Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Blueprint for the Christian Life

The blueprint for the Christian life is the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16,17; John 17:17; Psalms 119:105). But too often we interpret it by the Linus Van Pelt method (from Peanuts, by Charles Schultz). We look for a verse of Scripture to back up our preconceived notions.But Scripture should be the standard from which everything else is judged (Galatians 1:8,9; Isaiah 8:20; Jude 3). Now I am speaking to those who believe the Bible is the Word of God. But if we do believe it is, then it becomes the basis for determining truth. However, even those who claim to hold to the truth of Scripture can read into it their traditions, including their doctrinal statements, respected teachers, or denominational distinctives (Matthew 15:7-14; Galatians 1:10; Proverbs 29:25). Now God does provide teachers in His church to instruct us (Ephesians 4:11-16; Hebrews 13:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:12,13), and we ignore them at our peril. But even good teachers need to be checked against Scripture (Acts 17:11; Galatians 2:11-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:21,22). We also need to avoid interpreting Scripture based on our own understanding, including our thinking, common sense, and subjective experiences (1 Corinthians 3:18; Proverbs 3:5,6; Colossians 2:8). Now we do need to be diligent in studying Scripture (2 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 5:12-14; Psalms 119:1,2), but Scripture is the authority.

If the Bible is the authority, the emphasis as well as the words of Scripture becomes significant. We should avoid the inverted pyramid approach, which builds up a crucial teaching on one or a few verses. We should particularly avoid interpretations based on clever reading between the lines of the text. We are given the impression God values our obedience, rather than our ability to come up with clever answers (1 Corinthians 8:1-3). Also, we are admonished not to add to or take away from God's commands (Deuteronomy 12:32). Now there are legitimate applications of commands to specific situations, but we must be very careful of adding anything God did not command to His Word.

Now part of the problem is that we want answers to questions we think we need answers to, and we want to emphasize the things we think are important. It is therefore easy to read in things to give us the answers we want. But we need to consider the possibility that we are asking the wrong question or that our valued opinion is not as important as we want to make it. There are issues that I wonder why God was not clearer on. But I would rather trust God -- that He had a reason for what He did or did not say -- than read my ideas into Scripture when they are not there. I am convinced the best interpretation of Scripture is the simple, direct interpretation, even if the passage is symbolic. It is when we try to read in our clever ideas that we get into trouble.

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