We live in a time of great moral confusion. The lines between right and wrong have been blurred. As a culture, we are in desperate need of guidance.
But what should we use for our compass? Is there a fixed standard that we can look to for clarity on difficult issues? If your answer is the Bible, there’s a minister with a word of warning for you.
The Reverend James R. McCormick is a retired United Methodist pastor. Writing for UM News, McCormick warned us to, “be careful in using the Bible as a source of moral standards.” He continues, “Throughout history, the Bible has too often been used to justify one’s own moral preferences rather than to seek God’s will about human behavior.” McCormick then gives examples of how the Bible has been used to support slavery and the oppression of women.
If you’ve been paying attention to the sexual revolution, you know where this is going. McCormick is making the argument that what the Bible says about homosexuality is outdated because, well, that same Bible was used to support slavery. He has essentially thrown the baby out with the bathwater. McCormick should have used his words to denounce the improper handling of Scripture to support godless agendas. But that wouldn’t fit with the LGBTQ agenda that the retired minister supports. So instead, he just denounces the entire Bible and 2,000 years of teaching along with it.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he was tempted by Satan. Satan proved to be every bit as deceptive as we would believe. Jesus had just finished a forty day fast and, as you might expect, was hungry. Satan’s first temptation involved food. Jesus resisted, quoting Scripture to refute the devil. But then things get even more intense.
For the second temptation, Satan uses Scripture to tempt Jesus. Of course, Jesus resisted the temptation, eventually casting Satan away and remaining sinless. But the second temptation is interesting because of how Jesus responded. He didn’t say, “Well, Satan just quoted Scripture for the purposes of evil so I guess I can’t use the Bible anymore.” Rather, he countered Satan’s attack with more Scripture.
The best response to misuse is proper use, not no use.
In removing the Bible as a moral compass, McCormick essentially makes the culture his guiding light.
Second only to God, humans are the most important entities in existence. Therefore, what is moral in a timeless sense is whatever is helpful to human beings, and what is immoral is whatever is hurtful to human beings. That is a timeless value. It cuts across all times and circumstances. It helps us separate temporary customs from values that are lasting.
So, as McCormick sees it, morality is based on human flourishing and whatever is immoral is that which is hurtful to mankind. Throughout history, there were countless totalitarian regimes that would have no problem with McCormick’s analysis. Entire classes and races of people have been declared hurtful by evil men with great power. Exterminating those hurtful groups was seen as helpful to everyone else. McCormick might argue that such action would not demonstrate the love of neighbor that Jesus commanded. But remember, Jesus was quoting Scripture when he gave that command and McCormick has already told us that we need to, “be careful in using the Bible as a source of moral standards.” If we need to “be careful” with what the Bible says about homosexuality don’t we also need to “be careful” with what it says about love?
When the Bible is removed in these regards, the void is always filled with tyrants, heretics, madmen, and mob rule.
Furthermore, there is plenty of evidence that homosexuality is in fact hurtful. According to the Mayo Clinic, gay men have an increased risk of contracting HIV, battling depression and anxiety, experiencing body image problems and eating disorders, and abusing drugs. And somehow it’s helpful to not mention this. Somehow it is hurtful here to lovingly refer to God’s original design of sex and marriage being between a man and a woman.
To prove his point that the Bible is outdated on matters relating to human sexuality, McCormick cites Solomon’s many wives and Abraham’s affair with Hagar. He goes so far as to say that, “the Bible affirms Abraham having sexual relations with Hagar, Sarah’s maid, in order to produce his first son, Ishmael.”
This simply is not true. Careful readers of the Bible know that there is a difference between those passages of Scripture that are commands and those that are descriptions. Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan is a good example of a command because the account ends with Jesus saying, “You go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). Abraham’s affair and Solomon’s adultery are descriptions. There is no, “You go, and do likewise” tagging along at the end of those accounts.
But what about the ban on eating shellfish that religious proponents of the LGBTQ lifestyle love to bring up? That command actually was for a specific people in a specific time and place. But by the time we get to the New Testament and God’s command for Peter to, “kill and eat” animals that were previously considered unclean, we see that we are no longer living under those food restrictions (Acts 10:9-15). But does this mean that the Old Testament’s classification of homosexuality as a sin in no longer binding for us today as well? Simply put, it does not, primarily because we see the classification carried through to the New Testament where homosexuality is still referred to as sin (Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
Reverend McCormick is not really being carful in using the Bible as a source for moral standards. He’s being complicit in promoting sin. In his view, genetics, not the blood of Christ, removes sin.
The writers of the Bible also did not know about genetics, but we do. We understand that we do not choose the color of our eyes, the texture of our hair or the pigment of our skin. Likewise, most scientists and psychologists of today believe that same-gender orientation is not a matter of choice.
The color of our eyes, the texture of our hair, and the pigment of our skin are not sins. But let’s give McCormick the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps people really are, as theologian Lady Gaga sang, “Born this Way.” Does that then remove human responsibility for sin? Of course not! Whether gay or straight, all human beings were born this way in the sense that they were sinners in desperate need of a Savior (Ephesians 2:1-3). If simply being born a certain way removed any responsibility a person had for his own sin, Jesus wouldn’t have had to come and die. Aside from that, think of all the sinful urges that you were born with. You know, the ones that you didn’t go out looking for. What kind of a jail or grave would you be in now if you acted on all of those?
We were born this way because of Adam. Rebirth comes only through faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:22). We will never escape the curse of Adam through genetic arguments. It’s only by the grace of God that we find freedom. The best the genetic argument can do for us is to help us build our identity on the sinking sand of our own sin.
We should all be careful when we use the Bible as a source of moral standards. It has been misused in the past to promote sin and, as Reverend McCormick has shown us, it is still being misused to promote sin. Not everyone who quotes Scripture is speaking the truth. But, as Jesus showed us during his wilderness temptation, that doesn’t mean that we should disregard Scripture altogether.
We just need to be careful.
Because the devil is in the details.