How do you regard the culture of the time argument when it comes to biblical matters? (Part 1)


In a Q&A in April 2017, entitled “Does God Change?” we quoted the following observations.  We have underlined key phrases:

“In an article in April 2015 in the New York Times, a columnist wrote: ‘And homosexuality and Christianity don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere. That many Christians regard them as incompatible is understandable, an example not so much of hatred’s pull as of tradition’s sway. Beliefs ossified over centuries aren’t easily shaken.  But in the end, the continued view of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as sinners is a decision. It’s a choice. It prioritizes scattered passages of ancient texts over all that has been learned since — as if time had stood still, as if the advances of science and knowledge meant nothing. It disregards the degree to which all writings reflect the biases and blind spots of their authors, cultures and eras. It ignores the extent to which interpretation is subjective, debatable.’”

Can we see how subtle and deceptive this all is? The article goes on to show how “advances” in understanding have been made with respect to slavery, contraception, gender roles and same-sex marriages. This author and the people he quotes who share many of his views obviously think that they know better than God.

We continued in our Q&A:

“God does NOT change when it comes to the eternal truths that He has made clear in His Word. God has, and is, perfect character which cannot change and we have to have the spiritual insight and understanding to comprehend this, rather than lumping everything together. 

“Moral absolutes are just that – absolute. They cannot be changed and God does not change in this area.” 

We reviewed a few examples where God DID change His mind, but none of these changes involved alterations to His unalterable spiritual law. For example, Abraham debated with God how many righteous were to be found in Sodom and Gomorrah that would save it from destruction and he negotiated it down from 50 to 10 – but God does NOT change when it comes to the eternal Truths that He has made clear in His Word.

Another example we quote is in Numbers 14 which tells the story of Israel refusing to enter Canaan and instead of entering the land immediately, God changed this by deferring their entry for 40 years. These are just things of a temporary nature but nothing changes about God’s eternal Law.

A further example was when God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon the Ninevites – because of their repentance.

And so, let us look at the “culture of the time” argument.

You’ve no doubt heard this argument.   A while ago, the Episcopal church in the USA, which is part of the Anglican movement worldwide and allied to the Church of England, were debating the appointment of a practicing homosexual to a senior position. The following comment was made live on television:

“The Bible has to be interpreted in the light of contemporary society – not in an arcane way” (that is, a primitive or outdated way).

In other words, as society becomes more and more liberal and permissive and controlled by the media and those with vested interests, God’s Word has to be altered and manipulated to fit in with the world’s ways. This would, in reality, be moulding and shaping God into the form that we wanted or suited us – and that is preposterous.   It would mean that those who are “influencers,” to use a modern word, could come up with all sorts of ideas and then God’s Way would have to be interpreted in the light of their musings and pronouncements!!  What utter nonsense that is!

In short, today, many can use the arguments that as culture changes, God will go along with the flow and bend according to the particular dictates of man at any given time. They don’t phrase it that way of course, but that is how they view it.

How ridiculous that would be, but it is the way of some – but, hopefully, not those of us in the Church of God!  If that were the case, we could justify ANYTHING – anything at all.    God does not change – and His Word doesn’t change.   That’s the way of the world.  

Hebrews 13:8 says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”  Does Jesus Christ “move” with the times and go along with the musings of men?  

In Malachi 3:6, we read the following: “For I am the LORD, I do not change;”  

Barnes Notes on the Bible read:

“I am the Lord, I change not – better, more concisely, ‘I, the Lord I change not.’  The proper name of God, ‘He who Is,’ involves His unchangeableness. For change implies imperfection; it changes to that which is either more perfect or less perfect: to somewhat which that being, who changes, is not or has not. But God has everything in Himself perfectly.”

We read in the Pulpit Commentary:

“For I am the Lord, I change not; or, Jehovah, I change not. This is to show that God performs his promises, and effectually disposes of the allegation in Malachi 2:17, that he put no difference between the evil and the good. The great principles of right and wrong never alter; they are as everlasting as he who gave them. (our emphasis). God here speaks of himself by his covenant name, which expresses his eternal independent being, ‘the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning’ (James 1:17). ‘Therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed’. Because God’s eternal purpose stands good, and his ‘gifts and calling are without repentance’ (Romans 11:29), therefore the Israelites are indeed chastised and corrected, but not wholly consumed; they have a place and a nation, and the great promises made to their forefathers will all be fulfilled in due time (Jeremiah 30:11; Micah 7:20).”

If God does not change, neither will His Word.  2 Timothy 3:16 is further evidence of the permanency, constancy and dependability on the Word of God whichever century or millennium it applies to: “All Scripture (not just that which is convenient – but ALL Scripture) is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

And there is yet another passage of Scripture that those who want to bend God’s Word into their own interpretation and ignore its clear instructions, would find very hard to defend. John 17:17 quotes Christ’s words: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”

Our approach is exactly the opposite to that of the world – we DO believe God.   Sanctify means to set apart – and true Christians are set apart by the Truth – and God’s Word is Truth. Why can’t others see this?   We know that at the right time, God will remove their spiritual blindness.  But we have been called now – and we know the Truth.  And as we take the approach of the Bereans by searching the Scriptures, we will ensure that we find out what God’s Will is and subjugate our own human reasoning to His perfect Will and Way. That is the approach that God expects of His children.

Some time ago, one letter in a newspaper said:

“The Church of England should go the whole hog and just sling the Bible in the bin.   It could then preach its ‘anything goes’ philosophy to its largely empty churches.   The rest of us will have moved on to a Christian church.”

The Daily Caller wrote on August 30, 2023: “The Church of England’s (CofE) liberal drift continues as a new survey shows that a majorities of priests now support abandoning traditional Christian sexual ethics.

“A survey by the Times found that 62.6 percent of priests believe the church should relax its teaching that all premarital sex is sinful. A smaller majority (53.4 percent) voiced their support for same-sex marriage. The Church of England currently allows marriages only between men and women, though the General Synod — the CofE’s legislative body — voted in February to offer blessings to civilly married same-sex couples.”

While this was talking about the Church of England, it could certainly be extended to cover many more in mainstream Christianity.   There is no leadership in the most important area of all – that of Bible understanding. Judges 21:25 tells us, and this was applicable thousands of years ago and is certainly applicable today:

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

This is a repeat of what is stated in Judges 17:6. The fact that this concerned royalty does not deflect from the principle.   For “king,” we can substitute “leader” – and the fact that there is no clear, unambiguous and moral leadership in the Church of England, and in so many other churches allowing women in the ministry, and many other things, which are not approved or sanctioned by Scripture—means that everyone is doing what is right in his own eyes.  

(To be continued)

Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

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