Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why Can't We Get It Right?

If the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, why are we not able to agree on what it has to say? This has been used to try to prove the Bible is not really authoritative and we need something else to interpret it. How should we look at this problem?

If we have trouble interpreting the Bible, is the problem with the Bible or with us? We are sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9), and being sinners, our understanding of truth is imperfect (1 Corinthians 3:18; 8:1-3; 2:14). We allow our traditions and preconceived notions to determine our interpretation (Matthew 15:7-9, 12:1-14, Romans 12:2). I know from personal experience how hard it is to get past what I have been taught and to see what the Scripture really says. We can also be influenced by our culture and what it sees as acceptable (1 John 2:15-17; Colossians 2:8; James 4:4). Along with this, we must consider how far it is legitimate to interpret Scripture to fit in with the current scientific or philosophical opinions and how reliable those opinions really are.

There is also the desire to be different. The desire to see in Scripture some mysterious truth that no one else sees. The root of this is, of course, personal pride (Proverb 16:18; Romans 12:16; 1 Corinthians 13:4). This is why it is important to consult great Christian teachers of the past. It is not that they are more authoritative then Scripture, but that they put our own teachings in perspective. To keep from going off on a tangent, we should check our ideas against respected Christian teachers. To avoid being merely conformed to our own time, we need to consider the teachers of past ages.

Also, there is a danger of trying to make the Bible speak on subjects the Bible never claimed to speak on. The Bible is the authority for faith and practice to prepare us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16,17). But it is not intended to give us answers to all our questions on other subjects. Even on faith and practice it tells us what God wants us to know, not what we want to think is important. I am convinced that the emphasis, as well as the words of Scripture, is inspired and that what God does not command, He leaves free (Deuteronomy 4:2). Therefore, when the Bible does not teach something clearly, we should not be dogmatic on it.

It is not surprising that in certain incidental matters there should be questions of cultural context, linguistics, or textual criticism. This is a result of being in a fallen world. But that does not mean the basic message does not come through. Nor is it surprising that in explaining the things of God, there would be things hard for us to understand. We need to avoid changing them into something that makes more sense to us. But even if there are difficulties, we should not throw out the standard and replace it with something else.

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