The hallmark of evangelicals has been a commitment to the inspiration of Scripture—the belief that the Bible is God’s Word, and therefore we can view its contents as authoritative.
Though at first blush this commitment to Scripture seems to provide an anchor against the drift of culture. However, the issue of interpretation can provide a rather long rope attaching the boat to the anchor, which can allow evangelicals to drift a significant distance with the culture.
One example from the past resides in evangelicals finding compatibility between Scripture and the self-esteem/self-love movement in the command of Jesus to love one’s neighbor as himself. They concluded that this command requires that we must love ourselves first, therefore evangelicals asserted that Scripture supported the psychological teaching on self-love. This superficial conclusion upon more careful consideration was shown to possess insurmountable problems. However, by the time solid scriptural interpretation prevailed, the damage had been done, and evangelicals had already bought into the self-esteem movement.
A similar unscriptural accommodation is afoot today, this one providing support for the homosexual movement. It is contended that references to Sodom in various prophetic passages demonstrate that God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah was not brought on by homosexual behavior. Rather, the sin of Sodom consisted of not caring for the poor or some other un-biblical behavior. Though this interpretation of itself does not clear the way for evangelicals to accept homosexuality, it serves two purposes in support of the homosexual agenda. First, it removes one scriptural barrier to that end. Second, it conveys that evangelicals have displayed bigotry toward homosexuals across the centuries, attributing God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah to homosexual behavior when that really was not the case.
The problem with this interpretation is that it dismisses the rather obvious interpretation of the events surrounding the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah recorded in Genesis 19, and replaces it with a more obscure understanding of the matter extracted from passages using the terms Sodom and Gomorrah that were written many hundreds of years later. This comprises very speculative interpretation at best.
Consider this incident as translated in the New American Standard Bible, which is viewed by many as being the most faithful to the original text of any modern translation.
Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.” But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, and said, “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.” (Genesis 19:4-8 NASB)
It is evident that this passage is referring to homosexual activity. The added fact, brought out by the context, that these men were not satisfied by the offer of Lot’s daughters further supports the view that their interests were homosexual in nature.
Seeking to make the case that this was not the case based on the reference to Sodom in the prophets comprises a clear case of twisting Scripture to fit the culture.
Francis Schaeffer, in his final book, The Great Evangelical Disaster, made these observations:
God’s Word has many times been allowed to be bent, to conform to the surrounding, passing, changing culture of that moment rather than to stand as the inherent Word of God judging the form of the world spirit and the surrounding culture of that moment.[i]
It makes little difference in the end if Scripture is compromised by theological infiltration or by infiltration from the surrounding culture.[ii]
In other words, the anchor of the inspiration of Scripture has little value if the rope of interpretation connecting it to the boat is so long that it allows the boat to be carried along with the tide of culture.
[i] P. 65.
[ii] P. 64.