I saw a post on social media that went something like this: “When you love people, you love all of them. There are no boundaries. If you have boundaries, you’re not living into the kingdom of God that is always expanding and always welcoming. Your boundaries are nothing but fear mongering.” At the heart of this comment is the modernist assumption that God’s love is unconditional. This is an assumption that has crept its way even into the minds of conservative Christians and it permeates the theology of liberalism. To say “when you love people, you love all of them,” I agree wholeheartedly that you cannot distinguish between race, ethnicity, nationality, language, gender, social status, wealth, or ability. Things, by and large, that are out of an individual’s control. As Christians we must love our brothers and sisters in the faith regardless of their physical or social differences. As Christians, we can never love sin nor those who refuse to repent of their sinful lifestyle.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when clergy commit the sin of eisegesis. To be perfectly honest, I, too, have fallen into that sin. Most of the time the Holy Spirit stops me before I can preach it, but sometimes my pride and sinfulness get in the way. For those times, it is upon me to repent and restate correctly where I erred.
For those who don’t know, eisegesis is reading an interpretation into a biblical text. Exegesis — the proper form of interpretation — reads out of the text what the passage says. Justin Taylor provides an excellent example in a 2015 article printed in Tabletalk Magazine. He says,
Sometime ago I saw a post on social media that went something like this: We need more people who love and accept people for who they are. I believe Jesus intended that. I hear similar attestations from conservative “seeker-friendly” churches to liberal, unbiblical churches. “Come as you are” is a popular phrase that sounds evangelical — indeed, it’s basis is — but nine times out of ten, when it is applied, it is pseudo-evangelical.
Come as you are or Love people where they are is not wholly unbiblical. Many times and across both Testaments, God met people where they were: in the rut of their sinfulness. God met Sarah where she was, laughing at the promise of a son in her old age (Genesis 18:1-15), which moved her to name him Isaac, “laughter” (Genesis 21:1-7). God met David where he was, sending Nathan to call out the king’s sin (II Samuel 12:1-25), which moved him to repentance (Psalm 51). Jesus met Zacchaeus where he was, cheating his kinsmen of their money, which moved him to restitution (Luke 19:1-10). Paul met Onesimus where he was, hiding as a runaway slave, which moved him to accept Christ and become a brother in the faith with his Christian master (Philemon 10-16). On and on the examples go of people being met by God where they are.
Notice a common thread through those examples? Let me present one more.
The interpretation of Scripture has been and always will be at the center of theological debates. For the majority of Christians, Scripture represents God's will for mankind, but the application thereof is hotly contested. In fact, some may see the differences present in Paul's letters compared to John's or Peter's as evidence that different interpretations are part of the very fabric of the Christianity handed down to us. Even the way Jesus interprets the Hebrew Scriptures is different from those of the Sadducees and Pharisees. Even though there are many different interpretations of Scripture, the majority of Christians also agree that the Scriptures ought to be applied to the Christian life.
There is no getting around that part. No amount of interpretation will translate away the necessity of biblical living without first undermining the gospel. Again, the type of biblical living will be interpreted differently, but it will nevertheless be there. As a Calvinist, I understand the whole of Scripture to be a testament to the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus isn't just limited to the four Gospels, or even just the New Testament. Both the Old Testament and the New reveal to us God's plan of salvation as culminated in His Son, Jesus. This means, when both Testaments are in agreement about something, then my attention must surely be placed therein.
When my alma mater, Princeton Theological Seminary, announced that this year's Kuyper Prize will be awarded to Rev. Dr. Timothy Keller, I honestly wasn't move. I believe I only went to one Kuyper lecture during my time at PTS, and I think I went because I was photographing the event for the publications office. To be even more honest, I only really know Kuyper by name and not by theology or his contributions to Calvinism. So when I first heard that Keller would receive the prize, I thought, "Oh, that's interesting."