I was listening to the Bad Christian Podcast yesterday on my drive back from my fiancée’s work Christmas party. The guest was Dave Bazan, formerly of Pedro the Lion. Bazan was formerly a Christian but left the faith several years ago.
He was talking about the Bible and how Christians view it and said something that struck me (podcast link here, 1:08:28 is the time when it’s said):
In certain forms of Christianity, you believe that you’re drawing from this infallible kind of document. But your relationship with that document is not infallible.
Now, you can write off what he said because you might think that he’s a non-believer and clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about because of that, but I think he hit on a very important point.
Yes, the Bible is infallible. There is nothing in it that is not truth. There may be some parables that may not have actually happened, but the lessons and the spiritual wisdom behind them are truth.
However, we have infallible minds. Our minds are weak and feeble when compared to the great wisdom of Scripture. Put it this way: if we dudes can’t understand the things that women do sometimes, there’s no way we can ever think we’ve got a grasp on life.
Particularly the Bible.
That’s right. We won’t ever have a total grasp or understanding of God’s Word as it was intended to be written.
What. No. That can’t be.
Since the Bible is of God and is spiritual wisdom much higher than earthly wisdom (as I wrote about yesterday), we will never fully get it. We accept it, and we believe it, but we will never fully get it. And we just might be wrong about what we believe it says.
There might be a verse like Psalm 37:4 – “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” OK cool. Face-value reading: Love God, and He’ll give you what you want. But if you put a little more thought into it, you might come to this reading: If you find your joy in God and the things of God, He’ll give you what you want. And what you want will be what He wants because you find your joy in Him.
In that first reading, you didn’t get the whole picture. In the second reading, you may have gone a little deeper. Heck, it may be your fifth or sixth thought before you come to that final conclusion.
But you still may be wrong.
In my mind at least, this begs the question: Why even try to understand it? If it’s not completely understandable by our brains, then why give the effort? If we’re going to fail, what’s the point?
We need to put time and effort into understanding the Bible because our spiritual lives, and therefore our whole lives, depend on it. We just need to be reading it with an open hand.
A lot of us come into reading anything with a bias of some kind, some kind of lens with which we examine a text. Prosperity gospel believers might read the Bible with the idea that God is looking to bless us with material things and health here on earth, so they’ll read the text looking for things to support that belief. People like me who think the prosperity gospel is a bunch of baloney will read the text looking for things to refute that. It’s just a simple psychological thing we do.
If our understanding of the Bible was able to be infallible, I don’t think there would be any disagreement on how we interpret it.
Now, since my mind is fallible, I could be completely wrong about this! I could be missing out on something that would prove me wrong. I do believe there is one correct reading of Scripture, I just believe that we’re never going to grasp all of it this side of heaven. We may get to the pearly gates and golden streets and be like, “Dang, I completely misread that.” This is where three things come into play.
We have to read Scripture with an open hand and open mind.
Since we may be wrong about how we read the Bible, we have to be open to being wrong. We’ve got to push that pride aside and be willing to be wrong and be corrected. After all, 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Correction and reproof (criticism) are what the Bible is for, in a way.
We need to trust God with what we believe now and what we don’t understand.
There are definitely things I thought a couple years ago that I disagree with now based on my reading of the Bible. But a little bit down the line, I may be reading something and think, “Man, I hadn’t even considered this before!” In this uncertainty, I’ve got to learn to trust God that what I believe now is right, but also trust that the things I don’t understand are still true. There are certain things in Scripture I think are pretty clear – salvation, Jesus’ life, so on and so forth. But there are other things that I can definitely grow in my understanding of.
We need to trust God that other people are on a journey with the Bible like we are.
Just because we read the Bible differently than we do doesn’t mean we’re smarter or better. Who knows, we may be wrong and the prosperity gospel people may be right! I don’t think that’s the case, but you never know for sure. I think this is part of loving others – trusting God that the people we disagree with will find their way and not beating them over the head with criticisms and such about their views.
This takes a lot of patience, a lot of trust and a lot of faith. But it’s faith worth having.
Even if we’re completely wrong about the Bible, one thing Scripture is clear on is that God loves His children no matter how sinful they are. God so loved the world that He gave Jesus, right? And 1 John 4 says God displays His love through the work of Christ on the cross, the substitutionary atonement of the Son of God.
You can take that to the bank.