biblical authority

Why (at least) One Bible Believer Really IS a Bible Believer

Yesterday I stumbled across an article written by Chuck Queen titled "Why Bible Believers Are Not Really Bible Believers." Queen is a self-professed Progressive Christian.

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In the article, Queen remarks that "no self-identified Bible believer actually believes the whole Bible — at least not in the way they claim to." As a Bible believer, I was not disturbed or perplexed by this statement. Rather, I was quite relieved that I had finally found someone who was so enlightened and knowledgable that, even though he does not know me, he can tell me what I really believe.

Queen's issue with ignorant Bible believers (such as myself) is that we claim "that the whole Bible, every part of it, is inerrant and infallible. It all has equal authority." But he quickly adds that no Bible believer actually lives that way.

Queen is correct that no Bible believer perfectly lives out his belief that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God. But our inconsistencies lie in the fact that we are imperfect. For example, if we truly and consistently believed that we would be rewarded in the new creation for our faithfulness during this life, we would certainly be more faithful to share our faith and live in holiness. But Queen's contention seems to be less about our own personal fallibilities than it does our belief about the Scriptures.

The personal example Queen gives was his struggle to believe and practice passages like 1 Timothy 2:11-15 (NRSV):

"A woman should learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty."

Queen writes, "This text seems to clearly forbid women teaching in a setting where men are present because of their moral inferiority." He explained how he engaged in exegetical wizardry to interpret the passage as being applicable only to a specific situation in first-century Ephesus.

This interpretation rightfully left Queen dissatisfied because, as he acknowledges, Paul bases his argument against a woman teaching "on the creation (man was created first) and the fall (the woman was the one who was seduced)." But then we finally come to the revelation of Queen's philosophy. He writes, "Terrible theology, I concede, but there it is in the Bible."

Queen has made himself the sole arbiter of what is good theology. He has placed himself in a position above Scripture, and he has determined that this particular Scripture is, in his words, "terrible." I should not be surprised at Queen's position since he also claimed that he knows that I do not believe the Bible in the way I think I do. I mean, if Queen is an authority above Scripture, he certainly must be an authority above me.

Having established his theological authority over Scripture, Queen then dismisses the book of First Timothy altogether. He writes, "1 Timothy was written several decades after Paul by someone within the Pauline tradition who clearly did not accept Paul's original egalitarian theological and social vision." On what textual or historical basis does Queen make this claim? None. It's just stated as fact. I surmise that he rests upon the work of other Bible-doubting theologians, but that would be speculative on my part.

Not quite as speculative as Queen's dating of 1 Timothy, though. He writes, "Maybe Paul's original vision put the church at such odds with the social and conventional norms of Roman society that the church became a threat to that society. Out of fear of extinction perhaps they revisited their ecclesiastical practices and theology" (emphasis mine).

Queen claims that Paul's mention of women leaders in Romans 16 (perhaps referencing the deacon/servant Phoebe) and 1 Corinthians 11:5 (women prophets) are ignored by Bible believers. This may be anecdotally true of some Bible believers, but not of me. I have preached through each of the books Queen mentions in his article, and I did not skip a verse. This "troubling" issue of apparent contradictions between different passages attributed to Paul is no contradiction to me at all. First Timothy 2:11-15 is not an isolated rant trying to shut women up, but it is part of a larger context in which Paul deals with the recognized and continual teaching ministry of the church (i.e., elders/pastors). Romans 16:2, on the other hand, references the ministry of a deacon (or alternatively a servant), and 1 Corinthians 11:5 speaks to prophetic declarations made by women as they nevertheless submit to the leaders of the church.

I am not sure what Queen's goal is. He seems to be reaching out to what he calls "good-hearted Bible believers." But I am unsure what he desires to do with them. It seems like he wants to lessen their faith in God's Word. If so, he should tread carefully. Jesus gave a strong warning against those who would cause those who believe in Him to stumble. And Jesus had a much higher view of Scripture than Queen does.

My encouragement for Queen and all of us is to review passages such as Psalm 1, Psalm 19, and Psalm 119. These Scriptures encourage us to love and treasure God's Word. The Bible—every word of it and the entirety of it—is a message from God of His love for you. Let no one discourage you from believing it and accepting it.