Two things, it seems, have been lost in the noise over Phil Robertson’s comments concerning homosexuality as reported by GQ Magazine.
First, Robertson is being called to account by A&E for quoting Scripture. He was asked in the interview to define sin. He replied with a pretty good paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Quoting Scripture is a good way to answer such a question, and the brunt of the world’s anger should be, and probably privately is, directed toward God and His Word more than toward the messenger, in this case, Phil Robertson.
Second, and more important at this point, every pastor must answer the question, “Would my people know, listening to Phil Robertson, that he was quoting Scripture?” Biblical illiteracy, both in American culture at large and in local churches, has been on the rise for quite some time. While we, pastors, might not be culpable directly for the decline in Bible knowledge in the world, we must answer for what Bible our congregation knows.
Several things contribute to this decline in churches. Whole denominations have embraced the idea that the Bible is true only in “spiritual” matters, or even only in the “gospel,” defined as Christ’s love shown by his servant death on our behalf. Everything else might or might not be worth knowing.
Bible teaching programs in the churches often spend more time presenting what we think and giving people time to express opinions than in delivering the Bible itself. Bible thoughts have grown to replace Bible verses and passages in our preschool programs. Telling Bible stories in our own words replace reading the Word of God to our children. Having talked through “real world” situations and dilemmas reigns far above actually knowing the Bible from cover to cover.
Most churches have no regular Bible reading in church other than when the pastor reads his text, and often these days, the text is more of pretext for presenting various ideas and stories the pastor wants to relate. Rarely do preachers of topical sermons ever choose to tackle a topic that would require serious engagement with 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
The emphasis in preaching on meeting people’s felt needs (what people think they need) further serves to restrict a congregation’s diet of Bible. One wonders just what “felt needs” listeners might have that a pastor would answer by turning to this passage.
Phil Robertson has set the challenge before us, pastors. If a duck call inventor is willing to risk his wealth and reputation by quoting and speaking publicly to Scripture that is hard and challenging even to our Christian culture, then why should we do differently. Do your people know this passage? A door is open to preach this passage to your people on Sunday. Will you pray about taking it?