As I have discussed elsewhere, people have many different ideas about what the Bible is. Some will say that it contains “everything we need for life and godliness“—including the various lists and passages identifying just which acts are sins.
But is this true?
Or are there some acts that are indeed sinful in God’s eyes, even though they are not so listed in the Bible?
Consider the following:
- Having sex with children
- Owning slaves
Unless I have missed it, there are no passages in the Bible that explicitly address these things as being sinful. Yet if the bajillion Christians who hold that one or more of these things are sinful are indeed right about them (and I’m not saying that they’re wrong), it is quite instructive that the Bible does not contain explicit prohibitions of these things.
Further, some sins that are identified as sins in the Bible are not as well-defined as one might naturally expect them to be. Take “lust”, for example. It is mentioned many times, but where is it defined? Consider the following questions about its exact meaning and witness that we could benefit considerably from having good answers for these questions:
- Is it lustful to notice that a person is physically attractive?
- Is it lustful to stare at a particularly beautiful face, or at someone’s fascinating eyes, or perhaps at the hair of someone with a particularly rich hair color or a fascinating hairdo?
- Is it lustful to have an emotional response to a person’s beauty or handsomeness? (As in, “Wow! What a gorgeous person!” Or, “Holy Cow! What perfect teeth!” Or, “What a stunning couple they make!”)
- When you see enough of a person’s body to develop an opinion that the person is attractive (such as a smile, perhaps), is it lustful to wonder what that person’s unseen features (the legs, for example) look like?
- Is it lust to have sexual thoughts about one’s own fiance? If so, how can it possibly be avoided as a wedding night is being planned?
Don’t misunderstand me here; I’m not trying to suggest that there’s not really a sin called “lust”, but only that there are some pretty good questions about it that simply aren’t answered explicitly in the Bible. And it doesn’t stop there. To give yet another example, some have questions and concerns about what acts are appropriate (and inappropriate) in the marriage bed.
Wouldn’t it be helpful, however, to have explicit instructions regarding these and similar issues? Yet no such instructions exist in the Bible. This challenges the idea that many have about just whatever it is that the Bible is supposed to be. It may well be inspired and authentic and authoritative, but we can freely observe that it is not “complete” in the normal sense of that word. And this may well make a great many people nervous, for it suggests that maybe it’s just not that easy to get all the answers we’d like to have; maybe it takes lots of work!