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Authority of Scripture


The Priority of Authority: Holy Scripture and Human Sexuality, by Robert P. Mills.  Mills is a PCUSA pastor and is currently teaching at Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA.  

Author Robert Mills begins his article by quoting the common mantra of liberals explaining why there has been such division in the church over sexuality, “We all agree on the authority of Scripture.  We just disagree about interpretation.”    Mills then exposes the fallacy of this mantra saying, “It is the first half of their statement, ‘We all agree on the authority of Scripture,” that is so obviously absurd.  For the chasm dividing evangelicals and liberals in their understanding of the authority of Scripture is, if anything, greater than that separating their interpretation of specific passages.”

Mills explains the church’s historic meaning of revelation and its relationship to Scripture,   “Theologians use the term ‘revelation’ to describe God’s communication of divine truth to his human creation.  A good, short definition of revelation is ‘the significant self-disclosure of God to man.’”

Enlightenment thinkers attacked the church’s doctrine of revelation because they rejected “supernatural revelation.”  Mills writes, “Enlightenment philosophy is the source and substance of liberal theology.  Rejecting as “unenlightened’ the very possibility of divine revelation, mainline liberals have followed Enlightenment philosophers in degrading the Bible from God’s self-revelation to a mere collection of human reflections on the religious experiences of certain groups of individuals. For such liberals, the Bible is not, nor does it contain, the Word of God.  Therefore, it has no more authority than a novel or a magazine article.”

Historically, orthodox Christians sought to understand the original author’s meaning of the text becuase the text is the revelation of God,  and then they applied that meaning to their situation.  Liberals reject the text’s authority given by the Author.  Instead, for liberals, the reader’s meaning, not the original author’s meaning, is authoritative.  Whatever insight the reader gleans is authoritative for him/her, regardless of whether it agrees with what the text says.  The shift is from the meaning of the text as a revelation of God given through human authors, to the reader’s meaning of the text even if that meaning is in direct opposition to the words of the text.  The reader’s meaning is now authoritative.

Mills explains the result of this erroneous liberal thinking, “I once heard an Old Testament professor acknowledge that there is no question that the plain meaning of the Old Testament Hebrew is that homosexual behavior is sinful in God’s eyes.  However he concluded, ‘The Bible is simply wrong at that point.’”  Nov/Dec 2011 Theology Matters p. 1

A Consistent Biblical Ethic,  by G. Thomas Hobson, Ph. D. Hobson is a PCUSA pastor and adjunct professor at Morthland College in IL.  Hobson carefully explains the link between OT interpretation of the Law and the NT interpretation.  Hobson writes, "In contemporary ethical debate, it is common to hear commands from the Bible being indiscriminately lumped together. We hear people say, “The Torahforbids homosexual behavior, but it also forbids wearing mixed fabric, and eating leavened bread during Passover. It’s all a hopeless jumble, useless as any reliable source of ethical guidance.” Many are those who claim that the Bible teaches no consistent sexual ethic, but endorses polygamy, concubinage, prostitution, and even incest."  He continues, "Every Torah command that carries a death penalty, is reaffirmed by the NT as a binding moral principle. The NT does not command us to execute incorrigible teenagers, but it does affirm the command, “Honor yourfather and mother.” Commands in the Torah that do not carry a death penalty, such as the kosher food laws, are not reaffirmed in the NT, and may be taken as commands that are just for Israel." Nov/Dec 2011 Theology Matters p. 12