Cornelius Van Til once said that the Scriptures were authoritative in all they addressed . . . and they addressed everything. This is as true as it gets, but we all need to be a little bit more careful—“for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Luke 16:8).
The secularists are currently running a play on us. We need to figure out that play and counter it. Actually, I need to modify the image. They are not running a play. They have run the same play about twenty times in a row, and they have scored each time. They are breathing hard just from the touchdown dances. The game’s not even over, and half of our team is back in the locker room, putting R2K stickers on their helmets, looking for the true football game whose maker and builder is God.
For us the issue should not be whether Scripture addresses everything (of course it does), but rather the route we take in bringing the authority of Scripture to bear. Does the authority of Scripture run through the world, or does it bypass the world? There are Christians who are chary of the concept of nature having a nature, and so they want to ground everything on explicit teaching, black letter teaching, from the Bible itself. The problem with this—and don’t take this as me being uncomfortable with grounding things in the Bible itself—is that they are routing scriptural authority through the wrong channels.
Why should a boy not be allowed to become a girl? And why should a boy with crooked teeth be allowed to have the orthodontist put braces on his teeth? In both cases, we are messing with nature. In both cases, we are modifying “what God did.” We all instinctively know that the former is an abomination and the latter is a godly exercise of dominion. But unless we sort this out, and pronto, with actual reasons and stuff, our instinctive reactions are soon going to be overwhelmed by a shouting secularist mob on the one hand, and a cowering band of weak sisters behind us. That is happening now.
Scripture says nothing explicitly about sex-change operations and Scripture says nothing explicit about dental work. So if we restrict ourselves to a tight biblicism, we are going to be forced into an agnosticism that takes us where we really do not want to go.
But here is the thing. Scripture is not silent about whether or not nature is silent. This is the way we need to route our reasoning—and in that reasoning we have to be adults, not children.
A sex change operation, like homosexual acts, is against nature. “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature [para and physis]” (Rom. 1:26). But some chapters later, Paul takes an example from someone grafting wild olive branches into a cultivated olive tree, and he says that this too is “against nature” [again, para and physis] (Rom. 11:24). This should not make us throw up our hands in despair—after all, Zecharias and Elisabeth were blameless according to the law (Luke 1:6), and they were a truly pious couple, and Saul of Tarsus, a blaspheming, insolent, angry man, was also blameless according to the law (Phil. 3:6). Context, context, context. The devil is a roaring lion and Jesus is the lion of the tribe of Judah.
So there is a way of going contrary to nature that is nothing less than godly dominion, which we will see soon enough when some enterprising fellow in Georgia figures out how to grow peaches the size of cantaloupes. And there is another way of fooling about with nature, also involving cantaloupes, which goes clean contrary to nature, and to nature’s God.
Now we are not bypassing Scripture for the sake of some autonomous natural law when we look to nature in the ways that Scripture instructs us to. The way we tell which activity is godly dominion and which activity is grotesque insolence is by looking at the teleological nature of the design itself, looking at what our (non-seared) conscience tells us (our consciences being an essential part of this nature we are reading), and doing so in the light that Scripture provides. This is not strict biblicism, but it is preeminently biblical.
The Bible tells us that oversized fruit is entirely a good thing.
“And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs” (Num. 13:23).
And Scripture also tells us that cross dressing is creepy. How much more is it creepy for the cross dressing to be surgically augmented?
“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God” (Deut. 22:5).
So this line of reasoning is in line with Scripture. But the very nature of things also tells us the same thing. In these circumstances, nature is also communicating. A peach is a good thing, and a bigger, sweeter peach is a better thing. You have taken a second-rate peach and made yourself a first-rate peach. But when you mutilate a man, you have taken a second-rate man and made him a fourth-rate eunuch.
What direction is it going? As we seek to answer that question, Scripture doesn’t always tell us the answer directly. But Scripture does tell us where the answer actually is. We should look there, and we should speak confidently about what we read.