Misunderstanding The Bible

02 Mar

Too often people look at God, the Bible and the Christian faith like they do their own computers. On the opening screen you can right-click and a menu will pop up giving the owner a list of options they can choose from. When they scroll down to the bottom they find the button that says ‘personalize’ and click on that. Then they go about reframing their computer’s look and functions according to their distinct personalities.

Many people try to do the same thing for God, the Bible and their Christian faith. Not satisfied with the actual look of any of the three, they go searching for that personalize button and start changing the appearance of God, the Bible and their Christian faith to fit their distinct personalities and personal desires. We see this take place so often and have commented on this phenomenon in post after post throughout the years on this website and we will do it again with this post.

People change God, the Bible and their Christian faith because they do not like what they see and because they want to be in charge of their religious and physical lives. They do not want to be servants, they want to be kings. The following will look at select quotes from the following link:

#1. But it isn’t Jesus’ reading of the biblical text alone that is problematic; it’s the accompanying interpretation.

This is a problem because modern people have made a big deal out of ‘interpretation’ over the past 3 decades or so and use that word to avoid hearing the truth. They pass off someone’s words of insight, guidance or rebuke as ‘that is your interpretation’ and as we see by the example in that author’s work, this is not a new practice. people have their own ideas about scripture, whether they got to those conclusions on their own or they adopted what they have been taught by their Sunday school teachers, church leaders or pastors.

The problem with adopting other people’s ideas about scripture is that there is no real knowledge that the ideas adopted are actually the truth provided by the Holy Spirit. People just accept it as such because their Sunday school teacher, pastor, etc., are Christians and are in leadership so they must know better. Then as we see by that example, people over-react and get upset when someone tells them the truth, which happens to disagree with their interpretation.

We must remember that interpretation is not a biblically instructed practice but a human ordained one designed to keep people divided and confused.

#2. The sudden negative turn in the congregation comes when Jesus dares to interpret this dangerous book in a new and unexpected way.

The key words are in bold and tell us that that author, along with so many other scholars and church leaders, place human practices upon Jesus and his reading of scripture. That is an error we should not make. Jesus was not human and did not follow human strategies. As we learned by the example he set at the age of 12 when he was found in the temple,he knew exactly who he was and he knew the truth. Jesus did not have to interpret anything, he knew what scripture said and how it applied to him and to others.

Placing human strategies on Jesus’ actions is a dangerous thing to do for it leads to mistaken conclusions about him and his words. These mistaken conclusions will mislead if we let them and we will not be following the Holy Spirit to the truth if we do this, we will be following human understanding instead.

#3. But while everyone lost their mind at how he referenced the book, comparatively little attention fell on how he interpreted the text. Because that’s what matters—what is he saying the Bible says?

This is important for it shows how people change the Bible to fit their lifestyle desires. Those opposed to the ban on women in the pulpit do it, homosexuals do it and even those who want to do science over believing Genesis do it. Trump is not new or alone in this practice and while it shouldn’t shock us that this takes place because it has been done for millennia, it should provide us with a wake up call that we need to be careful in how we view or accept the words of others.

Jesus told us that we would know the truth thus we should be able to discern the words of others and see if they are telling the truth about what the Bible says or not and if they are not then we discard what they say  and do not lend them any credibility. But the key here is, that we do not use interpretation to say someone’s interpretation is wrong. We have to know the truth first before we can make that accusation. Truth and interpretation are not the same things.

#4. Just as the crowd becomes angry when Jesus doesn’t affirm their expectations, so too we often go on the defensive when someone suggests the Bible means something other than what we think it means.

While we shouldn’t become angry at others for holding different views we still can disagree with their thoughts because they may not be resenting the truth. We do not accept different ideas simply because another human adheres to them or allow them into the church because we do not want to ‘offend’ another believer. We are allowed to defend the truth and keep false teaching out of the church.

That quote implies that there is no such thing as false teaching but that would be a mistaken position to take as the Bible warns us over and over that there will be those who bring the wrong gospel to the church and we need to be careful. But again, we need to possess the actual truth in order to make this discernment. Sadly too many church denominations have not done this in their haste to practice Christianity and the world is overwhelmed by the number of different variations in the Christian category.

They exist because too many people opt for interpretation and do not follow the holy Spirit to the truth. Or they may claim to but do not do any spiritual work in making sure they are actually following the Holy Spirit, instead of some demon in angel’s garb or their own personal desires. Too many people do not want to consider the idea that they may be wrong.

The concepts of ‘losing face’, ‘shame’ or ‘being embarrassed influence many stubborn refusals to change to what is correct. The believer needs to get past these stumbling blocks in order to practice Christianity correctly and view God and the Bible as they are.

#5. Here’s the glitch in this all. The Bible doesn’t mean anything apart from our efforts to interpret it. Whatever the original authors, whoever they were (and they were many different folks from different times, places, social locations, facing very different historical circumstances) intended for the Bible to mean, those meanings are lost to us now, or at least the certainty that we’ve gotten a particular text “right” is no longer possible

This is the wrong way to look at the Bible. For it tells us that that person doe snot believe that there is a bible for guidance, instruction, revelation for today’s world. he is very wrong in that first sentence because Jesus said it was possible and obtainable that we can know the truth. The only question is, do we want to learn and follow the truth?

The rest of that quote is erroneous for it says that the Bible we have today was not written for us but for some long-lost and dead ancient people. it also says that God did not update his manual to guide his followers in later centuries. That author is really destroying the faith of his listeners and his students by saying that God has left us high and dry and that he does not keep his promises.

The ancient people have faced nothing different from what we are facing today. They had sin to contend with, so do we. They had rebellious children, so do we. There is nothing different about the ancient world from the modern one. This means that the meanings of the biblical passages are not lost to us and that what the Bible spoke about 5,000 or 2,000 years ago applies to us today.

His last sentence only opens the door for sin and false teaching to enter for it says we do not have and cannot know the truth and that contradicts what Jesus told us. We have the correct meanings and the right passages today. The problem is that so many people do not like those passages so they try to ‘personalize’ them and alter what they say to fit that personalization.

#6. We treat the Bible as familiar. We expect it to coincide with and speak to our problems, our concerns, to defend our causes. We treat it as familiar, but in fact it could not be more foreign. The Old Testament is originally written in Hebrew, with splashes of Aramaic, and the New Testament in Greek. It contains literature that is upwards of 3200 years old and covering a time period of nearly 13 centuries. It is written by ancient people with ancient ways of thinking about the world and addressing ancient issues and concerns. And it exists in a variety of forms, having been translated into nearly 1900 different languages and dialects.

Here that author is trying to make the Bible a very human book which says something different to different people of different nationalities and languages. That is just not so. It doesn’t matter what the original languages of the Bible were, or how many different languages it has been translated into for the message is still the same and it is the same message to all people in all nations for all times.

People who misunderstand the Bible, tend to use these frivolous and distracting points to demote the Bible into nothing more than a subjective human text which is made to say whatever someone wants it to say. The Bible does address our problems and concerns for it was written by God not humans. God knew that the world does not change over time because sin is what corrupts it not technology and sin has not changed since the beginning of time.

Disobedience takes place as we see by the example of Adam and Eve and we see that disobedience is punished,as exampled by their expulsion from paradise. We see the same consistent acts carried out throughout the Bible. We can trust the Bible in its instructions for they are the words of the Holy God who wants us to live correctly, not by sinful, fallible humans with political motives.

#7. What does it mean, for example, to read the story of Noah’s Ark not only as a beautiful story of a floating zoo and of God’s grace in saving Noah and his family but also as a story in which in a fit of uncontrolled rage God wipes out the entire human race…Or, to put it another way, Noah’s Ark is a beautiful story . . . if you’re on the Ark

When people misunderstand the Bible they get a distorted picture about God and his actions. God did not act in an ‘uncontrolled rage’ when deciding to punish the sinful re-flood population. He acted out of sorrow, which is the definition the word ‘regret’ or ‘repents’ uses in that passage. When people misunderstand the Bible, they also ignore the lessons taught by such actions and accuse God of being worse than the devil.

That lesson is, of course, what happens when you do not repent of your sins and take God’s offer of salvation. Misunderstanding the Bible leads one  to place the wrong definition on the word ‘regret’ or ‘repent’ and claim that God repented just like a sinful human needs to repent and be forgiven of some sin. This is far from what is being communicated in that passage on the flood. But then, those that want to personalize the bible paint God after their own understanding and desires not as he truly is.

They do not want a God who is holy, superior and sinless, they want a god who is the same as they are — flawed.

#8. Sorry, but the Bible just isn’t that into you. The danger now, as it appears to have been in Jesus’ public reading and interpretation in our gospel text, resides in what I call the dangerous familiarity of the Bible. We no doubt know and hold dear many texts and stories, and that is a wonderful thing. But there is also likely a lot we don’t know, and we need to fess up to that. More importantly yet, the challenge is to let the Bible become foreign as opposed to familiar; to love the Bible for being foreign as opposed to familiar; to see on each read the Bible becoming more strange and provoking more questions; to see the Bible’s foreign-ness as a gift, an opportunity. The challenge is to let the Bible speak to us as opposed to us speaking for the Bible. Because once the Bible becomes familiar, once we think we know what it means, the Bible ceases to be a living, life-breathing document; it rather becomes little more than an antiquated relic of the past.

All this is saying is that the Bible is not inerrant and that it needs to change to be something it is not. This is personalization of God’s word because those who reject an inerrant Bible do not want to follow God but pursue their own desires, which are influenced by evil.They want their own Bible not God’s word.

#9.Timothy Beal, a biblical scholar, has recently said rightly that “The Bible is not a book of answers, but a library of questions.” This is the heart of what a living Bible, the type Jesus read in the synagogue in a new and unexpected way, must be for us.

This is another misconception about the Bible and changes everything about it. To them, the Bible is not a book of answers because they do not want the answers the Bible provides. They want a fluid, flexible, changing Bible because then they get to import their own false teachings into the church and Christianity, thereby personalizing both to fit their ideas and not God’s design and order for both.

#10. The Bible is a dangerous book, as Jesus’ own reading demonstrates, because sometimes what you find runs contrary to beliefs or ideas you’ve held sacred. And change is difficult. We like familiarity. The Bible, however, doesn’t give us familiarity.

The Bible holds the inerrant truth and while we do need to change, it is not always the beliefs and ideas that author is against that need to change. What needs to change is our false ideas for the truth. Sure some people may not like the idea that they are wrong, like that author, but if people did not change to what the Bible is really saying then slavery would still be considered biblical. The Bible holds the truth of God’s word and his message to us and we need to learn the truth and go with that, not some subjective interpretation which leads us to misunderstand the Bible.

‘We shall know the truth and it shall set us free’  Words which give us confidence that we have God’s word here and now, that it helps us in our daily lives and that it guides us to the correct way to live. Those words also tell us that we do not have to go with each new interpretation that comes along because interpretation is not biblical nor guiding us in the right way to go. Interpretation leads people to the broad way to destruction, not the straight and narrow way to salvation.

Misunderstanding the Bible does the same thing. We go for the truth with the help of the Holy Spirit which means we do not blindly follow church leaders, popular Christian speakers or even a Sunday school teacher for they may be in error in some of the things they say. We need the Holy Spirit to keep us from such traps and to build our Christian faith the right way.

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Posted by on March 2, 2016 in academics, Bible, church, comparative religions, education, faith, family, General Life, leadership, theology


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