Dec 8, 2012

Our first question when confronted with the claim that reasonable, consistent Christians differ on an issue, is to ask whether that is in fact true, not what might happen to us if we admit it. If it is true, then we need to admit it, and be willing to engage in a reasonable discussion with them, rather than shying away from it out of fear that we’ll have the rug pulled out from under our feet. If we’re actually so confident that our view can withstand all challenges, then why are we so afraid of even opening a discussion? In this case, I think it is hard to deny that reasonable, consistent Christians can and do differ on the issue; this is not a concession that it’s all ambiguous and there is no right answer, only a recognition that that debate over that answer exists among brothers and sisters who all acknowledge the authority of Christ and his Word.

Another way of getting at this is to ask whether the issue in question is an adiaphoron, in the classic Reformation sense—an essential of the faith, or a mere question of outward order? To say it is adiaphorous is not to say it doesn’t matter, or that the Bible has nothing to say on the subject, only that disagreement about it does not affect the essentials, and hence should be tolerated for the time being. Of course, people will here pull out the slippery-slope argument that while not in itself essential, it is so clearly in Scripture that the authority of Scripture is at stake, and so it is essential. But the problem is that that argument can be made on any issue whatsoever where we are convinced of our own reading of Scripture. The response to it is fairly simple—do one’s opponents happily acknowledge and submit themselves to the authority of Scripture as well? There are plenty of times nowadays when they do not. But in the case of Wright and other evangelical advocates of women’s ordination, they do. If we’re going to claim that this is all just part of a ploy to subvert the Gospel, we will soon find ourselves isolated indeed.

Brad Littlejohn, "Women Bishops, N. T. Wright, and Douglas Wilson"
My name is Wesley Hill. I am an assistant professor of New Testament at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.

This is my commonplace book and sometime-journal.

I blog at

My book is here: Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality.

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