By now you’ve probably heard about Lauren Daigle’s comments last week. In an interview on the Domenick Nati Show, Daigle was asked whether or not she thought homosexuality was a sin, to which she replied, “I can’t honestly answer on that, in the sense of, I have too many people that I love who are homosexual. I don’t know… I’m not God.”
Now, Daigle should have known this question was coming. If you’re a Christian in the spotlight, you need to understand this is a cultural shibboleth. You’re going to have to declare exactly where you stand on this question. We’ve come to a point where anyone who wants to be socially and commercially successful must pass a morality test; unfortunately, historic Christian teaching on sexuality is on the outs. And I think Daigle probably did know this. She and the host, Domenick Nati, went on to discuss blame, judgment, and Lauren’s love life. The clear center of the interview, though, was Nati’s “tough question,” “Do you feel that homosexuality is a sin?” That’s why he had her on the show.
Never to miss an opportunity to sting evangelical Christians, Jonathon Merritt pounced on the exchange and published an article in the Atlantic over the weekend titled, “Lauren Daigle and the Lost Art of Discernment.” By the end of the article, Daigle comes out looking like a full-throated supporter of the LGBTQ movement. Merritt has a way of doing this. He’s the one who did the interview with Jen Hatmaker when she declared that same-sex marriages can be holy and glorifying to God. If you remember, he’s also the one who did the interview with Eugene Peterson in which he appeared to support same-sex marriage, only to correct the interview the next day and claim his words were taken out of context.
In the article, Merritt does bring up a very good point; the church is suffering a discernment crisis. But if you only read Merritt you might come away confused as to what the crisis really is. He concludes, “In a world that forces an answer on everything, only the mature can utter that holy phrase: ‘I don’t know.’” There’s a lot of irony here. Merritt claims we have a discernment crisis and the solution is to stop discerning morality. The tag-lines sound really good, but this cannot be right. Discernment usually has an end goal in mind.
This does raise an important question: What can Christians actually know?
What Christians Cannot Know
There are a lot of things Christians cannot know. The Bible is clear that the ways of the Lord are indiscernible to human beings. Consider the amazing doxology at the end of Romans 11: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’” There is so much we cannot know about God!
The Bible is clear that we can’t always know God’s purposes for what he does. Romans 8:28 tells us that we can trust that he works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes, but will we always know exactly how God is going to bring that good about? Can we know in every moment what God is ultimately going to do? We can’t. There are a few other things. Jesus told his disciples that even he didn’t know the time of his own return. Jesus rebuked Peter when he asked him how John was going to die. It wasn’t for him to know. We can’t always understand the way the Spirit works. It’s not for us to know.
Here’s the sad thing: there is a lot of damage that has been done in the past by Christians who have spoken where God has not, from well-meaning, and unfortunately sometimes ill-meaning, motives. Christians who have declared things on God’s behalf that have been diametrically opposed to God’s character, purposes, and his Word.
With that said, I’m worried the opposite extreme is becoming more common; believers are afraid to speak on things about which God has clearly spoken.
What Christians Can Know
There is a lot we can know. Here’s a really helpful verse: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). There are secret things we don’t know now that we will know when we’re face to face with God, and there are some things we’ll probably never know. But there are also things that have been revealed to us. We can know them, trust them, and depend on them forever.
For the all the infighting, within the broader Christian community at least, everybody’s pretty clear on Christ’s death and resurrection, justification through faith, the second coming, and the core Christian doctrines. There will always be outliers, but the doctrines in the Apostle’s Creed aren’t usually the source of intramural disputes or radio show gaffs.
It’s interesting that this issue of uncertainty never seems to come up surrounding Jesus’ moral teaching. The holy phrase, “I don’t know,” never pervades discussions of justice and standing up for the oppressed. No one claims agnosticism when it comes to stealing, adultery, or the golden rule. We can be pretty sure about what the Bible says about those things. Should we love our neighbors? I’ve never heard anyone answer, “I don’t know, I’m not God.” And I certainly wouldn’t praise them for their measured discernment.
Despite our certainty on these issues, they’re not nearly as well attested in the New Testament as God’s standard for sexuality. We have one reference to Jesus teaching the golden rule, recorded in two places (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31), but Jesus teaches on sexuality nearly ten times as often. Jesus mentions sexual immorality on at least 6 separate occasions in the gospels, recorded over a dozen times, the statements in the Sermon on the Mount being the most famous (Matthew 5:27-32).
The authors in the New Testament were mostly concerned with what Christians can know. John tells us twice that his goal in writing is to make sure we know the truth; “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
In fact, none of the authors in the New Testament seem at all confused about what we can know and not know when it comes to morality. Remember the second half of Deuteronomy 29:29; “that we may do all the words of this law.” The Bible is especially clear about what a life of obedience looks like. Will there be grey areas? Sure. Will there be situations that require some practical wisdom? Absolutely. Can we know what God’s design for sexuality is? Yes we can.
I’m willing to give Lauren Daigle the benefit of the doubt and believe she really is trying to make up her mind, and regardless of whether or not she’s sincere, I know there are a lot of Christians who really aren’t sure what they think about issues like sexuality. It’s ok to investigate. It’s ok to look into what the Bible says. It’s not ok to pretend the Bible doesn’t speak when it does. It’s not ok to claim agnosticism when it suits our purposes.
There is a discernment crisis in the American church, and I’m thankful when these issues arise because they encourage us to seek out what God has revealed to us, to stand on the promises God has made - to a thousand generations of his people. I’m thankful for the challenge to consider where we’ve spoken that God has not, and to reflect on ways that Christians have done harm. But most of all, we must understand that speaking where God has spoken is a courage crisis. The culture would love nothing more than a group of Christians who walk and talk exactly like everyone else, claim not to know what the Bible says on controversial issues, and fade quietly into the background of society. But we have more to offer than that. We have the words of life. Let’s discern what has been said, what to say, and when to say it.