Not All, Just Some of the Bible

So 8 out of 10 Americans believe that “following the Bible’s teachings would be good for American society.”

And Daniel Darling and Andrew Walker argue that Americans should follow the same divine law that Christians do:

Imagine we took the same approach with a different issue—say, crime—that some do with marriage and family policy. What if our approach toward murder or theft was as laissez-faire? Why should we expect our neighbors not to murder? Why should we think non-Christians will act like believers and obey the sixth commandment? But if the home of one of these advocates were broken into by an unbelieving neighbor, they would call upon the local, God-ordained authorities, and accusing the thief of violating a fundamental principle of justice that all of our consciences know to be true: It is unjust to steal. Stealing is a violation not only of God’s revealed law, but also of the basic concept of justice that is written on the heart of every person. If our unbelieving neighbor steals from us, we don’t excuse their behavior because they don’t follow a Christian code of ethics. We simply expect them not to steal.

All Christians, if they are honest, hope non-Christians think and act like Christians—whether in maintaining a just and well-ordered society or when approaching issues like human trafficking, abortion, racial justice, child poverty, and other pressing issues. We fight for laws that reflect what we believe to be true about human dignity and human flourishing. Why? Because principles of morality are not limited to or binding on only Christians.

Of course, the authors skirt the first table of the Decalogue and what those commandments might mean for Muslims, Roman Catholics, and Jews, not to mention agnostics and atheists.

My complaint is that the advocates of the-Bible-is-good-for-what-ails-the-United-States is that they are overwhelmingly selective. What if all Americans followed Peter’s teaching at the end of his second encyclical epistle:

8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

On the one hand, that solves the problem of Christian busy bodies and transformationalists. Chill.

On the other hand, Peter seems to have a remedy for climate change. Burn, baby, burn.

Or maybe we just let the Bible do what it was supposed to do.


8 thoughts on “Not All, Just Some of the Bible

  1. Didn’t David Gordon already do this one?

    Do we address the gospel mainly to those already in the new covenant or should we address the gospel mainly to those now outside the church? And is there a different gospel for those outside the churches than the gospel for those in church?

    Do we address the law mainly to those already in the new covenant or should we address the law mainly to those now outside the church? And is there a different “common natural law” for those outside the churches than the law for those in church?

    That may sound like nothing but a rhetorical question (we all know that there is only one gospel), but for me it’s a very practical problem which I have not entirely resolved in my own mind. Are the imperatives different for folks with different indicatives? Surely, we don’t command non-Christians to financially support churches, in the way we do admonish Christians to do so. (Luther and Calvin and the original Westminster Confession did that, but we don’t.)

    Jesus only went to Israel. (even though his own mostly did not receive him) . For the sake of the world, should we focus on the church? Since the world in this present evil age is to be left tares with the wheat, should we think of discipline as one of the marks of a true church?i

    Jesus taught both law and gospel. Should we teach as much law as Jesus did? Jesus taught the law of Moses. Should we be teaching the law of Moses?

    Not everything in the Bible should get equal attention, because not all of the Bible is gospel. We need to give attention to both law and gospel, but we don’t need a balance of the two. We don’t need equal time for both. We need to give attention to both the new birth and to justification. But t justification of the ungodly has priority.Some of the Bible has priority, and without justification, none of the rest of the Bible ultimately matters.

    Way too may preachers today are spending more time lamenting the loss of Christendom than they are talking about God’s grace for immoral sinners. Jeremiah himself never sounded like they do! “The secularists are taking over—by the second half of the twentieth century, the Bible had been sufficiently disarmed to permit rebellion against Christian morality. Previous social bans against adultery, cohabitation, divorce, abortion, and even regarding parental authority over children were swept away…and etc

    Instead of talking about justification (which they don’t deny) , these preachers want to talk about being united to the Christ who will enable us to keep our family and culture from being de-stabalized by Muslims and other anti-nomians.

    Jonathan Malesic’s Secret Faith in the Public Square (Brazos Press, 2009)—“Can Christians be witnesses to the truths of the gospel in a land where being Christian is a form of political or social capital? What about when Christian identity has become a brand? How can Christian identity be saved from American public life, which so easily converts it into something which benefits or saves culture?. The answer begins with secrecy about the most distinctive aspects of Christian identity—including prayer and explicitly Christian justifications for public actions…. When Christian identity is thought to be useful…, then the true purpose of being a member of the public known as the church has been lost..”


  2. There are some who want to preach only some of the Bible, and that’s the part from Jesus in the red letters. And these people usually focus on the commands not the parts about destruction or election.

    But on the other hand, there are those who want to “flatten the Bible”, so that all covenants are the same covenant. If they can’t can equate the Mosaic covenant and the new covenant, they will do their best to equate the Abrahamic covenant with the new covenant.

    Yes, we will talk about election (with some slippery language, without antithesis) when it comes up in the text, but there’s much in the Bible, and if we are going to cover EVERYTHING, we can’t talk about the gospel all the time. Don’t you know that the “whole counsel of God” needs to come with ten minutes of scolding application of imperatives in the end? That’s the way Paul did it….

    Douglas Bond Grace Works P and R, 2014 p 92—“There are men today who encourage their congregations to tear out the page between the Old and New Testaments in their Bibles. These men make the continuity of the covenants the foundation of their preaching. But I wonder if it is a foundation that is able to support the scandal of grace. If we care about the distinction between law and gospel…then we will train our ears for those who don’t seem to want to keep the distinction between the old and new covenants.Their insistence on “the continuity of the covenants” may prove to be a code phrase for confusing law and gospel. Where there is a merging of the old and new covenants, it will never be the law diminished by gospel. It will always be the gospel fatally diminished by the law.

    Mark 4: 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that
    “in order that they see but not perceive,
    and indeed hear but not understand,
    lest they should turn and be forgiven.” Isaiah 6:9


  3. The Darling-Walker piece is one of the most stupid things I’ve ever read. They tip their hat to natural reasoning, then proceed to present a thoroughly Kantian approach to ethics that lacks even a basic understanding of how people can reason from the natural world. I prefer Calvin’s concept of general revelation, as opposed to evangelical Calvinists’ notion of “common grace.”

    Further, how can these guys think that there is no economic argument against theft or murder? I cannot even think of an economic argument that could demonstrate that theft or murder result in a utility-maximizing scenario. Both generally lead to disutility, high transaction costs, and transactional inefficiency. Did these guys flunk economics in college?


  4. Bobby
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 9:21 pm | Permalink
    The Darling-Walker piece is one of the most stupid things I’ve ever read. They tip their hat to natural reasoning, then proceed to present a thoroughly Kantian approach to ethics that lacks even a basic understanding of how people can reason from the natural world. I prefer Calvin’s concept of general revelation

    Thomas Aquinas, more like. Not all Protestants are stupid, see below. It was supposed to be a “reformation” of the Christian religion, not a total re-invention.

    Aquinas’ peers called him a “dumb ox” because of his physical appearance and soft-spoken ways. Over time, however, they began to recognize his fine mind and preaching gifts. They came to believe Aquinas’ teacher who said that “this dumb ox will change the world.”

    One of the most important contributions that Aquinas made to the church was his teaching on God’s revelation. During the thirteenth century, Islam was spreading rapidly and Islamic philosophers became famous both inside and outside of the Islamic world. These philosophers were particularly known for teaching what was called the “Double Truth Theory of Knowledge.” This theory states that something can be true according to special revelation but false according to natural knowledge (and vice versa).

    The obvious problem with this theory is that it relativizes truth, making it neither universal nor permanent. Aquinas, however, vigorously denied this theory of knowledge and rose to give an answer.

    Aquinas taught that while we know some things from the Bible, such as the Trinity, we know other things by studying God’s revelation in nature. An example of the latter would be our understanding of the complexity of the human body. Finally, he said that there were some things we can know both from special revelation and from natural revelation. An example of this is our knowledge that God exists.

    Aquinas was emphatic that when both natural revelation and special revelation are rightly understood, the truth learned from one of these areas will never contradict the truth learned from the other. He rightly said that all aspects of God’s revelation are complimentary. We have Aquinas to thank for reminding us that all truth is God’s truth and is therefore both universal and permanent.


  5. Cultural Christianity is no substitute for the Gospel, but at the same time it’s an error to think that the culture is somehow neutral and Christians should just accept whatever comes their way without action. If that were true, voting would arguably be a sin.


  6. stop your collaborating with the world,, because voting with the world is consent, and the world is not church, and church is not the world

    to turn politics into voting
    every two years or so
    betrays lack of patience
    to wait for the second coming
    Jesus back to earth,

    so the grand inquisitor,
    the priestly class of “the church”.
    wishes for the old days of Christendom
    when the south was segregated and Christian morality
    was at least respected

    now we even have to coexist with
    tolerate these sectarians who deny that each atom of the bread
    contains God completely,
    without the sacrament what is left to stand between us and the secular?

    N T Wright—“present justification consists not so much in words but in an event, the event in which one dies with the Messiah and rises to new life with him. In other words, baptism. I was delighted to rediscover…that not only Chrysostom and Augustine but also Luther would here have AGREED with ME.”


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