Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Only Real Certainty Is That There Can Be No Certainty

In the contemporary stampede of religious types in America to put as much distance between themselves and anything that might impact book sales or page views or twitter followers, the focus is so often and so inexplicably on homosexual behavior. It will be very difficult to explain to young people in just a few short years that it was once recognized by Christians and unbelievers alike that homosexual behavior was unnatural and inherently disordered, an aberrant and perverse behavior that while not something to be criminalized was certainly nothing to embrace or be proud of.

Homosexuality may be the cause of the day but you can also be sure that this downward slide of constantly redefining deviancy will not end there because normalization of homosexual behavior is not the ultimate goal, not even close to it. The real issue that is the driver of this collapsing public morality and the accompanying embrace of perversion by people who erroneously are considered to speak for the church is not homosexuality at all but rather the abandonment of the recognition of Biblical authority and the revulsion so many feel at the very idea of certainty. The latter is somewhat ironic because the people who break out in a sweat over anyone being certain about anything are super certain that there is no such thing as certainty or perhaps more accurately that there are only certain topics you can be certain about. You can be certain that two men who prefer sodomizing one another are in love and love knows no boundaries. After all, didn't Jesus talk a lot about love? On the other hand, you can absolutely never be certain that the Scriptures condemn any sort of sexual behavior and the only proper way to deal with what Scripture has to say about human sexuality is to hide behind "nuance" and "creating space for understanding".

James White had this to say in a recent post, The Hill to Die On, For There are No Other Hills (emphasis mine):

If, as the argument asserts, there is no certain Scriptural knowledge as to God’s intentions and purposes in human sexuality and marriage, then we are all wasting our time. This is why believers are in the minority even amongst “religious” people today: so few truly believe that God has spoken with clarity on anything, let alone this subject. Once a person believes that it is just a matter of opinion, or, as expressed above, “interpretation, bias, and theological leanings,” then it is nothing but a vain argument without relevance, and we might as well forget about it, allow anyone to do anything (and I do mean anything), and fall into the abyss of moral relativism that is the necessary corollary of a world without a Creator who speaks.

The issue is not homosexuality, the issue is rejecting that God has been clear and unambiguous about anything. Hell, sin, holiness, justification, human sexuality, loving our enemies, creation. On these and so many other topics the world tells believers that in order to be loving and not be knuckle-dragging fundamentalists you must reject any sort of authoritative, transcendent teaching. Only what you feel, or more to the point what important cultural elites feel, at any given moment matters. How many people have decided to embrace homosexual normalization because they know some homosexuals and they seem like nice people so therefore I feel that God can't possibly disapprove of their behavior? Somehow the idea that homosexuals are just regular people like you and I means that homosexual behavior is OK when the truth is that primarily because they are people like you and I, it means that they need the life changing Gospel that saves from sin and frees from sin. I am not a Christian because I have a wife and we have been married for almost 25 years. I am a Christian because around 15 years ago I became aware of my own sin and was convicted of my need for a Savior. A major part of that realization came as a result of my recognition that God spoke, clearly and authoritatively, and in that revelation my own guilty standing before a just and holy God is exposed.

A lot of us get caught up on the issue of homosexual normalization and that is understandable. It is a perversion of the Biblical mandate regarding human sexuality, a behavior that shames and degrades those who engage in it and those who approve of it. It is not, however, the core issue but rather a particularly obvious symptom. The real disease in the church is the rejection of certainty and rejecting the very idea that God spoke with clarity on any issue. I see so many people who wear doubt like a badge of honor, who claim that no one can really know what God intended on any given question which relegates the Bible to a quaint historical relic but little else. People seem to be terrified of being pinned down, of being forced to take a stand. As long as I am ambivalent and uncertain I can always retreat when a position becomes embarrassing.

You can be certain in an arrogant fashion but it does not follow that it is always arrogant to be certain. In truth I see a lot more arrogance and condescension from those who think doubt and uncertainty are fruits of the Spirit than I do from humble believers who truly believe that God spoke and intended for us to understand and trust what He said.

When I survey the places where the visible expression of "the church" has gone astray, it is almost always due to a lack of faith in what the Bible teaches. Overwhelming partisan political activism? Christians not believing Romans 13. Women who claim to be pastors? Christians not believing Paul's teaching on gender roles and functions. Belief that humans are a cosmic accident and descended from apes? Christians not believing Genesis. On and on.

If there is a God who is active in the lives of His Creation and cares for His creatures, doesn't it make sense that He would make known His will to those He purposefully created? If an omnipotent God made know His will, doesn't it follow that He could do so in a way that was understandable to His people and that they could trust? The idea that God would create people and give them as their primary means of knowing Him a book that they couldn't understand and couldn't trust is to suggest God is a cruel trickster or just incompetent. At one year and one day away from the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation it is worth remembering the sort of cruelty and ignorance that was the result of a religious organization that claimed "regular" people couldn't understand the Bible and shouldn't be allowed to read it for themselves.

As I have said before, you don't have to be a Christian or even pretend to be for cultural acceptability these days. But if you claim you are then that brings with it an obligation and even more so a delight to recognize that God has spoken, for you and to you, via the Bible. Having confidence that you can be certain is not arrogant nor is it a burden but it is instead liberating. There is no need to guess what God thinks for He has already told us. It is absolutely the case that gleaning what God intends is a life-long work but it is a joyful labor. But something simply requiring effort should not dissuade us. I have lots of patience for those who are earnestly seeking God's mind and will through the Word even when they have a long way to go. The Lord knows I certainly do as well! What I have little sympathy or patience for are those who can't be bothered to turn to the Bible or who are too ashamed of being associated with something so pedestrian, so primitive as a book written before the advent of the internet.

We shouldn't flee from certainty nor should we shrink away from legitimate claims of authority. Apart from the saving sacrifice of His Son on the cross, the preservation of God's self-revelation for generations is one of His greatest gifts to His people. They can only be described as fools, those who spurn the immortal God and His eternal Word for the fickle and false opinions of man. I will take a humbly certain, "uneducated" man over a learned, pompous fool who asserts that God has not spoken any day of the week.

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