There is a post making the social media rounds, titled “Yes, the Bible Forbids ____”.*
The problem is, at no point does the article give evidence that the Bible actually forbids it. That’s sort of a problem. Claiming “The Bible Forbids” is to say “The Lord forbids X, Thus Sayeth the Lord.” No more discussion can be had. We are not to murder. We are not to commit adultery. We are not to steal. They are forbidden by explicit command. So, if an article by a Lutheran claims that something is forbidden by Holy Scripture, we are done talking. No dialogue needed. Conversation ended. Don’t do it.
The article does say that the church has taught against X for it’s entire history. And that scripture encourages the opposite of X. Both are weighty arguments. Both are worthy of being said publicly. There are valid reasons that the church speaks against certain things as an extension of the 10 commandments, even if a certain thing is not specifically forbidden of itself. There are reasons the church praises things, or scripture encourages things but stops short of forbidding or requiring. Such reasoning can not be easily dismissed, and it is a good – even necessary – conversation to have. It’s one that usually results in a greater appreciation for the Word of God, which we are commanded to hold sacred and to gladly hear and learn.
But none of that is the same as “Scripture forbids.” That’s not just a high standard. It’s the highest. And it is pretty much reserved for 8 specific things (Two of the commandments are written positively as commands to do something. The other 8 forbid things).
So, tell me the Bible forbids stealing. Tell me the Bible forbids coveting. But if you say the Bible forbids something else, then I get immediately squeamish if you don’t follow it up with evidence of actually being forbidden. Because when we say “Scripture forbids” but scripture doesn’t actually forbid – or at least you don’t show where scripture forbids – now you are or (at least appear to be) teaching as doctrines of God the opinions of man. And that we are forbidden from doing (2nd & 3rd commandment). And even if it’s just sloppiness – maybe scripture does forbid it and you forgot to show how – it still opens us to the charge of speaking opinions, rather than the Word of God. The church can not do that. If something is forbidden in the bible, show clearly where THE BIBLE FORBIDS IT. But if you make the claim, you must provide the evidence. Otherwise, we are just people with an opinion, who throw scripture around to sound more authoritative than we are.
So, let’s speak clearly the Word of God. Let’s call sin, sin. Let’s forbid what God forbids. Let’s command what God commands. And let’s lay out in all it’s fullness the promises of God. But let’s not go beyond what God has actually said. And let’s not claim more than we can show in the only writing which is by definition without error – the infallible, unchanging, and holy Word of God.
*NOTE: I’ve left out what the article claims, because I want this to be about method, not the topic itself, and it’s kind of a hot topic these days.