The Bible and Traditions: An Example
Doug Focht, Jr.
In our last two articles we compared the plain teachings of Scripture with the ever-changing and capricious traditions of men. In this article, we continue this theme using as an example the controversy regarding the ordination of homosexual priests that now rages within the congregations of the Episcopal church. This issue has generated much publicity locally, since this ordination occurred in the Newark, NJ diocese. In 1990, bishop Walter Righter ordained an openly gay man as a deacon. The man was later ordained as a priest by John S. Spong, the current bishop of the Newark diocese. Heresy charges were brought against bishop Righter (now retired), but last week those charges were dismissed, effectively deferring a final decision to a general churchwide convention next year.
Before we compare the teaching of this denomination with the teaching of Scripture, it must be noted that to one degree or another, what is happening among Episcopalians is happening among all fellowships who do not adhere strictly to Scripture for their beliefs. Consider:
The Episcopal court:
It does not appear to us that this part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church will find it at all easy to fully resolve and reconcile some of the questions involving right living for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in the years immediately ahead. (Quoted from the Bergen Record, May 16, 1996)
1 Cor 6:9-10
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (NKJ)
John S. Spong, bishop of Newark Diocese:
The Bible assumes that homosexuality is caused by a willful choice of a depraved person (Rom. 1:2627) I can make none of those assumptions. How can the Bible continue to be the word of God for me? (Would God rewrite the Bible? The Record, Feb. 5, 1989)
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (NKJ)
Our readers should be reminded that our purpose in these articles is two-fold: First, to show that it is the denial of the Bible's absolute authority and not its difficulty of interpretation that has resulted in the various divisions of churches.
Secondly, we wish to demonstrate that once an absolute standard has been abandoned, there is no logic for determining right from wrong other than human logic. It is our contention that whenever a church abandons the absolute standard of Scripture, the outcome of all religious and moral decisions is left in the hands of men. And whether these decisions are rendered by clergy, scholars, theologians, courts, synods, or membership votes, if the decisions do not come from Scripture, then they must come from people of society, and sooner or later those decisions will inevitably be influenced by society. Furthermore, it is not reasonable to maintain that God continues to speak through the church or through prophets or angels or in any way other than His holy Scriptures. Why not? Consider what the Bible itself says in this matter:
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (KJV)
Now if the apostles wrote down what they taught, and these writings were collected and preserved in what we now call the Bible, and then if someone else (even an angel!) adds something to what the apostles wrote, aren't they teaching something other than what the apostles taught? You see, anyone can claim to speak for God. Anyone can say that God speaks through the church, or through the priests or through a board of elders or a even through a preacher or individual members of a church. But in reality, one person's claims are as good as another's, and one church's opinions are as good as another's. If, however, the Bible is God's unerring word, then the one who teaches from it does not teach his opinions, but teaches the truth of God.
How does this apply to us individually? We have seen in this article as well as the last two articles that the practices of many churches plainly contradict what the Bible teaches. Episcopalians are now wrestling with difficult choices: Will those who disagree with the ordination of gays leave their church for other churches? Will they form splinter groups? Will they form a separate denomination? Will they become disgusted with the hypocrisy of religion and quit altogether? My question is: On what basis does one disagree in the first place? If we say that homosexuality is going too far, on what basis do we believe that? Tradition? Society? Think-so's? Isn't this the same basis upon which the court rendered their decision? Remember, the same Scripture that condemns homosexuality also condemns adultery, fornication, covetousness, going beyond what the apostles taught and many other sins. Do you feel as strongly about those sins as you do about this issue? If not, why not?
As you read the words in this article, you judge them by the opinions you now have in regard to the Bible itself. For those who believe the Bible to be less than sacred, when the leadership of their church teaches something they feel to be wrong, they may choose to realign their beliefs in accordance with the new doctrine, they may choose to remain and continue to believe what they believe, letting the others believe what they believe, or they may choose to leave. But for those who sincerely believe that the Bible is God's absolute divine standard, when truth is forsaken and can not be restored, the choice is clear and unequivocal:
2 Cor 6:14, 17
what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. (NIV)
Reprinted from Growing in Grace, Vol. 1 #3, May 19, 1996
Doug Focht, Jr.
To contact the author, please send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org