Posted On July 31, 2022

An Interview with Dave Jenkins on The Word Matters

by | Jul 31, 2022 | Featured, Your Morals or Mine? Learning to Navigate the Waters of Christian Ethics

Dave Jenkins is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and is the Host for the Equipping You in Grace Podcast. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It, and his soon-to-be released book titled, The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age.

T4L: Hello, Dave! Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. We’re so excited about your new book, The Word Matters. The subject matter is so needed in our world today. We want to give our readers a little sampling of what they can expect with your new book. So, let’s dig right in! Our first question is: Why is it important to allow Scripture to inform our beliefs and what we “hear from the Lord”?

Dave Jenkins: Thanks for having me on this interview! To answer your question: the only way to have a proper view of knowledge for the Christian is when it comes from the Word of God. For the Christian to hear from the Lord doesn’t require outside sources. Truth for the Christian must come from divine revelation. Theologians call this “special revelation”, which means Scripture is enough for Christians to know God. I’ll also state that Scripture is the only way for people to know the Lord. Scripture is to inform and transform our understanding. Scripture is binding on the hearts and minds of people, so to believe Scripture, we must also obey it via the power of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

T4L: In your opinion, is there a way we can be assured that seeming answers to prayer are of the Lord?

Dave Jenkins: Hebrews 4:14-16 teaches that Jesus is the High Priest over His people. In the Old Testament, the high priest had to be ceremonially and ritually clean and only did this once a year. Only then could he enter into the Most Holy Place where the Presence of God dwelt. So today, the only way for Christians to be assured that their prayers are heard and known by God is that they must be born again. And it’s also important to say our prayers as Christians are to be aligned with the Word of God. This is the only way that we can have assurance that our prayers will be answered by the Lord. Even so, it’s also important to say that in the providence of God, not all of our prayers are always answered the way that we want. In this way, even our prayers require faith and trust in the sovereignty of God, as revealed in His Word. Our prayers are to be grounded in Scripture, not to be driven by our feelings or mysticism. In this way, we will not be deceived through ideas or feelings not grounded in the Word when we pray.

T4L: That’s a great point! It reminds me of Hosea 4:6, which says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me.” We cannot truly know the will of God without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. So, why are the concepts of inerrancy and infallibility so crucial as they relate to the Bible and, subsequently, Church doctrine?

Dave Jenkins: Well, inerrancy means without error, and infallibility means without the possibility of error. Both are vital for the Christian because many today suggest that the Scripture is without error, but what they mean is (at least in practice) they think the Bible is without error in so far as it doesn’t clash with their views on gender, sexuality, or other “controversial” issues. And if it does, they immediately think the Bible is with error, which is the opposite of what inerrancy means. But the stronger term, infallibility, also matters because it buttresses our understanding of the doctrine of Scripture. Since the Bible is without error and without the possibility of error, we believe what the Bible teaches and aim to hold fast to all of Scripture.

T4L: We see a lot of debate today about how certain key pieces of Scripture have been supposedly misinterpreted for thousands of years—such as the Church’s stance on homosexuality or creation. Why do you think these texts are being challenged now, and what can we do to combat this?

Dave Jenkins: The “misinterpretation of Scripture” in recent years comes as people reject the authority of the Bible. As a result, those who reject the Bible aim to re-interpret passages such as those on homosexuality, to “normalize” their view in the church and society. Since, as Christians, we believe that the Bible means what it says, we aim to handle the Word of God rightly. Rightly handling the Word of God comes from our convictions about the Bible itself. And that’s why the authority of the Bible matters. To respond to these challenges, we need to rightly emphasize the authority of the Bible and the right handling of God’s Word.

T4L: Great points. We are seeing a lot of “misinterpretations”, as you just mentioned, the more society rejects God’s Word. This leads me to my next question. In your book you mentioned someone named Friedrich Schleiermacher, who apparently has impacted Christian culture. In what way do we see his influence in the Church today?

Dave Jenkins: Friedrich Schleiermacher emphasized feelings over fact. Historically, theologians have called Schleiermacher’s view a “theology from below”, where Scripture and feelings are at the same level. Conservative, bible-believing Christians have emphasized, instead a “theology from above”.

A theology from above says that Scripture is to regulate our feelings, rather than our feelings and Scripture at the same level. For example, someone may emphasize how they “feel” that they are correct about a specific interpretation of Scripture. Instead, as Christians, we don’t ground our faith in our feelings but in the Word of God.

The attitude of someone who believes in (and practices) a theology from below will be overly focused on what he/she thinks and feels, rather than grounding his/her life in the revealed Word of God.

T4L: Speaking of a “theology from below”, why do you think so many Christians cling to the ideas espoused by Charles Darwin in his book, Origin of Species, despite its blatant contradictions to the Bible?

Dave Jenkins: The simple answer is that many Christians have bought into the lie that the Bible teaches evolution, or that somehow the ideas of both creationism and evolution can co-exist. The other answer is that they never believed the Bible, which is more foundational. How we approach Genesis matters because Moses wrote the book of Genesis under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. A literal Genesis 1-11 matters because it provides the foundation for how Jesus and the Apostles used Scripture.

T4L: How has the “Theory of Evolution” affected the worldview of many, and how has this turned people away from the truth of the Bible?

Dave Jenkins: The theory of evolution offers people an alternative view of how the world was made and how the world is governed today. Rather than believing that God created everything and sustains the world, even themselves, people reject this. Because believing that God created everything means that they owe their allegiance to the Lord. And since we are sinners by nature and choice, we would instead turn away from the Lord than take Him at His Word.

At the heart of this, we are deceived by our flesh, thinking we matter more than God, but are also deceived by Satan because we don’t believe the truth of His Word. This explains why people turn away from the truth of the Bible because the Holy Spirit uses the Word to pierce the minds and hearts of sinners and show them the truth. Sinners hate the light and the truth, but they need the light of God’s Word because it is the truth the Holy Spirit uses to draw sinners to Christ, save them, and disciple them to grow in His grace.

T4L: Understanding the Scriptures and taking God at His Word is so crucial for us, as believers. Our biblical worldview—a correct understanding of both Scripture and the world around us, depends on this. Unfortunately, many are biblically illiterate and therefore easily deceived. Many of my neighbors are Mormon or Jehovah’s Witnesses—aren’t they Christians? Can you explain how such “sects” of Christianity have distorted Scripture and its interpretation?

Dave Jenkins: There’s a lot that can be said about this particular question, but at the heart of it is what the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses do with the Bible. They both retranslate the Protestant Bible and change it to suit their theology—even going as far as to completely remove certain verses.[i] This shows that they don’t think the Bible is enough, nor is it clear, nor do they believe it is binding. It also reveals unbelief and a lack of trust in the Lord. It is impossible for the non-Christians, which Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are, to correctly translate the Bible (1st Corinthians 2:14), for they have no illumination of Scripture, which is why even being a pastor or theologian does not guarantee one’s salvation.

In John 12:28-29, Jesus prays to the Father, “Father, glorify your name…” The Father responds with an audible voice that everyone hears. Even so, the crowd interprets the voice differently, “The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.” Everyone heard the same thing, a plain statement from heaven, yet everyone also heard what they wanted to hear.

No biblically literate Christian will distort Scripture, but rather take it for what it is—the Word of God that reveals who God is, what His character is like, who Jesus is, and what He commands His people to do by the grace of God through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

During the Reformation, the Church Reformers aimed to put a stop to speculative and wrong interpretations of Scripture by setting forth the principle of the analogy of faith—meaning that Scripture is its own best interpreter. According to this rule of biblical interpretation, Christians are to interpret Scripture according to Scripture.

Scripture, according to the analogy of faith, is the supreme judge in interpreting the meaning of a particular verse, in light of the whole teaching of the Bible. Behind the idea of the analogy of faith is confidence in the Bible as God’s consistent and coherent Word. The governing principle of the analogy of faith is to guide biblical interpretation.

Sensus Literalis is the principle that governs an objective interpretation of Scripture. Sensus Literalis means Christians must interpret the Bible in the sense in which it is given. For example, parables are interpreted as parables, symbols as symbols, poetry as poetry, historical narratives as historical narratives, and letters as letters.

Challenging biblical passages are challenging for a reason, but they are to be interpreted in light of the clear biblical passages concerning the subject. Though all Scripture is clear enough for general interpretation, not all biblical passages are equally clear. Numerous heresies, for example, have erred on that particular point and forced conformity to the obscure passages rather than to the clear biblical passages.

As a result, these heresies have distorted the whole Bible. If something remains unclear in one part of the Bible, it is made clearer elsewhere in the Word of God. Further, let’s say we have two biblical passages that can be interpreted in a variety of ways. In such an instance, we must always interpret the Bible in such a way as not to violate Scripture’s unity and integrity.

The Bible is to be interpreted literally, which means the Word of God is not to be handled as a secret codebook to unlock the world’s secrets mysteries. Christians are to read the Bible like any other work of literature, for in doing so, our goal is to read the Scriptures correctly.

By reading the Bible literally, we are accounting for the intent of the biblical authors and the literary conventions of the particular style they used to address Bible readers. For example, we do not read poetry the same way we read the historical narrative of the Bible, for poetry employs rich imagery that serves as a figurative depiction of reality. The historical narrative gives an orderly account of what happened.

The goal in reading the Bible literally is to get the plain sense of the text, and thereby arrive at the meaning of the biblical passage. In inspiring the Word of God, the Holy Spirit guided the human authors to employ literary styles such as poetry, proverb, narrative, sermon, epistle, and many other styles.

While there are rules for each of these genres, we are not to violate them for the sake of allegorical readings that does not connect with the meaning of the biblical text. Reading the Bible is critical for Christians, but we are to do so according to proper hermeneutics, taking into account the various literary styles. If we fail in this, we will get the wrong meaning. The plain meaning of a passage is best for reading poetry as poetry, narrative as narrative (etc.); we will get the meaning that is controlled by the text and arrive at the proper interpretation and application of the biblical passage.

T4L: With your explanation of biblical interpretation in mind, and since we’ve covered a little on creationism versus the theory of evolution, I wanted to briefly circle back to a related subject. How does the belief that Adam was not a real person in real history have an impact on Christian theology and Church doctrine?

Dave Jenkins: I could say a lot about this, but I’ll be brief on my answer to this question. Our understanding of Adam will determine our view of gender roles since they were established pre-fall.

Further, our understanding of Adam affects our understanding of sin, the fall, salvation, marriage, church officers, and more. So, understanding the concept of Adam as a real person is what I call “determinative”, because Paul, for example, in Romans 5:12-21, says that our understanding of Adam affects our view of salvation. Paul also uses the creation of Adam as the foundational reason men are to be pastors and elders in the church (1st Timothy 3:1-5; Titus 1:5-9) and why men lead in the home (Ephesians 5). Therefore, understanding Adam affects every facet of our Christian life and ministry.

T4L: So essentially, Adam affects our understanding of…well, pretty much everything. [Laughs.] A lot of people in our society consider the model of a nuclear family, with a patriarchal headship, to be outdated at best, and sexiest (and in certain extremes “toxic”) at worst. How is our understanding of gender roles and gender identity—especially with consideration to modern themes of feminism—an influence on the way we perceive and interpret Scripture?

Dave Jenkins: This is a good question. A Christian’s understanding of gender roles and gender identity comes from a correct understanding of God’s Word. In answer to a previous question in this interview, I emphasized the correct interpretation and the right understanding of God’s Word. A correct understanding of God’s Word, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, will help Christians interpret the Bible rightly.

Our interpretation of the Bible is controlled by our understanding of Scripture and its authority. If a feminist comes to God’s Word thinking (before they even read or study the Bible) that feminism or any number of other things are right/accurate, they will be controlled by their feministic views as they handle God’s Word.

When someone humbles him/herself and rightly handles the Scriptures, they are recognizing that it is given by God and therefore for their good in every area and every phase of life. This principle of interpretation regulates their handling of God’s Word, which then affects how they understand gender roles and gender identity.

In summation: Gender identity is a gift of God—not something we assign for ourselves. We see this in Genesis 1-2. God created Adam and saw it was good. The Lord did not want Adam to be alone, so He took one of Adam’s ribs and made Eve. God specifically assigned a gender to Adam and Eve as male and female, respectively. Our gender, whether we are a man or woman at the moment of birth, is a gift from the Lord. And as such, our gender must be carefully stewarded, just as one would care for any other gift from the Lord. Distorting our gender assaults the glory of God, who created us. This gender distortion reveals that we don’t believe God created us “correctly” (or at all). Instead, by changing our gender, we reveal our lack of faith and trust in God, assaulting His glory, through which His creation of man in His likeness and image is revealed. Thus, such a view reveals a lack of faith and trust in the Lord Himself.

T4L: It truly is sad that so many people have fallen prey to this lie and their own distrust in God. It’s this same ideology that leads me to my next question. Many people believe in the phrase, “love is love”. Why has this been harmful to the Church, and how does this philosophy contradict what Scripture teaches?

Dave Jenkins: In 1st John 4, Scripture teaches that God is love. So, we can see that “God is love” is a biblical concept. With that said, when we emphasize “love” at the expense of God’s justice, wrath, or holiness, the image of “God” you’re upholding is not the biblical God, but a false god—an idol.

This is a dangerous concept of contemporary progressive “theology”, which suggests that God is only to be known by His love. One example of the outworking of such a philosophy is the Presbyterian Church of the USA’s attempting to remove any mention of wrath from the song, “In Christ Alone”, by the Gettys. The Gettys rejected this request (and rightly so!) because they believe that the wrath of God was satisfied at the cross by Christ Himself.

When the phrase “love is love” is used, a person is attempting to exalt his/her own feelings over God Himself. Now, it needs to be said our feelings are important to the Lord. God is not disinterested in our feelings; He cares about them. There are 150 Psalms that abundantly express the whole range of human emotion.

Further, Jesus suffered intense agony and the full range of human emotions as the God-Man. Hebrews 2:17-18 and 4:14-16 tell us that what separates Jesus from sinful man is that He never sinned. It is because Christ is sinless that He is perfectly suited in every way to meet our great need for a Savior, which is what He became. He did this, Paul says in Romans 5:1-5, at just the right time, to save the ungodly. It was out of His love for us that He did this. The love of Jesus for His people is sufficient in every way.

Since Christ has bled, died, rose again, and ascended to Heaven, He is perfectly suited to love us. Jesus is wisdom personified, and as such can express Himself perfectly, whereas our sin skews our feelings. Through reading and studying God’s Word, we can learn to handle our emotions in a God-honoring way that will help us know God’s love and express it to others as Scripture teaches.

T4L: Okay, so as long as I’m in a heterosexual relationship, I’m okay to do whatever I want with regards to relationships with others?

Dave Jenkins: The way you phrased that question (“I’m okay to do whatever I want”) is interesting, because the Apostle Paul would counter that point with Romans 6:1, “May it never be!” The Christian is doubly owned since it is the same Lord who created us that is also the One who gives us life, breath, and upholds and sustains the world. But He is also the Lord who secures every Christian. No Christian then can live however they want or do whatever they want.

As I discussed previously in answer to another question, God gives one his/her gender at birth. So, we cannot change our gender identity, nor can we ever change our natural attraction under our own power. A man is naturally attracted to a woman, and a woman is attracted to a man. When a man is attracted to a man or a woman is attracted to another woman, the Bible calls that disordered desires. Disordered desires do not align with our God-given desire of a man for a woman and a woman for a man in covenant marriage for life.

So, the answer to your question is “no”. We not only cannot do whatever we want, whether that’s in a heterosexual or a homosexual relationship, but a straight man or woman cannot cohabitate before marriage because doing so violates the marriage covenant. It is considered adultery in the Bible. When a man and man, or a woman and woman, or a man and two women, or two women and a man, or any other number of variations “hook up”, that is a violation of the God-given order. God created one man and one woman to be married for life under His authority.

It equally needs to be said that any form of sex outside of marriage—whether a “casual hook-up”, pornography, pedophilia, or homosexual relations (etc.), is a sin. This is important to note because many people assume that when you talk about sexual sin, you’re not referring to anything outside of homosexuality. They may say, “Okay, I know you are against homosexual and transgender relationships”, but neglect to consider other sexual situations. To be clear, this is not about being “against” people, but rather against all types of sexual sin, because it is cosmic treason against the Lord.

Sin violates the law of God, and all sexual interactions outside of God’s definition of marriage, are sin. All sin is deserving of death and hell. But God! God saves sinners and reconciles them to Himself, through the death and resurrection of Christ. This is why we cannot do whatever we want, whenever we want. When we do, we cheapen the costly grace of Christ and our need for Him. Christ enables us to do what He commands and transforms us from children of wrath into children of God. In this way, He enables us to obey His commands for His glory.

T4L: My co-worker is a transgender person, who claims to be a Christian. She seems sincere in her faith, but clearly has a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God. How should I approach “her” with the gospel?

Dave Jenkins: I think I would have her define what “faith” means to her. And depending on her answer, I would start working with her from that point. Because what sincere faith means to a biblically minded Christian, and what it means to others, differs greatly.

Faith is not meant to be about me or what I think. It is what God defines and then commands because of His work of grace in our lives. Many people are under the wrong impression that because they have “faith” in something, that is saving faith. Saving faith, however, means not only that we believe in the death and resurrection of Christ, but also that such faith is to produce a transformed life. If there is no life-change, there is likely no possession of saving faith.

What that means is salvation leads to a transformed life. If there is no transformed life, there was likely never saving faith to begin with. Beginning with what saving faith is and then seeing how the person responds can help determine if they are a Christian (although, we should always remember that only the Lord truly knows what is in the heart). The Holy Spirit will testify to this person’s heart that they are a child of God. If they are a child of God, this person would need help in understanding biblical gender roles and gender identity.

As the question asks, I would begin with the image of God and biblical gender roles; after working through the questions, I would ask her about saving faith and the outward manifestation of saving faith. Then I would work on identity and whether her identity is rooted in the world or Christ. Since she claims to have saving faith but is transgender, I think this is important because a Christian has a new identity that isn’t defined by what gender assignment they have. Instead, their identity is rooted in who Christ is and what He has done on their behalf.

The Bible never defines a Christian by their gender identity (transgender or cisgender, homosexual or heterosexual) but as a man or woman in need of Christ who saves and transforms. Put another way, we are not who we think we are, but we are who Christ has made us be.

I want to emphasize who we are in Christ for this reason, and in Christ, discuss what saving faith is. When ministering to a transgendered person, a good understanding of one’s identity in Christ is imperative for helping the person discover who they were meant to be, and are becoming, through His Spirit.

As you are continuing to minister to any transgendered person, always pray and ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the truth of God’s Word.

T4L: Excellent advice, thank you! Last question: many people believe their life’s goal should be to “find oneself” and learn how to love oneself—how has this philosophy impacted the Church and what can we do to point these people in the right direction?

Dave Jenkins: I discussed earlier the idea of a “theology from above” versus a “theology from below”, which gets to the heart of this question. A theology from below emphasizes how our feelings and emotions are on par with the importance and authority of Scripture. A theology from above emphasizes how Scripture is to regulate our feelings, and we submit our feelings to what Scripture teaches. The goal of finding oneself is the antithesis of the biblical goal of knowing Christ, who is the treasure of our hearts.

The Christian is not against discovering who they are in Christ, as determined by Scripture. But we are against the modern notion of “discovering oneself” from a psychological and sociological perspective. The concept of discovering oneself means that we cannot know who we are apart from “discovering” our past and inner self. But since our past doesn’t define us as Christians, because of Christ and His regenerative work in our lives, we reject these psychological constructs. Furthermore, Christianity is not about finding one’s happiness in oneself, or discovering one’s “real self”, as if a person could ever do that. Modern psychology has sought to do this, but this experiment fails because people are guilt-ridden and find no true hope in such attempts. True happiness is found in obedience to the commands of God.

Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Notice what the Psalmist says here to answer the question about one finds joy. The Psalmist doesn’t say we find ourselves by finding happiness in ourselves, or by discovering how “great” we are. Instead, the Psalmists says, “You make known to me the path of life,” which means that the Lord has specifically revealed Himself in His Word. This is the only way we can know the path of life, because God has revealed Himself in the sixty-six books of the Bible.

Since the Lord has revealed Himself in His Word, we can know joy because the joy of the Lord is our strength. Because joy—true joy—is available in Christ alone. And we can find that joy because Christ is our High Priest, who enables us to enter into the presence of God (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Furthermore, we can only know the Lord and have joy in Him because He has revealed Himself. Therefore, we will have such joy forevermore and be satisfied because of Christ alone. This is why we don’t need to discover ourselves or even love ourselves. We need to first love the Lord, by taking Him at His Word about our sin, believing what Christ (in His death and resurrection) has done to remove the punishment for our sin, and then put our sin to death each day, so we will grow to be like Christ.

T4L: Thank you Dave for answering our questions about your excellent new book, The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age.

References:

[i] http://www.catholicapologetics.info/scripture/translations/neworld.htm

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