In the continuing debate over the Bible’s passages that deal with homosexuality, a recent blogger posted the following, speaking of about an article from a college professor named Lee Jefferson:
Jefferson shows his cards to the reader in the second paragraph when he directly discloses that he believes the Bible does not speak into the contemporary scene. This is his interpretational principle. Along with Jonathan Dudley, a graduate of Yale Divinity School and guest blogger at CNN’s Belief Blog, Jefferson locks the Bible (and subsequently its proclamations) into its original cultural context. By their belief, the Bible cannot speak into the contemporary situation. It is a historical document to be understood within its own context, and not interpreted for life today. The contemporary situation acts back and interprets the Bible on its own terms, not the other way around. Such a hermeneutic is ever more popular this day and age. As is well documented in texts like The History of Biblical Interpretation: A Reader and bemoaned by conservative Christian scholars, the modern Biblical hermeneutic is far more liberal than it was in the past.
So we are told here that the Bible cannot speak to any culture beyond that in which it was written, and that “the contemporary situation acts back and interprets the Bible on its own terms.” This raises a few questions.
First, how is it that the Bible must be understood within its own context, but that the modern context must “act back” and interpret the Bible in a modern context? Is this not a contradiction?
Second, this modern liberal point of view sounds all well and good, and sounds very good to the modern liberal ear. It sounds good, at least, until we start trying use it consistently in the scriptures. For if we take the passage in question, the verses in Romans 1 that condemn homosexuality, we must use the same principle on the rest of the Bible. When the same author in the same book speaks of Abraham in Romans 4, he quotes from Genesis 15 in making a point of how Abraham was justified before God, and claims Christians are justified in the same way. The context of Romans 4 is precisely that God’s way of justifying mankind is the same in Genesis 15 and in Romans 4, a time span of over a thousand years. So how is it that Romans 1 only applies in the first century AD but Romans 4 applies for all time?
For whether or not we agree with what is said in the Bible, we must at least agree that the point the author was making in Romans 4 is that that God’s way of salvation spans all time, a point that directly contradicts the point the blogger was making.
Third, we find that the author’s preexisting interpretational principle, that the modern perspective should be read back into the Bible, is just that: a preexisting principle, not one derived from the text of the Bible itself.
Fourth, that liberal divinity schools such as Yale produce liberal scholars is nothing new. Such has been the case for many decades.
Instead, a consistent Biblical interpretation shows that the while the Bible is indeed written in an original context, we find the points being made in that context to be that the spiritual principles are eternal, and apply today.