Monday, September 16, 2013

Understanding the Bible More Deeply: Reading As Though It Were True

None of us approaches the Bible as a blank slate. On one end of the spectrum, some of us have a set of beliefs that we are intent on holding as true no matter what evidence is given to us to the contrary. On the other end of the spectrum are those who are willing to ditch their beliefs for any new thought that comes their way.

There is a balance between these that we can term “cautiously open” to changing our thinking. The question is on what basis we are cautiously open:

We might be cautiously open because we want to believe anything that will make us the most comfortable. Some atheistic naturalists like to accuse theists of merely fulfilling some evolutionary need to believe in a higher power. The fact is that we all have some need to feel good about ourselves and our lives.

We might be cautiously open because we want to justify some lack of moral culpability. We just want to sin and we don’t like anything or anyone telling us that our particular sin is immoral. If anything tells us we can commit that sin, we are willing to believe it. If anything tells us that we cannot commit a particular sin we are willing to deny it.

We might be cautiously open because we want power over other people. Like or not, these kinds of people exist in this world. They are willing to propagate beliefs among others that will enslave them ideologically and are willing to stifle beliefs that will free them ideologically. Most people are not very good at this. Some people are exceptionally good at this.

Parenthetically, we proclaim a gospel that sets people free from sin without denying that things clearly are sinful. It’s no wonder that some oppose this message with both the contention that something is not a sin and the good news that we can be free from it.

But the way we are to be cautiously open to changing our beliefs is if we desire truth and are willing to accept that we might not currently know the truth as fully as we can. This begs the question that the Bible is an accurate source of truth. The key to knowing is if we are honest about our sinful motives. If we are, then even a cursory reading of the Bible is sufficient for demonstrating that it is more honest about our own motives than we are. Peter testifies as much when he answers Jesus in John 6:68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” The Samaritan woman that Jesus met at the well testified in John 4:29, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did.” This is the same reaction that we find in ourselves when we read the Bible and are honest about our own sinful motives.

Therefore, we cannot understand the Bible accurately if we do not read it as though it were true.

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