Revising biblical authority

tim-kellerOne of the most tired tropes offered in defense of changing views on homosexual practice is that
offered by Matthew Vines, et al, namely that since Christians eat shellfish we should also endorse homosexual practice because the Levitical law has been abolished. Tim Keller responds to this tactic adeptly in his review of Vines’ book.

A significant portion of the article is included here:

Revising biblical authority. 

Vines and Wilson claim that they continue to hold to a high view of biblical authority, and that they believe the Bible is completely true, but that they don’t think it teaches all same-sex relations are wrong. Vines argues that while the Levitical code forbids homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22) it also forbids eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:9-12). Yet, he says, Christians no longer regard eating shellfish as wrong — so why can’t we change our minds on homosexuality? Here Vines is rejecting the New Testament understanding that the ceremonial laws of Moses around the sacrificial system and ritual purity were fulfilled in Christ and no longer binding, but that the moral law of the Old Testament is still in force. Hebrews 10:16, for example, tells us that the Holy Spirit writes “God’s laws” on Christians’ hearts (so they are obviously still in force), even though that same book of the Bible tells us that some of those Mosaic laws — the ceremonial — are no longer in binding on us. This view has been accepted by all branches of the church since New Testament times. 

When Vines refuses to accept this ancient distinction between the ceremonial and moral law, he is doing much more than simply giving us an alternative interpretation of the Old Testament — he is radically revising what biblical authority means. When he says “Christians no longer regard eating shellfish as wrong,” and then applies this to homosexuality (though assuming that Leviticus 19:18 — the Golden Rule — is still in force), he is assuming that it is Christians themselves, not the Bible, who have the right to decide which parts of the Bible are essentially now out of date.

The traditional view is this: Yes, there are things in the Bible that Christians no longer have to follow but, if the Scripture is our final authority, it is only the Bible itself that can tell us what those things are. The prohibitions against homosexuality are re-stated in the New Testament (Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Timothy 1) but Jesus himself (Mark 7), as well as the rest of the New Testament, tells us that the clean laws and ceremonial code is no longer in force.

Vines asserts that he maintains a belief in biblical authority, but with arguments like this one he is actually undermining it. This represents a massive shift in historic Christian theology and life.

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