What Does This Mean?

I’ve been reading The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw. It chronicles the experiences of some of those who fought and lived through World War II. Brokaw identifies this as the greatest generation because of the values those individuals held, things like duty, honor, service, and commitment. Those are big words and important concepts. But I’m not sure they mean the same thing today as they meant back then. In fact, those same values could be cited for causes today that the WWII generation would never have supported.

This is a major problem of communication, coming to a common understanding of what a word or concept means. You don’t have to go far to find different definitions for concepts like these: love, marriage, responsibility, or any of the values mentioned above.

In our postmodern culture, it is perhaps more difficult than ever to pin a firm meaning to a certain value. We are so accommodating to one another saying things like, “Well, whatever you think about this is fine.” “You need to decide what is right and wrong for you.” “Stay true to yourself.”

But for how much “tolerance” is talked about these days, it seems more and more that the courtesy is not extended to those who hold traditional Christian beliefs. Those who believe, for example, that the Bible defines marriage only as the lifelong union of a man and a woman, are now being accused of hate speech, bigotry, and intolerance.

Part of the problem is that one group thinks the meaning of “marriage” can change through popular vote or legislative action; the other group thinks the meaning is firmly established and cannot be altered even if 100% of the human population wants to change it. This results in quite the ideological clash. (For some of the Bible passages about marriage see Genesis 2:24, Mark 10:2-12, Ephesians 5:22-33, and Hebrews 13:4.)

Many Christians are reluctant to change their minds about the definition of marriage. This is because they believe the Bible is more than just a collection a pious thoughts from well-meaning folks. They believe the Bible was recorded by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21), which makes it entirely the Word of God.

If any Christian holds a belief or opinion contrary to what the Bible teaches, they are saying one of two things. They are either saying that the Bible is not entirely the Word of God (which calls into question everything in the Bible). Or they are saying that they do not care if the Bible is God’s Word; they will still do what they think is best (which elevates personal reason and sentiment above what God says).

Christians who believe the Bible is the Word of God have no choice but to speak up about right and wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral. They do this not because they hate anybody (Matthew 5:44) or because they want to prove how much better they are than others (Romans 3:23). Christians defend what the Bible says because it is the truth. The Bible tells the truth about our sinfulness, and it tells the truth about the merciful God who sent His only Son to save sinners from eternal punishment. The promise of the forgiveness of sin and victory over death is what gives meaning to lives in every generation.

– Rev. Peter Faugstad