Christians have probably argued more about the Bible, and how to interpret it, than almost anything else. Many churches say they believe the “Bible alone”, echoing the Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura. Yet I believe there is always a gap between the claim and the actual belief.
I am a christian who believes the Bible reveals God to us, but I want to try to show you that everyone disbelieves some parts of the Bible.
And I want to show you why this matters.
Do you believe every one of these teachings?
- “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” Psalm 137:9
- “…. if the mold has spread in the house, it is a persistent defiling mold; the house is unclean. It must be torn down — its stones, timbers and all the plaster ….” Leviticus 14:44-45
- “A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.” Leviticus 20:27
- “…. an evil spirit from God came forcefully on Saul ….” 1 Samuel 18:10
Now I suggest (and hope) that no christian would think those commands should be believed and acted on today. And I would guess most christians would have trouble believing that God, the author of “every good and perfect gift”, would send an evil spirit to someone.
Now about now you may be thinking that there are good reasons to no longer apply these Old Testament passages, for we are in a new covenant. I agree, but please stick with me for a moment.
The Old Testament may have the most obviously inapplicable passages, but I suggest no-one believes and applies everything in the New Testament either.
- “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Matthew 5:29
- “Give to the one who asks you” Matthew 5:42
- “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Luke 16:18
- “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Luke 14:33
- “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy.” 1 Corinthians 14:5
- “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” James 2:24
These passages trouble us, for who believes we should believe and obey them all as they stand? Again, I’m sure most of you will have reasons why we shouldn’t take them literally, but this brings us to an important lesson and an important question.
An important lesson
The important lesson is clear.
Everyone re-interprets some parts of the Bible. We all have reasons, and we may draw the line at different places, but we simply don’t think every part of it should be believed and applied today as written.
If we can admit this, then I believe we can get on with understanding the Bible better and obeying God more.
An important question
So now we face an important question:
How do we know which parts we should believe and obey, and which parts we should understand less literally?
With this post I am beginning a series on understanding and obeying the Bible in a way that will please God. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but after 50 years as a christian, trying to serve and obey God, having read the Bible right through several times and having read and studied the New Testament in great detail, even undertaking some formal (post graduate) theological study, I believe I have some insights to share.
And I hope you will walk this part of the road with me and add your insights too.
In the words of Richard of Chichester, I pray that this series will help us all “know him more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly”.
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons
Actually, unklee, I’d say I believe each and every one of those statements. That is not the same as saying that each and every one of them are intended as rigorous literal instructions in our daily conduct, though. You identified the dichotomy yourself in the phrase “believe and obey” which acknowledges a difference between belief and obedience.
I posted early last month on how I read the Bible. Now I’m looking forward to your take on things with this series you are starting!
“I’d say I believe each and every one of those statements”
G’day Tim, thanks for your interest. Would you believe that we should all speak in tongues, and better still prophesy? Or that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone? Or that we should give to anyone who asks us?
No, as I pointed out in the next sentence after the one you quoted, unklee. I would say that I believe each and every one of those statements is part of the inspired word of God. What these passages actually mean in context and for our lives today is another thing, but still has everything to do with accepting them as inspired scripture. (Defining the word “believe” would be critical in this discussion, I certainly must say. I think you and I are putting a different spin on the word.)
Yes, I think we are using words differently, so this discussion is a useful clarification. I didn’t make any comment about the passages being, or not being, part of the inspired word of God – I simply asked if we believe the statements as they stand, and believe we should obey them as they stand. I think you are agreeing about some of them that we should not, which was all I was driving at.
I am not trying to be pedantic. But I believe most christians have dug trenches around their theoretical positions on the Bible, and starting with theory only gets into trench warfare. So I wanted to start with the practical, what we actually believe and obey.
I think you and are in agreement, you were just answering a slightly different question than the one I asked, Does that make sense?
It makes sense to me!
[…] [What happens when a Calvinist blogger and an Arminian blogger get together?* This guest post! Unklee from Down Under has a great blog going at the Way?.**I hope you enjoy this taste of what he has to offer, and that you'll head on over to his place to continue reading the series on Bible reading he started earlier this week.] […]
[…] have argued (Everyone disbelieves some parts of the Bible) that, while most christians say we follow the Bible as our standard of what to believe and do, in […]
The fact is it is a spiritual book and that is how you are to understand it
Only the elect of God can see the true gospel in it. If you think for one second you are a Christian because of some action you took you are wrong. Salvation is Gods business alone we have nothing to do with it. You could be a student of Gods word the bible for a lifetime and if he does not give you ears to hear you will never understand. May God be merciful to me.
Hi Mike, thanks for your comment. I don’t believe what you say here, but I understand some people think that. If I had nothing to do with my salvation, then there’d be little point you talking to me about it (you should only talk to God about it), and there’d be little point Jesus calling people to repent (Mark 1:15). I have chosen to follow Jesus in this, not the austere theologians who teach what you are saying.
May I ask please: Does your comment “May God be merciful to me.” indicate that you are unsure of whether he will indeed be merciful to you?
King David spoke that way so did the publican and so do I. Christ spoke in parables. And without a parable did he not speak. A parable is a earthly story with a spiritual meaning. The gospel is within every story in Gods word the bible. Every thing that I said is in the book its the part about salvation that you struggle with. Let me ask you this if I may. Do you believe that every word in the bible comes straight from the mouth of God? And do you read it with pre conceived ideas’? You must compare scripture with scripture before coming to a conclusion. It is in our day that the seals are being lifted (Daniel) and the gospel is shining brighter than ever However if God does not give you ears to here you will never understand what I’m saying. There is no Devine organization being used by God today he is finished with it they have all gone astray preaching what makes them comfortable. A do it yourself gospel. Its just me and God and the bible alone is my authority. Every human being knows there is a judgment we are created it his image I talk to you about salivation because it is a command and it has been placed upon me to bring forth the truth you are basing your salvation from works and you do not trust the bible alone. You say everyone disbelieves some part of the bible. Well let me be the first one to let you know I’m not in that category. May God have mercy on me
Hi Mike, I’ve published the correct version and removed the incorrect one.
Thanks for your concern for me. Here are my answers to your questions. No I don’t believe every word in the Bible comes from the mouth of God – the Bible says God inspired it, but people wrote it. I think we all read the Bible with preconceived ideas, but I am gradually ridding myself of them I hope. I am certainly not basing my salvation on works, and I am surprised you would think so. Fortunately, salvation does not come from trusting the Bible alone, but from trusting Jesus.
May I ask you my question again please? Does your comment “May God be merciful to me.” indicate that you are unsure of whether he will indeed be merciful to you?