By Norris Burkes Jan 28 2024
Recently, my wife, Becky, and I were driving to a familiar Southern California city when we got in a bit of a disagreement.
In the kindest way, she stated several times that I was driving in the wrong direction.
I, in a less-than-kind way, made a clear case for her wrongness.
Somewhere in the “discussion” I reinforced my rightness with a colorful word she’s not often heard me say.
I mean when you’re right about something, you’re right! Right?
I spoke with the certainty Christians often use when citing biblical passages for argument’s sake.
“The Bible is clear on THIS issue,” they say.
When I can get a word in edgewise with these folks, I’ll remind them that throughout history people evoking biblical clarity sometimes land on the wrong side of history.
Take slavery for instance.
Many have insisted that the Bible is astoundingly clear about slavery allowing for the enslavement of people. And I’m not talking about a few obscure proof texts.
On his blog, theologian and Mennonite pastor Michael Pahl demonstrates how easy it was for them to find Bible passages that directly endorse slavery. (Exodus 21:2-11; Leviticus 25:44-46). Slave ownership seems to carry God’s blessing in Genesis 12:16; 24:35; Isaiah 14:1-2.
Pahl suggests that the New Testament spoke with clarity in commanding slaves to obey their masters “in everything” (Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossian 3:22-4:1; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-10; 1 Peter 2:18-20).
Now some will attempt to discount biblical slavery as being more like indentured servitude. I don’t fuss with those distinctions because when it comes to taking one’s freedom, slavery is just that – slavery.
Gratefully, abolitionists won this argument by establishing a clear biblical heart against slavery.
Nowadays, when someone expresses all-fired certitude that the Bible is “clear” on their pet issue, I’ll attempt a bit more review with them.
For instance, for those who feel sure of God’s position on war and raise the Christian flag to the tune of “Onward Christian Soldiers,” I ask them to pause and consider the solid biblical arguments on pacifism.
When people voice biblical support for the subservient role of women, I ask that they not dismiss the deafening roar of women who find equality throughout the Bible.
How about the death penalty? While some see the Bible as supporting capital punishment, I remain in good company with the many denominations who scripturally oppose it.
And on the hottest of topics like abortion and sexual identity, I hear honest Christians cite compelling biblical arguments on both sides.
Don’t worry. I’m not trying to discredit the Bible. The Bible remains my clear inspiration for faith.
I’m only suggesting that we not use our own personal revelation as a way to clobber someone else. Put another way, biblical clarity needn’t be blinding.
I like the way Pahl concludes his blog on this topic.
“The next time we hear someone talk about the ‘clear teaching of Scripture’ … think about this: the Bible is at least as clear on slavery, yet thank God, we no longer believe that slavery is God’s will. We’ve read the Bible, and we’re following Jesus.”
By the way, regarding the directional clarity Becky and I wrestled with in the car, Becky chose to remain quiet for a few minutes.
She was clear on the teaching of James 1:19-20 Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
Finally, unlike the biblical pundits who took years to repent, it only took another moment for clarity to emerge for me.
“I’m so sorry, honey,” I said. “I’m so sorry. You are right. I’m just a dope.”
“That much is certainly clear,” she said.
This column found inspiration from https://michaelpahl.com and is excerpted from my sermon on Jan 7. 2024 at Community Church, NC. 300 Main St. Services at 10:30.
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