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The Last Word

Bible publishers Thomas Nelson and Zondervan have become the target of a $70 million lawsuit. The plaintiff claims “that [the publishers’] version of the Bible that refers to homosexuality as a sin violates his constitutional rights and has caused him emotional distress.”

Full disclosure: I believe that the Bible is quite clear that the practice of sex with the same gender is not pleasing to God. Yet, I find it even more alarming that this lawsuit reveals a deeper problem concerning people’s perspectives of scripture—its authority, its nature, even how it should be translated.

We may disagree with the plaintiff about homosexuality. But sometimes I wonder whether we also have our own favorite attitude, perspective, or activity that we prefer scripture leave alone. Once, after I had preached, a person approached me and said something like, “The Bible should not say …” And then he proceeded to propose an alternative. I do not quite remember now what it is that he was objecting to, but what struck me was his presumption that he had the authority to determine what the Bible should or shouldn’t say.

I recognize that there are those who do not acknowledge the authority of the Christian Bible. And they have the freedom to take that position. But we must allow scripture to make its own claims for itself. “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3.16–17 NET). No one has the authority to tell God what the Bible should teach. It teaches what it teaches. You can either accept it or reject it. But you cannot change what it teaches to fit your preferences. This applies both to nonbelievers with their lifestyle choices, as well as to believers with their own treasured traditions and belief systems.

A fuller understanding of what the Bible teaches will be a continuing journey. We are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3.18). But the study of the Word must always be in its own terms. That is why there are principles to the proper interpretation of scripture. Applying these principles will help to ensure that we do not impose our own preferences on the Bible. For followers of Christ, everything we believe and all our life choices must be placed under the authority of the Lord and of his Word. The last word belongs to the Word.                                                                             —Keith Y. Jainga

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