How we read the bible (revisited)


My previous post on how we read the bible has started a discussion with a reader named Pastor Strother. He’s posted a lengthy response which you can feel free to read here.

I think his post bears a more thoughtful response than I have time for this evening, as I have one preschooler, one kindergartener, and a sink full of dinner dishes to deal with, but I’ll touch briefly on his his introduction.

And though I believe your post is honest Dread, and maybe I’m putting words in your mouth, I feel like you should just come out and say, “I only believe the parts of the Bible that I agree with or that make me feel good.”

No. That was not at all what I said. What I said was that keeping in mind that Christ is the most perfect revelation of God (Hebrews 1:1-4), He is superior to the revelation of the Mosaic Law (Hebrews 3:1-6), the Prophets, and the historical books of the bible and that the bible itself should be interpreted in light of the revelation of the perfect Word of God (John 1:1-14.) Anything that would contradict or seem out of character with the nature of Jesus Christ should be reconsidered in the light of the author, their time period, their culture, and the message they wanted to convey to their readers.

Do you take the same approach with other books?

I attempt to read other books taking into account the culture of the author, the time it was written, and the messages the author may have wanted to send to his contemporaries, or at least I try to do so. And if the writer attempts to assert something about God in his text, do I interpret it in the light of what I know to be true of Christ as revealed in the gospels? Yes.

Do you take all the scientific “facts” you read as truth and dismiss what God said about it?

That would be a loaded question akin to “have you stopped beating your wife?”

First we would have to discuss and agree on what God said about something. I believe that God is ultimately rational and has established the universe with physical laws that can be observed and measured and that we can trust that God is not trying to deceive us. So, if our interpretation of the bible contradicts what we observe, then our interpretation is wrong.

God gave us the capacity amongst all of the animals to reason, to recognize our environment around us, and to come to an understanding of our world and the laws he used to fashion it and form it. If we cannot trust our observations about the natural world and are that easily deceived about the visible, how can we possibly trust any sort of observations we make about the bible, the invisible, or God?

Is the Constitution of the United States of America up for a different interpretation by every single person, or did the Fathers actually convey what they meant and give us hard rules to follow for the operation of our republic?

This is a tangent, but a pet peeve of mine. The founders disagreed on the Constitution and what it said and the stipulations of what the government could and could not do. There is no one true interpretation of the Constitution, there are competing views on the topic and 230+ years of court cases, precedent, and interpretation that have helped clarify some issues and muddle others.

I think the reason people dismiss the parts of the Bible they don’t like is because they have to be accountable to God if they don’t. They have to submit their wills to Him, and the sinful nature of humanity likes to live in independence of its Creator.

Come now. Do you really believe that anyone who disagrees with you and your particular interpretation, traditions, and hermeneutic that you apply to it is really simply a rebel? There is no room for honest disagreement or for a person to come to a different, reasonable point of view? We’re all secretly looking for a license to go run out and do whatever we please?

Speaking personally, I intend to live a life doing my best to love my family, my friends, and my neighbors. I plan to obey the law, to remain faithful to my spouse, and to impart the same ethic to my children.

I am resolved to try my best to follow the example of Jesus Christ, to give my time and energy to others, to help those in need, to befriend and welcome the outcasts, and to let people know that there is a better way to live and a better kingdom we can ascribe to.

The “problems” you point out in your post, to me, have reasonable, logical, and easy answers to them.

Believe me, I know you think they do. I come from a similar background and even three years ago, I probably would have agreed with you, but the more I read the bible, the less acceptable the apologetic arguments and explanations are to me. And I’ll touch upon why in my next post.

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