Stop Using the Bible to Prove Your Point

The Bible is not your weapon of choice to manipulate as you choose to further your agenda. This goes both ways:
  • Christians: Posting verses from the Bible to prove to non-Christians that they are sinning doesn't do much. First of all, most people have very misguided beliefs about the Bible, do not know how to interpret it, and have seen so many Christians use the Bible for selfish gain that posting blanket statements of condemnation is probably not going to change the sinner's heart. Second, ask yourself if you are dealing faithfully with Scripture. Do you know the context of the passage? If someone asks you to elaborate on meaning, will you have an answer to give? "Because the Bible says it" is not enough. If you read the Bible and take everything literally, you will find yourself in trouble on so many levels. If you want to represent God and His word, do your homework. Your intentions may be pure, but you can end up doing much more harm than good.

  • Non-Christians: Posting Bible verses you think contradict one another or discount the credibility of God and His claims is also irresponsible and low-handed. You are surely convincing other skeptics to persist in their critical eye towards God. However, the accusations are not grounded in an attempt to understand. The accusations are made on a very literal and basic level, not taking into account Biblical rules for interpretation, genre, historical context, or understanding the nature of God's relationship to his people throughout the Bible.
If you want to criticize and if you have questions, then please, ask them! I am a believer, and I have taken many classes on the Bible in college and graduate school, and I still have some questions myself. There is nothing wrong with genuine seeking! But accusing Christians of being narrow-minded (which many of us can be) and then posting ignorant accusations only perpetuates narrow-minded behavior.

Similarly, Christians, we do not get to approach the Bible and place all of our thoughts and our beliefs about God into it. We must look to God's word to define how we view God and His people. Though there are Bible passages that can be confusing, this does not mean we can all choose what we think the Bible means and then go along living our lives. This is GOD SPEAKING. The Holy God of the universe, who sustains our lives with His presence, who created us out of the dust, who can calm the sea with just one word, who can raise the dead, and do so much more than we can think or imagine. It isn't about you, it's about Him. We are human. We cannot possibly comprehend the perfection of God's ways. That does not mean we get to silence the parts of God we do not understand. Rather, we are to humbly accept by faith who God is and what He commands, even if it is hard to swallow.

For example, sometimes the reality of hell or judgment is hard for me to grasp. People have argued that maybe there really isn't a hell because God is a God of love. See, we are taking one part of God and using that to further our own desire. We have a hard time balancing that God is LOVE, but that does not mean that there is no justice. I may not completely understand, but who am I to question the Maker?

Regardless of where you are in terms of religious belief and conviction, if you want to engage in theological discussions, I ask that you educate yourself on how to understand the Bible as literature. You cannot presuppose 21st century understanding and rules on literature written to people in many different time periods and historic situations. First, you must assess what the text's purpose was to the original audience. After that, you may carefully begin to ask how the passage can be applied to today's situation. What can we learn about God's character? What was God trying to say to his people? How does this affect the way we live today? This is thoughtful engagement, not lazy copying and pasting.

If you want the world to know YOUR thoughts, keep the Bible out of it. If you want to discover God's thoughts, seek the Bible out. Do more than simply read it through your own bias and worldview. Try to understand the Bible on its own terms.

Christians, we have a responsibility to do this. We have rightly been criticized for not doing this well. I pray that we would all humble ourselves before the Word of God, not approaching it thinking we know it all, but approaching it knowing we have so much to learn.

Two books I recommend that shed light on how to interpret Biblical language and different genres:
  • How to Read the Bible for All its Worth, by Fee and Stuart
  • Out of Context: How to Avoid Misinterpreting the Bible by Shultz

For all the cries in our world to be open-minded, let's do so. Let's be willing to listen and learn.

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