Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Fighting Tooth and Nail to Interpret the Bible Honestly

In eternity past, God devised His Bible project. He decided that He would create a group of writings to teach human beings things that they need to know. And then in history He fulfilled this plan by using certain people to bring this literature into existence.

Although humans had some input into the Bible, it is essentially a divine thing. God chose what to put in it, and we can be sure that He knew what He was doing.

Dishonesty in using the Bible

Because the Bible is from God, it should be obvious that Christians need to take what it says extremely seriously. And this means that we should always be as honest as we can be about everything in it.

Sadly, however, this often doesn’t happen.

I spend a lot of time reading up on various Christian issues. When I do, I am frequently dismayed by the amount of biased and dishonest interpretation of biblical passages that goes on, sometimes even by well-known Christian leaders.

Time and again, I come across forced interpretations of texts by those who seem determined to make them say what they want them to. It is also very common for Christians to ignore passages that are difficult for their views or to exaggerate the support that passages provide for the case they are making.

Many Christians do these sorts of things so much that they can’t be making much of an effort to be honest with what they are reading.

Motivation for dishonesty varies

The motivation for dishonest use of the Bible varies.

Sometimes there is at least a legitimate desire to oppose false teaching. The following, or something similar to it, often happens:

A truth of the Christian faith comes under attack. A Christian sees this happening and wants to defend against it. They therefore respond by quoting biblical passages. However, they don’t find it easy to make their case. So they try to manufacture extra support for their arguments by dishonestly interpreting parts of the Bible. Honesty in biblical interpretation is sacrificed, because an important issue is seen to be at stake.

It is, of course, good to be distressed by false teaching. But that doesn’t make it right to be dishonest when combating false teachers. The end never justifies the means. Instead, we should fight false teaching with Scripture as God inspired it, regardless of how easy or difficult that is to do.

At other times when Christians dishonestly use the Bible, the dishonesty isn’t even because of a desire to oppose false teaching. Often the reason seems to be simply because a Christian doesn’t like what Scripture teaches on some subject, and they are not willing to accept what it says. But they are not prepared to admit this openly, so they force it to say something else instead.

This is a shameful way to treat the holy Bible.

Almost obsessed about being honest

As Christians, we should be the most honest people on the planet. And this applies when we are using the Bible, as much as at any other time. When we are reading Scripture, we should be almost obsessed about being honest with what we are reading.

Whether what we read is something we do or don’t want to hear should be beside the point. Instead, we should be consumed by a desire and determination to understand the text as God inspired it. We should be constantly saying, “Lord, what are You saying in this passage? What do You want me to know from it? Not my will but Yours be done.”

The benefits of this approach

Taking this approach to Scripture is bound to be pleasing to God and also good for ourselves.

First, we need to be clear that whenever someone is dishonest in how they use the Bible, they are committing a sin. And in God’s sight the gravity of sin is enormous. It is a kind of infinite insult to Him.

Committing sin doesn’t just grieve God, however. It is always harmful for the sinner too.

Second, as far as understanding things is concerned, Christians who are determined to interpret Scripture honestly are at a huge advantage over those who aren’t. If a Christian is not even really trying to believe what is true, if they are not giving it their best shot, then they are bound to fall into a lot more error than a believer who is trying to do this.

Fighting to be honest

In the light of what I have said, I would like to challenge every Christian who is reading this. If you haven’t done so already, I would urge you to make a decision that from this point forward you will fight tooth and nail to honestly interpret the Bible in all that it says.

In some ways this might make using Scripture more difficult. If we are really open to God telling us whatever He wants to from it, we can expect to find that the conclusions we reach are sometimes uncomfortable or even painful. At times, they will be ones that we would prefer not to reach.

But this is the attitude to the Bible that followers of Jesus are duty bound to take.

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