An article titled “Be Careful Using The Bible” was published this week on the United Methodist news site. The article is troublesome as it shows a clear lack of exegetical and hermeneutical understanding that is so rampant in liberal circles. Moreover, it shows how an improper understanding of the Bible and improper Biblical interpretation can lead to justifying sinful actions.
The article was written by Rev. James R. McCormick who is a retired United Methodist pastor from Cumming, Georgia. His abuse of Scripture in the commentary is deplorable and this article is a response to the misuse and apparent misunderstanding of Scripture.
The premise of the article is this:
In studying the Bible, it is necessary to realize that often God is cited as supporting whatever values are normative at that time in history. Those are “timely” standards — standards valued for a time — but not necessarily “timeless” standards that are applicable for all time and all circumstances.
This, of course, is true for some things found in Scripture such as the civil laws given to Israel to govern Israel. That was for a specific time and specific people. However, this principle is not true for the moral standards that we find in Scripture. Moral standards are timeless.
We see the error of this thinking in the examples that are given. The first being Abraham and Hagar.
Remember that the Bible affirms Abraham having sexual relations with Hagar, Sarah’s maid, in order to produce his first son, Ishmael. Only later did Sarah produce Isaac, through whom Jews trace their ancestry.
I must ask Rev. McCormick, where in Scripture does it affirm Abraham having relations with Hagar? Where does it state that this is ok? It does not say anything of the sort. This was Sarah’s idea, not the Lord’s plan. In fact, we see in Scripture the opposite of affirmation for this act, we see the consequences of the sin as it tears the family apart and causes division. In no way was this a moral standard for that time to take multiple wives. In fact, this actually affirms the moral standard we see throughout Scripture that marriage is for one man and one woman.
Rev. McCormick tries the same tactic with the 1,000 wives of Solomon. Again I must ask, where is this affirmed in Scripture? Where is this sanctioned? It is not.
Rev. McCormick switches gears to try and place the same mold into today’s culture. He states the following:
Sadly, that practice has not changed. As a child, I was not allowed to have playing cards in our house. Dancing and even going to the movies were frowned upon, and drinking alcoholic beverages was not allowed. I was told that Jesus and his disciples drank only grape juice!
Today, all of those things are permissible even by religious people, showing that moral standards do evolve. I remember the insightful words of James Russell Lowell: “New occasions teach new duties; time makes ancient good uncouth. They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.”
The problem with these examples is that they are not dealt with in Scripture, except for the example of Jesus and grape juice vs. wine. He tries to equate these examples with his abuse of Scripture interpretation to make a political point. Yes, culture changes, there is no question about that. But in no way has he shown that the moral standards of the Bible evolved and are not applicable today.
Now Rev. McCormick gets to his real point:
We know that the majority of Americans do not oppose homosexual relations, yet others believe that while every person is a child of God, homosexual behavior is a choice and is sinful, and marriage is only to be affirmed when between a man and a woman. A key question for me is: Is that position simply an expression of ancient and current cultural norms, or is that the timeless moral position, sanctioned by God?
If you use proper interpretation methods of the Bible you know what it says about homosexual behavior and marriage. In this statement, McCormick even shows an understanding of what the Bible teaches. But he tries to throw a smokescreen by saying this is not a timeless position. However, there is no indication that this moral standard, or any moral standard in Scripture, should be ignored as no longer applicable today.
McCormick continues with his deception:
Why oppose slavery and segregation? Because they are hurtful. Why do the Ten Commandments forbid murder, stealing, lying, adultery and coveting? Because they are hurtful. On the other hand, what is hurtful about playing cards, dancing or having a glass of wine with a meal?
This is true, but deceptive. Why oppose slavery and segregation? Because Scripture shows that these things are not good. Why do the Ten Commandments forbid these things? Because they go against God’s holiness. But he is correct, what is hurtful about the other things? And this question is the great smokescreen for he says next:
If a person is born with a same-gender orientation, why must they be prohibited from having an intimate relationship with another person, forced into isolation and loneliness, just because many people unfairly oppose that? The fact that some Christians do not approve does not make such a relationship hurtful.
I ask Rev. McCormick this, if a person is born with an inclination to lie must they be prohibited from doing so? If a person is born with an inclination for violence should we stop that? The answer is YES!
We are all born with sin nature. And it doesn’t matter if the world sees something as hurtful or not if it goes against God’s standards it is wrong, period, end of story. We don’t get to decide what is right or wrong, God does.
McCormick then steps out of the smokescreen stage and into the absurd:
Almost everyone affirms close, caring relationships between men and between women. We become concerned only when the sexual component is added. Why? All close relationships are much more than sexual. Even heterosexual marriage is about friendship, mutuality and caring. We should wrestle with the reality that close, same-sex friendships are applauded; it is only when the sexual component is added that we become concerned. Again, why? Why not have the same moral standards for same-gender relationships as for heterosexual relationships: no promiscuity, no coercion, no insensitivity. Instead, seek commitment, faithfulness, mutual sensitivity, caring and support. Who does that hurt? Instead, it treats all people as persons of equal worth, as children of God, and encouraged to enjoy mutually affirming, intimate, helpful relationships with others.
He actually equates same-sex friendships with same-sex romantic relationships and same-sex-“marriage”. But these are not equivalent by any stretch of the imagination. Rev. McCormick, the problem is that the Bible says homosexuality is against God’s design. That’s what is wrong with it. It is sin.
To “love your neighbor” is to do the helpful thing and to avoid doing the hurtful thing, even when cultural conditioning makes that uncomfortable. Helping, not hurting, looks and sounds like Jesus to me.
Allowing sin to go and be accepted is not showing love to your neighbor. It is sealing their doom. That is not what Jesus did.
In conclusion, Rev. McCormick is dead wrong on this issue. The Bible is the standard for today, yesterday, and tomorrow. It is timeless. It is God’s law. It scares me that a man who was ordained would actually question that and condone sin as he succumbs to the culture of sin.