Scripture Isn’t Clear
By Mark VanDyke
In a video produced for All One Body titled “Using the Bible to Oppress LGBTQ+” Jessica Jelsema states, “While we may wish for a lucid text, that’s not what God gave us. Instead, God gave us a cacophony of voices and perspectives all in conversation with one another representing the breadth and depth of the human experience in all its complexities and contradictions.” Other videos in this series rely on the same foundational premise: the Bible does not give us clear teaching about homosexuality.
If we grant that God’s Word does not provide clear teaching about homosexuality (which I’m not willing to concede, but let’s go along with the premise for the sake of the argument), we should most certainly not depart from the established teaching of the catholic Church and the traditional interpretation of the text.
The burden of proof is on those who desire to change what has been understood and accepted by the Church. That burden must be sustained with Scripture. However, All One Body and those in the CRCNA pushing for the adoption of a new sexual ethic have taken a different approach, one that actively seeks to erode confidence in the clarity of God’s Word.
Lest the advocates of the traditional interpretation be accused of fearing change, we can observe and celebrate many times in Church history where positive change was accomplished. The Lord has done this among his people through the confident proclamation of God’s Word as opposed to the stirring of doubt in the reliability or clarity of the Bible. Two examples of such change include the Reformation and the Abolitionist Movement, where the burden of proof was sustained with Scripture to overcome the errors of the status quo.
Consider how Reformation began. Martin Luther immersed himself in Paul’s letters to the Romans and Galatians and realized that the teaching of Scripture was so clear on salvation by grace through faith that the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church must be challenged. Luther’s Reformational ideals were convincing among believers because he grounded his arguments in Scripture. He called people to put their faith in living and written Word of God.
‘the burden of proof was sustained with Scripture to overcome the errors of the status quo.’
Centuries later Abolitionists made a compelling case against slavery from God’s Word. Historian Dr. John Coffey writes of the abolitionist movement, “In publication after publication, critics of the slave trade quoted Scripture and rooted their campaign in Christian values and ideals.”1 Although the topic was hotly debated among Christians at the time, the abolitionists were victorious because their argument was in line with God’s Word and will.
This is the way to convince people in the Church of the need and direction of reformation. Given that this is not possible because there is no positive portrayal of homosexual love in the Bible, those who desire change can only appeal to Scripture’s lack of clarity. The refrain of “the Bible isn’t clear” from All One Body rejects our Reformed principle of sola scriptura and will have far- reaching effects if Christian Reformed Church members allow this argument to carry the day.
Let’s take the argument from another angle. An area of agreement among every person who engages this conversation is that sexuality is a matter of great importance. The heralds who claim “the Bible isn’t clear about this” are essentially accusing God of being silent or unclear about a matter of great significance. As a proponent of the HSR and the traditional position on human sexuality, I believe that this important issue is covered in God’s Word. It is good news that God isn’t silent or even unclear about a matter of such great importance! He gives us direction in his Word, and even though righteousness requires daily reliance on Christ and self-denial from all Christians we can say that we trust that the Bible is not “a cacophony of voices” but rather it is “perfect and complete in all respects.” (The Belgic Confession, Article 7)
Written by Mark VanDyke
Rev. Mark VanDyke studied for his mDiv at Calvin Seminary and has been Lead Pastor at Almond Valley CRC in Ripon CA since 2015