On October 5, 2011, during the CNN Piers Morgan Show, Piers said to Rev. Joel Osteen, “Don’t you think you should bring the Bible kicking and screaming into the 21st century?”
Piers question, which may actually be a statement of what he thinks, expresses an all too common perspective in today’s world and sometimes even in the Church.
The idea seems to be that the Bible’s message is dated; that because it is an ancient document it is a necessary assumption that its message, truth claims and perspective of the world must be reinterpreted apart from the author’s meaning and in light of contemporary norms. (A discussion of the acceptance of homosexuality as normal, and not sinful as the Bible states in Romans 1:24-28, was the context within which Piers stated his question.
The folly in this perspective is made clear when we remember who the author of the Bible is and how contemporary norms are arrived at. We will consider the last first and the first last.
Norms are authoritative standards of conduct or ethical values, in some way binding upon the members of a group and serving to guide that group. Such norms are contemporary when they are arrived at by actual, fabricated or assumed consensus of a current population, and they are considered right because they are said to be what most people within that population do, or at least agree to be acceptable for someone to do.
It is assumed in contemporary norms that majority agreement or acceptability, confirms rightness among a given group.
We quickly recognize that the fact that because most people participate in a given behavior, or agree that it is acceptable, does not confirm the rightness of any behavior since we can easily identify wrong behaviors that most people agree is acceptable or actually do in various groupings; which behaviors may be factually harmful like smoking, eating fast foods, exploiting slave labor, etc.
Furthermore, if norms are to be arrived at in a contemporary fashion then we confirm them to be temporary and of questionable lasting value, since what is contemporary by definition is continually undergoing change.
As a necessary point of faith, Christians recognize God as the author of the Bible. So for all genuine Christians the Bible is a communication, the quality of which is consistent with the quality of its author.
This means that those qualities of person necessary to the proposition of actually being God govern the quality of His authorship; qualities such aseternal self-existence, omniscience, omnipotence, absolute cogency and truthfulness, infallibility, impartiality and so on.
Furthermore, as Creator He understands the creature perfectly, while the creature remains always in a process of self discovery through every contemporary context because he is limited by his finitude.
Yes, the Bible should be brought into the 21st century, but not kicking and screaming because it was written for the 21st century, and every other contemporary context.
It should be brought into the 21st century to provide transcendent norms for all societies, norms that are not subject to the frailties of the creature or his tendency toward sinfulness, but are the eternal wisdom of the glory of the Creator.