Moody, Biblical Clarity, and a Dangerous Position

Recently, Moody Bible Institute announced that it no longer would prohibit employees, including faculty members, from smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol.  In a previous post, ([1], I addressed Moody’s departure from historic Christian morals and virtues as its basis for ethical standards of behavior among employees and its movement to the secular ideal of individual values as its new gauge.  Another foundational pillar of Moody’s stated rationale for the new direction was that the institution would no longer override the individual conscience “on issues where the Bible is not clear.”

This idea espoused by Moody, that the Bible is not clear on certain matters of living the Christian life is a popular idea that has caused quite a bit of harm in the Kingdom.

The concern at hand is the cavalier way in which Moody, and others who make this argument, hold the Bible, and thus God as its Author accountable for a lack of clarity concerning just how we should live.

Wayne Grudem discusses this matter in the chapter, “The Clarity of Scripture” in his Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.  There, he wrote:

In a day when it is common for people to tell us how hard it is to interpret Scripture rightly, we would do well to remember that not once in the Gospels do we ever hear Jesus saying anything like this: “I see how your problem arose—the Scriptures are not very clear on that subject.”[2]

You see, to say that “the Bible is not clear” with regard to some aspect of what life in Christ entails cannot be true, lest God be accused of demanding back from us something He refuses to reveal to us.  What Moody must be arguing is that Christians of similar theological views on key doctrines disagree on some point of application of the Bible to life.

However, that does not mean that the Bible is not clear.  It means that sinful Christian men and women do not come to a consensus on what the Bible teaches about a certain thing or behavior. [3]

Saying that the Bible is not clear is a euphemism for, “we do not agree on what the Bible says.”  And since that is the case, to ascribe to God, to His Word, and to His Holy Spirit lack of clarity when the real problem is our own disharmony and failure to hear Him clearly, is a very dangerous position to take.

[1] To be fair, let me say again in this second post on Moody’s decision, that I believe it to be a grave mistake that will change the core character of the institution.  That is my conviction, grounded in Scripture, but defending my conviction is not any part of this post.

[2] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 106.

[3] Now some might argue that it also could mean that God is not concerned about what we as Christians choose to do in certain situations, but that meaning cannot be ascribed to “the Bible is not clear.”  If we all agreed, or even if Moody alone concluded that God is not concerned about this or that, the Bible indeed would be clear, at least to Moody, and Moody would have said so and would have applied the new directive to students of legal age as well as to the Faculty.

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