible by anyone without an agenda could lead you to believe any of the above was acceptable. And there in lies the key – the bible as a whole is authoritative and it shows us what is right and wrong. It’s not rocket science most of the time.
The bible does indeed speak to sex and marriage. From front to back actually. It always speaks of them together as a good thing or apart as a bad thing. There is zero exception to this. Sex has a purpose higher than orgasm. It’s apparent that it is from God for marriage and all other uses are out of bounds.
What does this have to do with singleness and the church? Everything.
We are confronted with a culture that has been and is still in a sexual revolution. Our answer to that can not be picking one liners from scripture and trying to make them say things they don’t. When we do that, we end up arguing over stuff that we don’t have to. It also can’t be ignoring the whole of scripture so that we can do what we want. When we do that we take away any authority whatsoever.
The bible does lay out the answers – it’s just not tweet-able.