No, No, Textual Orientation

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In the recent edition of Table Talk, Scott Sauls wrote an article on the seventh commandment that contained many true and valuable observations, and which at the same time revealed the profound faint-heartness of contemporary Reformed evangelicalism.

Here’s a sample.

“As once taboo expressions of sexuality become mainstream, and as colleagues, friends, and even family members share news of a pending “no-fault” divorce or same-sex or cohabiting heterosexual relationship, more and more Christians -– especially when friendships and family ties hang in the balance -– feel an urgency to sympathize instead of condemn, to support instead of separate, to affirm instead of deny. And yet, we are still left to wrestle with the biblical text.”

The entire problem is one of orientation. This being the kind of situation it is, let us call it our textual orientation.

In the world of the New Testament, wrestling does go on, but it is not with the text, not like this. We wrestle, for example, with principalities and powers (Eph. 6:12). If we continue to follow the example of the apostle Paul, we buffet our bodies (1 Cor. 9:27, NASB).

“I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:26–27).

The Christian life is in fact strenuous and challenging. “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Tim. 2:5, ESV).

We wrestle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. These are the adversary. We do so in accordance with the rules. We do not whine about the selection of the judges, and we do not wrestle with the rules. We do not go and lie down in front of the judges’ table in order to writhe on the ground.

In short, the text is not the problem. We are the problem. When we first see that the ways of the world are radically inconsistent with the ways of God — and what a shock that was, let me tell you — we tend to look for ways to adjust the Word to the world, instead of the other way around. We want workarounds in the text. We want to wrestle with the text. It is time for an original Greek word study!

This is because we are all tyros, novices and pikers. We have not yet resisted to the shedding of blood (Heb. 12:4). When we have resisted to the shedding of blood, we will then be in a position to imitate the Lord Jesus when He wrestled with the text. Jesus wrestled with the Scriptures (that cannot be broken), because those Scriptures foretold His agonizing death on the cross. Scripture could not be broken, but Christ’s body could be.

When we have skin in the game, then we may wrestle with the text. But it is not safe to even think about trying it before then.

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Johnny Simmons
Johnny Simmons
7 years ago

That was good eatin.’ Jesus wrestling with the text especially.

Benjamin Bowman
7 years ago

This is one of those “aught not” situations that Lewis was always going on about. We aught not wrestle with the text, but we do. Yet again there are times when it is necessary to wrestle with God, how else will He break our hips into submission?

timothy
timothy
7 years ago

The Christian life is in fact strenuous and challenging.

It is. How do I reconcile this fact with Mathew 11:28 ?

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
7 years ago
Reply to  timothy

It ain’t the yoke that’s heavy, it’s the weight of sin trying to persuade us to throw it off.

timothy
timothy
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane Dunsworth

Hi Jane I am thinking about this in the context of telling an unbeliever what Christianity is like. It would be dishonest of me to say that ‘everything is easy once we repent and believe.’ It is not, in some ways it is easier in that the foo-foo stuff (Think Humian Utilitiarianism for example) is seen for the nothing-burger it is in light of our relationship with the living, eternal God. However, in another sense it is more difficult in that the subject matter of our lives is much more real Things that we could ignore (or where absolutely blind… Read more »

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
7 years ago
Reply to  timothy

Well, I completely agree with that. The context of “my yoke is easy and my burden light” isn’t that Jesus makes life easy, but that Jesus’ burden is lighter than the one we’re already under. It may look like obedience makes life harder, but I’d argue that it only FEELS harder. That sin is still there for the unbeliever, but it is so heavy, it is eventually going to utterly crush him. Think of it like this: there are people who lack sensitivity to pain. Those people tend to have a reduced life expectancy because they can suffer illness or… Read more »

bethyada
bethyada
7 years ago

Hi Timothy. I heard an analogy once. Someone was watching seals playing in the breakers. He said they were probably enjoying it but it appeared to be hard work. The thought that occurred was that the world is the beach and God’s kingdom was the ocean. We are to be in the ocean but we so much want the world that we spend time in the white water which is very hard; if we were to go further out into God it would be easier. I am not saying that it is always easy, but perhaps it is often harder… Read more »

andrewlohr
andrewlohr
7 years ago
Reply to  bethyada

Hudson Taylor once said, I never made a sacrifice (meaning living for God hadn’t really cost him anything.)

timothy
timothy
7 years ago
Reply to  bethyada

Hi bethyada,

See my reply to Jane. I have worked through the idea to my satisfaction.

cheers.

t

doug sayers
7 years ago

Agreed. We might use the word “wrestle” with a text that was “difficult” or a concept that was not explicit but there is nothing to wrestle with regarding the biblical texts on homosexuality.

Jeepers, Mr. Wilson, I knew there was something queer about boys with boys and girls with girls long before I became a Bible thumpin’ fundy.

Jack Bradley
Jack Bradley
7 years ago

“When we have skin in the game, then we may wrestle with the text.” Right on, Douglas. And the text is abundantly clear on the subject of sodomy, as you have demonstrated repeatedly. As you say, “the profound faint-heartness of contemporary Reformed evangelicalism” on this subject is often revealed. But I was encouraged to read the most recent Imprimus, by David French: “. . . the sexual revolution marches on and. . . now requires conscription into the revolution itself.” “. . . the conflict is not between gay rights and religious liberty, but between the sexual revolution and Christianity.”… Read more »

Hobbit
Hobbit
7 years ago

I’m glad his (Sauls’) article mentioned singles. Normally, in much church life, we are invisible … until the duty deacon needs something done and we’re regarded as having “time on our hands”? ;-)

holmegm
holmegm
7 years ago
Reply to  Hobbit

Which, to be fair, you probably do have on your hands. Particularly compared to parents.

Scott Sauls
Scott Sauls
7 years ago

Thanks for reading and engaging the article.