What the Bible Really Really Says

Just a few days ago I shared on Facebook a fine article on the biblical view of homosexuality.  It is written by Kevin DeYoung, and, if you have not yet read it, is well worth your time: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/05/16/what-the-bible-really-still-says-about-homosexuality/

As you can see, the article carries the title “What the Bible Really Still Says About Homosexuality.”

Without detracting one iota from DeYoung’s piece, I want to use it to drive home an important truth which we need to meditate on carefully.  The force of DeYoung’s scriptural argument depends on whether or not he can demonstrably prove that, contrary to the person he is responding to (someone called Daniel Heminiak), “the Bible really really calls homosexuality a sin.”   And he’s right, it does.

BUT – the Bible only “really really calls homosexuality a sin” if we believe what it says!  That is, if we employ the kind of hermeneutics which let’s the words say what they say without re-interpreting them by use of a non-literal hermeneutics.

At the end of the article Luke Timothy Johnson, a liberal Catholic NT scholar, is quoted.  The first part of the Johnson quote states:

The task demands intellectual honesty. I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says…I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture. (underlining mine)

DeYoung applauds Johnson’s candor in admitting to this, and so do I.  But do not miss what is being taken for granted by both parties.  The Bible means what it says!

And in an excellent closing paragraph DeYoung writes:

Of course, I disagree with Johnson’s approach to the authority of Scripture and his liberal deference to experience. But I commend him for acknowledging what should be plain: the Bible really really calls homosexuality a sin. A sin that can be forgiven in Christ like a million other sins, and a sin that can be fought against by the power of the Holy Spirit, but still a sin. That’s what the Bible says. And as the CNN article demonstrates, it takes a lot of contorted creativity to make it say something else.

Again I have added some underlining to highlight what is being taken for granted: and please notice it is not only the sinfulness of homosexuality which is spoken of as “plain.”  The forgiveness of sins in Christ and the strength to fight against temptation and sin through the Holy Spirit is also “plain.”  Here then are three important biblical truths where we do not want to employ our creativity to “make it say something else.”  To do such a thing, the article at least implies, would be because we do not like what the Bible says and so we become creative “to make it say something else.”  This maneuver can be done in reference to homosexuality, but it can also be done in reference to anything else which “the Bible says.”

Moreover, DeYoung argues from an appeal to the context of Jesus’ remarks about impurity in Mark 7:19 to show that He was dealing with food laws.

Now some of you might recall that in my debate with Steve Hays I constantly referred him to “the plain-sense,” making repeated pleas for what the text says in its context, and providing many clear examples where later OT writers took earlier writers literally.  Hays’s persistently refused any interaction with these examples, or with my rebuttals of his interpretations of some passages in the Prophets, and ducked and weaved while questioning what “the plain-sense” and “face-value” mean.

For example, in The “Real” Bible Code I observed:

I believe “land” in Genesis 13 and 15 is interpreted as the very same “land” in Psalm 105:6-11:

Attention please!

  6 O seed of Abraham His servant, You children of Jacob, His chosen ones!
 7 He is the LORD our God; His judgments are in all the earth.
 8 He remembers His covenant forever, The word which He
commanded, for a thousand generations,
 9 The covenant which He made with Abraham, And His oath to
 10 And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, To Israel as an
everlasting covenant,
 11 Saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan As the allotment
of your inheritance,”

And when we reach Jeremiah 16 the “land” hasn’t changed:

13 ‘Therefore I will cast you out of this land into a land that you do
not know, neither you nor your fathers; and there you shall serve
other gods day and night, where I will not show you favor.’
 14 ” Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “that
it shall no more be said, ‘The LORD lives who brought up the
children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’
 15 “but, ‘The LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from
the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven
them.’ For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their

This last example, part of which was used by Steve Hays to demonstrate a “New Exodus” motif which pointed to fulfillment beyond the “land,” is helpful because once we see how “land” is used in verse 13 (which Steve did not quote), we can understand what he means by “land” being returned to in verse 15.

Did Hays yield to what the Bible says here?  No.  Like most others today he continued either questioning it or else avoiding it!  This is standard operating procedure among many evangelicals.  If and to what extent brother DeYoung questions “what the Bible says” when he’s not arguing against homosexuality I don’t honestly know, and my comments here are not at all aimed at him but are only taking advantage of his excellent piece.  But it is simply a fact that many evangelicals do not operate on the assumption that “that’s what the Bible says” but often indulge their creativity in making it “say something else.”    If DeYoung had tried to argue his case that way against Helminiak his argument would have been shot. 

If I were a Bible-rejecting writer like Helminiak or Johnson or whoever, I would want to jump all over this.  I would want to ask, “How can you evangelicals appeal to the plain sense of what the Bible SAYS when many of you do not believe what it says in Genesis 1 (six day creation – cf. Exod. 20:11) or Genesis 7 (global flood – cf. Isa. 54:9), or Genesis 15 (land given unconditionally to Abraham’s descendents – cf. Psa. 105:6-11), or Numbers 25:10-13 (everlasting priestly covenant with the lineage of Phinehas – cf. Psa. 106:30-31; Ezek. 44:15-16; Jer. 33: 17-18, 21-22), or almost countless other places in both Testaments?”

One of the passages appealed to by DeYoung is Malachi 2:15 about one aim of marriage being to produce offspring.  Great, but in that very chapter we read about God’s covenant of peace with Levi (and Phinehas was Levi’s grandson), which, despite its pollution in Malachi’s day, God would continue (Mal. 2:4).  And in Malachi 3, in a context which bespeaks the Second Coming (“But who can endure the day of His coming?…for He is like a refiner’s fire…He will sit as a refiner…” – vv.2-3), there immediately follows a promise which reads:

…and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness. –  (Mal 3:3b)

What shall we do with this text?  Is it not what Mal. 2:4 would lead us to expect?  Or shall we “make it say something else”?  Ditto thousands of verses which if left alone would “say” something other than what our theological preferences will allow?

I have tried to show on this blog (e.g. here, and here and here and especially here), every fundamental Bible doctrine is grounded solidly in the refrain “That’s what the Bible says.”  When we make that claim we are on solid ground.  But there are a whole host of popular doctrines which are often tenaciously held, which not only refuse to admit the plain sense, but demonstrate an awful lot of “creativity,” often “through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties,” to “make it say something else.”

Just sayin’ 😉

13 thoughts on “What the Bible Really Really Says”

    1. Thanks Kevin – I realize that some will accuse me of naivete, but my point is of course that we need very good reasons for NOT letting the Bible say what it says. Often the reasons given beg the question in the way they fail to deal with the details and context of a given passage.

  1. Fair point. I love DeYoung and have benefited a lot from him, but I thought similarly. They just have to hope that their opponents don’t know about the spiritualizing errors of CT.

    Homosexual advocate: You can’t just quote verses about homosexuality and say it’s a sin. It’s a very complicated, layered, nuanced issue.
    Orthodox CT type: Not really. The Bible is perfectly plain. It means what it says.
    Homosexual advocate: You mean like Jeremiah 31:35-36?
    Orthodox CT type: You can’t just quote verses about Israel and say God has an eternal and distinct plan for them as a nation. It’s a very complicated, layered, nuanced issue.
    Homosexual advocate: Uh-huh.

    As I’ve often said, if Reformed folks handled prophetic passages as well and respectfully as they handle (say) Romans 5, they’d be dispensational.

    And equally, if dispensational folks handled soteriological passages as well and respectfully as they handle (say) Revelation 20, they’d be five-point Calvinists.

    Oops, lost you there.


    1. Dan,

      I agree that DeYoung is an excellent writer. His blog is one of the few YRR blogs I can stomach. He has a touch which reminds me of older evangelicals like Ryle (that’s quite a compliment!).

      Yes, I’m afraid I cannot call myself a 5 pointer. But I march closely with Lloyd-Jones on depravity, Simeon on election, Fuller on the atonement, Spurgeon on grace, and Calvin on security. For me at least, every human theological formulation is open to (friendly) critique. Some, like the vicarious atonement, may be nuanced here and there. Others, like the five points, I see as defined as much by human logic as by the Bible – perhaps more so. I may be wrong and need to be open to change, but there it is. That, in part, is what “the Rules of Affinity” are for.

      Glad you are now reunited with the fam. I’ve been listening a bit to your messages.


      1. Paul, since both Dan and you are reading this, is there a chance you can review “The World Tilting Gospel” on this blog? It’s on my next to buy list and I’m seriously interested to hear your take on Dan’s defence of the 5 points. 😀

        Also on a more serious note, I’m more comfortable with someone like Kevin DeYoung who holds steadfast to the gospel of Jesus rescuing sinners from eternal condemnation even though he erratic on CT, than some dispensationalists like David Jeremiah or David Reagan who have capitulated to the pragmatists like Rick Warren and “best life’s potential” sin-deniers like Joel Osteen.

      2. Joel,

        I have nearly finished Dan’s book and do intend to give it an overdue review. I shall try to critique it like I would any other. Of course, taking issue with him here and there will not mean I would not endorse the book.

        Your second paragraph pushes all the right buttons!


      3. Thanks for asking and for your interest, Joel; but wherever you got the impression that the book is a defense of the five points, that was an error. It isn’t intended as a “defense” of any of the points of Calvinism, per se. I would say that three of the points get extended Biblical treatment, one less so, and one no *formal* discussion per se at all. That was not by any particular design vis-a-vis the points; it just wasn’t the aim of the book.

  2. Well said, Paul, and how truly it applies to every doctrine in the Bible. I find it much easier to deal with those who at least acknowledge the truth of what the Bible says, and admitting that they don’t believe it, than the professing Christian who prefers man’s ideas and refuses to admit what the Bible actually says.

    I think of a great John MacArthur quote: “The man who says ‘I believe that Genesis purports to be a historical account, but I do not believe that account’ is a better interpreter of the Bible than the one who says I believe Genesis is true but it’s poetry.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s