I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.I can do all things through him who strengthens me. -- Philippians 4: 12-13 (ESV)
Moral relativism is a widely known and increasingly embraced mindset in this world. This concept essentially is that morality is relative to personal circumstances, culture, and society. At its heart, it is just another way for man to excuse his sin within an acceptable paradigm. While this problem is also infecting the church, today I want to examine another growing trend -- scriptural relativism. In the church today we see an increase in heresy accepted as doctrine and scriptural relativism is the vehicle that allows it. Do some of these expressions sound familiar?
"Well that's not what that verse means to me."
"Everyone is entitled to their own interpretation."
"I know that I am reading it right because God told me."
Beloved, we must understand something central to our faith or else we cannot recover our way. There is only one correct interpretation of the Bible. One. That is the interpretation which reveals what God has said. Period, full stop. Now, there may be different applications within a given passage but what and why God included it remains the property of God alone for our growth and edification. A great deal of scriptural relativism stems from the false teaching of relationship over religion. Everyone in the world is in relationship with Jesus Christ already. The issue is what the status of the relationship is. He is either your Lord and savior or He will be your judge and jury. There is no third option. Several popular false teachings however have propagated this notion of religion being a bad thing and trading it in for an "intimate relationship" with Jesus. The Bible becomes a stumbling block in these instances because it reveals what is false. I cannot tell you how many times people who follow Bill Johnson, IHOP, or the Charisma News False Prophet Brigade have claimed that I have "put God in a box"; when the reality is that God put Himself in that box and we call it the Bible. He did so to protect us from the deceitfulness of our own wicked human heart.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? -- Jeremiah 17: 9 (ESV)
There are real dangers in allowing our deceitful human hearts determine what Scripture means, not the least of which is we will not hear what God actually wanted to say! Beyond that however are real practical considerations. Sometimes we think only in terms of ourselves and maybe we are strong enough in our faith to survive a setback that might push others away from God. It is not only about us beloved. I will use a recent Facebook conversation as a practical example to flesh out the dangers of scriptural relativism. I do not doubt the sincerity of the person I was having this discussion with. They just have been taught poorly to reflect to the "intimate relationship" paradigm instead of truly seeking out what God is trying to say. The result is the Bible ends up being used as the excuse for supporting what our deceitful heart wants to hear. The verse offered up in this conversation was Philippians 4:13. It is the key verse for today and I included verse 12 for context. Everyone in the church knows this verse because it is so misused and misunderstood. This of course is the "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" verse. This was the argument offered for his view of Philippians 4:13: