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The Limitations of biblical statements to contemporary ethics and christian liberty


Basically, this problem has to do with the fact that the Bible simply does not discuss ethical problems faced by believers in the 20th century. What we mean more specifically is that solutions to many of the ethical issues in our day cannot be arrive at by simply quoting a verse or even exegeting the particular meaning of a text; they are simply beyond the immediate meaning of biblical texts. For example, the Bible knows nothing of genetic engineering per se, nor does one read anything specifically in the text of Scripture about nuclear arms, cloning, artificial insemination, or virtual reality.


What is the Christian to do or think under such circumstances? Two options exist: (1) Have no opinion on / commit no loyalty to any position on an ethical problem that is not explicitly discussed in Scripture (just leave it up to a relativistic type of Christian "liberty" a liberty not molded by God's law); or (2) Apply the sure to the unsure; that is, use the absolutes of the Bible to comment on the issues of today that lie beyond the scope of the original Scriptures (application of Scripture creates a position of liberty within parameters circumscribed by God's law).


What needs to be pointed out is that just because we live in the 20th century does not mean we can excuse ourselves from timeless truths like those mentioned at the beginning of our notes: we exist to glorify God and please him by our lives (cf. Isa. 43:7; Eccl. 12:13). The conscientious and thoughtful Christian will undoubtedly choose option # 2 above.


But therein lies the problem. By choosing to apply Scripture to ethical issues that aren't named in the Bible, we are forced to rely on APPLICATION of the Scripture text rather than EXEGESIS of the text. Indeed, we have no choice, for the alternative is option # 1 above, which is in reality a non-option. As we shall note, however, this does not nullify biblical authority when properly understood.


In other words, there will be a host of ethical issues where our positions are based not on what the eternal, inspired text said or meant when given by God (discovered by us through the labors of EXEGESIS), but rather by HOW WE THINK THE TEXT FITS OUR DAY AND AGE (arrived at by means of our own thought processes, opinions, and environment). The limitation of this approach should be obvious: one method is the product of an inspired, infallible source (clear statements of Scripture) ; the other derives from an uninspired, fallible source (our heads/minds).



Creating Categories of Authority Based on the Above Distinction:


The thinking Christian should naturally be concerned about how the above affects the subject of biblical authority. Can we say that, for instance, our position on abortion carries divine authority when abortion is NOT specifically named in the Bible? This conclusion is too simplistic.


A. Christians can be confident that their decisions on any issue (1) uphold the absolutism inherent in God's nature and (2) carries validity because of divine authority when:


1. There exists a Scripture text that specifically describes a behavior as contrary to the will of God

(example: "thou shalt not steal")


2. There exists a Scripture text that renders the defense of a behavior to be in direct violation of another specifically articulated truth of Scripture.


(example: involuntary active euthanasia ["mercy-killing"]; while not mentioned specifically in Scripture, the sanctity of all human life is plainly taught; Gen. 9:6 and other refs. in the Mosaic law - see discussion in notes).


* The point here is that you cannot take a "non-position" on an issue or say an ethically controversial issue lies beyond the scope of the Bible (or even that God doesn't care about whether we have a position or not) WHEN THAT DECISION PLACES YOU IN VIOLATION OF A SCRIPTURAL IDEA THAT IS SPECIFICALLY ADDRESSED. Doing so would be violating the law of non-contradiction.