I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where we’re discussing some deep point of theology, and somebody will will try to slap you down with, ‘Well, the Bible says…’
Of course, 99% of the time the perfect answer doesn’t strike until the conversation’s over. There’s not much you can do about it, except go home and blog about it as if you’d really said what you realise you should have said. The other one percent of the time, though, you think of what you need to say at the time you need to say it. If you’re in really good form, the answer will begin with, ‘Yes, but the Bible also says…’
If you’ve ever done this, you’re in good company. The Bible says… Jesus did it all the time (Luke 4:1-12).
We’ve got to be really careful when we do this. If I got the job of writing the Bible, I’d make sure it was pretty obvious what was meant. There would be no room for manoeuvre. I’d tell you what’s what, and I’d also make sure language didn’t change. Nobody would be getting out easily.
Unfortunately for those of us who like a bit of certainty, God didn’t organise the writing of the Bible in that way. He used a whole lot of fallible humans who had heads full of opinions and imperfect languages in which to record them. He didn’t proofread the final edition, and there are quite a few places that seem to contradict each other in one way or another.
So when we say, The Bible says…’ we have to be careful. As the devil found out, there’s always someone who knows the Bible better than you do.
There are two lessons to learn.
First, keep studying the Bible. Have an open mind to what others are saying about it. Use your God given common sense and wisdom to figure out for yourself what it says.
Second, don’t be presumptuous. Doug Chaplin recently wrote,
… there is never a “Bible says” argument that actually is just the quotation of a verse. The very act of selecting the verse depends on an interpretative framework or tradition. “I take the Bible to say …” “My tradition teaches that the Bible says …” “Our church interprets the Bible to mean…” All these are fundamentally honest statements.
This is so obvious I don’t know why we don’t see it more often. The way we read the Bible is greatly influenced by those who teach the Bible to us. I’m not saying that’s bad. I just think we need to be a little more humble every time we open the pages of sacred writ.