“When [LGBTQ-affirming Christians] tell me that I am wrong for saying that [homosexuality] is a sin, in the simplicity of my faith in the Holy Scriptures, I point him to this sacred record [the Bible], and tell him, in all candor, as my text does, that his teaching blasphemes the name of God and His doctrine.
“The tree of [affirming homosexuality and transgenderism] is evil and only evil…[it] is nourished by an utter rejection of the Scriptures.” – Rev. Henry Van Dyke
Many Christians today would agree wholeheartedly with Pastor Van Dyke’s statements here. But keep in mind that what he was actually defending here was slavery and his opponents were Abolitionists. Still, his position in favor of slave-holding was very strongly supported by the Holy Scriptures. One cannot deny that he was right about the fact that the Bible did not condemn slaveholding outright.
But we cannot miss the point that it is more than possible for someone to be Biblically-correct about something and still be very, very wrong at the same time.
The struggle for many of us is that we have been told for so long that we need to be “Biblically-minded” that we have forgotten that this same Bible teaches us to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd and affirms that we have the mind of Christ.
Furthermore, the same Bible also teaches us to love extravagantly – as Christ has loved us – which was unconditionally and before we did anything to change our minds about Him, or how we live.
Here are Van Dyke’s actual comments about Abolitionists made in 1860:
“The tree of Abolition is evil and only evil…[it] is nourished by an utter rejection of the Scriptures….When the Abolitionist tells me that slaveholding is sin, in the simplicity of my faith in the Holy Scriptures, I point him to this sacred record, and tell him, in all candor, as my text does, that his teaching blasphemes the name of God and His doctrine.”-– Rev. Henry Van Dyke (1860), “The Character and Influence of Abolitionism” (sermon), p.11.
Now, listen to what pro-slavery Christians said in the 1800’s about Abolitionists and substitute the topic of homosexuality and you’ll see that the arguments used today are exactly the same:
“[Opponents of slavery] decide a priori [in advance] what the Bible ought to speak, and then turn it over in order to see how they can make it speak what they wish…When Moses speaks the words of the God of the Hebrews, it is for us to listen, not to call into question.” – Bernard Whitman (1831), Two Letters to the Rev. Moses Stuart: On the Subject of Religious Liberty”, p. 30-42.
“If the present course of the abolitionists is right, then the course of Christ and the apostles were wrong.” – Charles Hodge (1860), “Bible Argument on Slavery” in E.N. Elliott’s “Cotton Is King”, p. 849.
“The tree of Abolition is evil and only evil…[it] is nourished by an utter rejection of the Scriptures.” – Rev. Henry Van Dyke (1860), “The Character and Influence of Abolitionism” (sermon), p.11.
“Those who oppose slavery are engaged in willful or conscious opposition to the truth…Who are we, that in our modern wisdom presume to set aside the Word of God, and…invent for ourselves a ‘higher law’ that those holy Scriptures which are given to us as ‘a light to our feet and a lamp to our paths’ must answer?”– Episcopal Bishop John Henry Hopkins (1864), “Scriptural, Ecclesiastical, and Historical View of Slavery.”, p.16
Those who opposed slavery [the Abolitionists] had very little scriptural support for their position, but they were on the side of Christ all the same.
Why is it so hard for us today to see that there are times when we need to listen to the mind of Christ and the voice of the Good Shepherd in order to fulfill the law of love?
As Henry Brinton said recently:
“An answer based only on Biblical quotations may put us on the side of Southern theologians who supported slavery and lost their way.” [Quoted from CNN, Oct. 15, 2014] [John Blake, “How the Bible Was Used To Justify Slavery, Abolitionism.”]
Sometimes, to obey Jesus we might have to admit that the Bible falls short. In those cases, we must cling tightly to the Good Shepherd and remember His command:
“Love one another as I have loved you.” – Jesus
Today, almost no Christian would argue in favor of slavery, in spite of the fact that it is quite “Biblical.”
So, the question of “authority” immediately comes to mind. Some argue for the inerrant and infallible authority of Scripture as the rule for a Christian’s life. But others, like me, suggest instead that our authority is Christ and that it is still the Holy Spirit who cries out to the Body of Christ today.
Sadly, many of us will not, or cannot, listen because we are convinced that our Bibles – and only our Bibles – have authority over us.
Are we willing to submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit? Are we courageous enough to allow Jesus to be our guide?
Keep in mind that the Bible never holds itself up as our final authority. Instead, the Bible points us to Jesus and reminds us that He is the Head of the Church.
In the words of our Abba Father who thundered from heaven, “This is my Son. Listen to Him!”
Keith Giles is the author of several books, including the forthcoming “Jesus Unbound: How the Bible Keeps Us From Hearing the Word of God”, available July 4th, 2018.
He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb”. He is the co-host of the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. He and his wife live in Orange, CA with their two sons.
Please, join me at one of these upcoming events:
*The Nonviolent Love of Christ: How Loving Our Enemies Saves The World, with Joshua Lawson and Keith Giles on Saturday, June 16 in Portsmouth Ohio. Register here>
*Crucifying Our Politics with Keith Giles on June 24 in Cleveland, OH. Register here>
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