Lauren Daigle has been on the scene for several years as an extremely talented (and now accomplished) contemporary Christian singer. Her first songs a couple of years ago were immediately attention grabbing because she has a voice that is so unique and of such a high quality that it’s hard to ignore when she comes on. She’s drawn some comparisons to Adele, and I think these are warranted comparisons. (Note, a comparison isn’t an equivocation – it just means that there are similarities.)
Daigle has come under fire recently for her statements regarding whether or not homosexuality is a sin. In an interview with iHeart radio, she said,
“In a sense, I have too many people that I love that they are homosexual. I don't know. I actually had a conversation with someone last night about it. I can't say one way or the other. I'm not God. So when people ask questions like that, that's what my go-to is. I just say read the Bible and find out for yourself. And when you find out, let me know, because I'm learning, too."
It is hard to imagine that she really doesn’t know what the Bible says about homosexuality. But since no one has omniscience, one could say that it is fair to give her the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps she doesn’t know. After all, she did say to read the Bible and let her know, since she is apparently still learning. But maybe she does, and she doesn’t want to give an opinion that could lose fans (although, this opinion has lost her some fans as well.)
Let’s consider the two possibilities: Either she does know and she’s afraid to take a definite stand, or she doesn’t know, being a Bible-belt-raised Christian who doesn’t know the basics of Biblical sexual ethics. Either option provides somewhat of a snapshot of problems with American evangelicalism.
Maybe she knows
The former possibility (that she knows Scripture and won’t take a stand) snapshots the problem of Christians claiming the Christian name but not being committed to the authority of the Christian sacred text, which we call the Bible. Instead, one of the primary teachings of the sacred text (love) has grown to usurp the authority of the very text from which it came.* Since love is the authority (as a listener to Christian radio, Lauren Daigle’s workplace, may conclude), propositional truth concepts that could be potentially challenging to another person’s lifestyle or beliefs quickly become no-nos.
This is why Daigle said elsewhere,
“I think the second we start drawing lines around which people are able to be approached and which aren't, we've already completely missed the heart of God.”
But no one is saying a homosexual can’t be approached. In fact, Christians think that all people – homosexual, heterosexual, etc. – need Jesus. But embracing Jesus means embracing His opinions about what is right and wrong. “Why do you call me Lord but don’t do what I tell you?” (Lk. 6:46) If Daigle knows what the Scripture says and is afraid to confront what Scripture confronts, then she apparently doesn’t understand how one can simultaneously love someone and disagree with them.
The real issue, as it appears to me, is that there is some other authority over our cultural conscience, and perhaps there are many varying authorities over our own personal consciences, instead of God’s truth as He has revealed it in His Word. Daigle is not the first professing Christian who has publically claimed that she can’t say one way or another whether something is wrong because she’s not God, implying that we need to leave all judgments to God.
But to imply this is to say that we therefore should stop reading the Bible, because it so emphatically confronts and condemns so many things as wrong and in need of forsaking. Perhaps this is the greater reason for Biblical illiteracy in the 21st century church: Fear of becoming as judgmental as God is. After all, Jesus said that we shouldn’t judge because we’ll be judged with our own standard, right? (Matt .7:1-6). But in the same passage Jesus said to remove the log from our eyes (judge ourselves) so that we can remove the speck from our brother’s eyes (judge others rightly)! Further, Jesus very clearly told His followers that they need to learn to judge rightly (Jn.7:24). In short, where does Jesus stand on being judgmental? Learn to judge rightly, but be careful because it’ll be turned around on you in the end. And we need Scripture to straighten out our standard so that we can discern what is righteous and what isn’t.** Therefore Paul says that only by being transformed in our minds can we learn to discern what pleases God (Rom. 12:2).
But maybe she doesn’t know
The latter option – that Daigle doesn’t know what the Bible says – snapshots a problem I’ve already alluded to: Christians today don’t know the Bible. And this apparently applies to Christians in the public sphere as well. It just seems like the church is at an post-Reformation all-time low when it comes to Biblical illiteracy.
But if this is so, it begs a question: What then makes a person a Christian?
-Is it “believing in Jesus”? Then what does it mean to believe in Jesus – just in his existence, or even further, in his power? That qualifies us as demons (Jms. 2:19, cf. Lk. 4:34). Or is to believe in his life, death, and resurrection, and what it means for me? Most Christians would say, “That’s the one.” But you can’t have this without the Bible, which you can’t have without the Bible’s morality, too.
-It is having grown up in the church? It can’t just be that – the Bible quite clearly says that one isn’t a child of God just by being born as a human. One must be reborn as a Christian (see John 1:12-13). Again, we need the Bible to understand this.
-Is it being an American? Does being an American make a person a Christian? No, and it never has. A Christian is a citizen of heaven first(Phil. 3:20). One must embrace the Biblical message of Jesus, His Kingdom, and His atoning work at the cross. Further, Jesus’ kingdom is to intentionally span across every tribe, tongue, and nation (Rev. 5:9).
A Pillar of Truth
The Apostle Paul said that the church is the pillar of truth in the world (1 Tim. 3:15). This means that if the whole world continues to morph in its understanding of what is true and absolute or right and wrong (or, in our case today, in its recategorizing of ethics so that “right and wrong” is thought of as the wrong paradigm all together, being too “binary”), those worn out by the shifting shades of grey should be able to look at the church to find truth. And if truth can’t be found in the church, the church is no longer the church. Thus the apostle writes, “I rejoice to find you walking in the truth” (2 Jn. 4), and Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth. It is a sad day when people claim Christ but don't think Christ's thoughts after Him, especially when we are supposed to "have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:15). But if we don't think the Bible is clear enough or trustworthy enough, how can we have the mind of Christ in the least?
Post-modern Christian tension
You may notice by now that I don’t want to throw Lauren Daigle out as not being a Christian because of what she said. Perhaps she doesn’t know what the Bible says. Or perhaps she does, and she, like many today, doesn’t understand how to love Jesus’ truth and love her friends well. My prayer is that she’ll love Jesus enough to abide in His Word (Jn. 14:15, 15:5f). In this way her love for her homosexual friends will be a love that shares with them the love and truth of Jesus, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” (Is. 30:21). She may then add, “If you don’t walk in Jesus’ way, I still love you, will pray for you, and will be there for you. But if I have to choose between you and Jesus, I’m going to choose Jesus, because He loved me, and gave Himself for me. And I’m only really being your friend if I want you to know him, too. But I only really know Him if I accept His standard of righteousness. So come, let’s repent and follow Jesus together.”
This tension – how to slay sin and follow Jesus while loving our friends who aren’t slaying sin and following Jesus – is a difficult place for the Christian. But this is what it means to be the church, the pillar truth: In the midst of the shifting opinions of men, we are to stand firm on Christ’s word, prayerfully seeking to radiate Christ’s warmth to a cold world that is dead in sin, and totally unaware of it. And in being steadfast and faithful this way, we’ll be fruitful too.
*Further, the Bible defineslove:
-1 Corinthians 13: Love is patient, kind, slow to anger, hoping all things, etc. See there.
-John 14:15: obeying Christ, which, extrapolated, means treating a person how they should be treated, like Jesus, being the Son of man, should be obeyed.
-1 John 5:1-2: we only love others when we love God and walk in His way (2 Jn. 6)
-Matthew 22:34-40 Jesus says that to love God with your whole self and love your neighbor IS the Law, whereas at Matt. 7:12 He says treating others how you’d want to be treated is the Law. Apparently love for others means treating them how you’d want to be. And since Jesus speaks in Matt. 7 during the sermon on the mount to Christians who are striving for perfection (5:45), love does not exclude sharing God’s standard so people will know what He wants from them.
Thus, our definition of love today is significantly different than God's.
**For the record, I believe this to be the singular cause when any branch of Christianity veils or forsakes the absolute authority of the Bible over all of life.