Are the Red Letters More Important?

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Hey TD,

Does your Bible contain red letters highlighting Jesus’ own words in the New Testament?  Most do, but some don’t.  Those that don’t are that way for a reason.  Here’s a recent thought from our friend, radio apologist and author, Greg Koukl, from Stand to Reason, about this, about how to use and NOT use the red letters in our evangelism and apologetics.  Something to think about. – Arthur

Are the Red Letters More Important?

Twice recently I’ve noticed people making a theological point based on what Jesus, allegedly, did not say. In both instances I have the same questions: So what? Why should it matter what Jesus did not say?

I have three points in mind with these questions. They have to do with a tactical maneuver, a misstep in thinking, and a misunderstanding about the Bible that so-called “red letter” Christians seem to fall into.

First, notice the tactic being employed here: appeal to authority. The person making the comment is trying to bolster her point of view by enlisting Jesus as her ally, as a person whose views must be reckoned with.

Now, on this point I completely agree. What’s odd, though, is that this appeal is often made by people who seem completely unconcerned with Jesus’ opinion until it appears He sides with them. This looks suspiciously like special pleading. If, for example, Jesus had condemned the behavior in question, would that make a difference to the challenger? If not, then why bring Jesus into the discussion at all?

So, first I want to point out that if Jesus’ opinion on any one issue matters, maybe we should take His counsel on other things for the same reason.

For example, even if we have no record of Jesus’ thoughts on, say homosexuality, did He weigh in on the closely related issue of marriage? He did, it turns out: From the beginning, God designed, endorsed, and intended marriage and sex (“one flesh”) solely for long term, monogamous, heterosexual unions (Matt. 19:4-5). Shouldn’t this teaching of Jesus’ have a legitimate bearing on the debate, if His opinion really matters?

Now to the logical misstep. Nothing meaningful can be concluded from Jesus’ reticence on any issue because it’s a mistake to assume Christ must favor whatever He doesn’t explicitly condemn.

There’s a deeper theological concern here regarding Scripture, especially when the “Jesus never said anything about that” comment comes from a Christian. The mistake is thinking that the verses in red letters (the actual words of Jesus) have more authority than the rest of the Bible.

Our doctrine of Scripture entails that all the holy writings are “God breathed” (called verbal plenary inspiration). Therefore, Jesus’ words have no more authority than Jude’s, and Paul’s words have no less authority than Christ’s. In fact, since Jesus is God—the same God who inspired all of Scripture—in a very real sense, Titus’s words and Paul’s words are Jesus’ words.

Since the same doctrine supporting Jesus’ words endorses every other biblical writer, singling out Jesus as a special authority undermines the doctrine of inspiration for all of Scripture. Consequently, Jesus’ own words fall under the cloud, especially since He wrote nothing Himself, but entrusted that task to His followers.

No, nothing helpful follows from Jesus’ apparent silence on any issue. Don’t make this mistake yourself. And don’t let others slip it by you, either. Simply say, “Jesus never said anything about that? So what? Let’s look at what the Bible does say.”

Thoughtfully yours,

Greg Koukl

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