Last week we started to look at the reasons why people disagree with the Bible. We talked about the correct interpretation of the Bible, “hermeneutics”. We also looked at the importance of interpreting the Bible based on various historical and cultural factors, original language and context in which the passage was written. This then helps us understand the original meaning, enabling us therefore to fully grasp what God is actually saying to us. We cannot simply interpret it in any way we choose, nor completely disregard certain passages simply because we don’t like them.
This week we will look at some reasons why people disagree with the Bible.
The first problem which may be encountered is the fact that the Bible is very honest in describing God as He actually is, not how we think He is. We are inclined to make God in our image rather than the other (proper) way round. If a particular Bible passage describes God in a way that is uncomfortable to our 20th century, western, comfortable sensibilities we can get quite upset. This can be heightened if we don’t truly understand the context in which the passage was written. We can get so hooked up on the fact that God is love (and He clearly is) that when we see the ‘just’ or ‘righteous’ side to His character, we recoil. We can perversely think that loving people is somehow letting them off all the time. This is not love! Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to bring discipline as correction.
As human beings, we are inclined to believe we have a divine right to live full and trouble free lives and we get upset when it doesn’t quite turn out like that. God’s holiness would truly be served if He killed us as soon as we sinned, but actually His love and mercy allow us to live many more years than we deserve, even living them in rebellion to Him. We get upset at the wiping out of entire people groups in the Old Testament, yet fail to fully see how sinful and evil these races were and how long God allowed them to continue in this state. God is so much more patient than any person on this planet and we need to remember that sometimes many years have passed between one chapter and the next in our Bibles. If we were in God’s position we would not be able to stand for the injustice witnessed for a fraction of the time that He does.
We have a tendency to seriously underestimate the holiness of God. We can be naturally accommodating of sin, especially ones we consider small. God is not like that; He is supremely holy and therefore cannot stand sin in any measure.
Even when we get past God’s character and nature, we can find ourselves feeling upset with some of the things He says. The Bible describes certain behaviours and attitudes as right or wrong, no matter what society says. This is probably the most common reason the Bible causes offence. The Bible states that “…There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25).
Many things may seem right to us, but that doesn’t mean they are. Our society gets very upset when we proclaim something as wrong. They want to call it an ‘alternative viewpoint’. This is because human beings will go to great lengths to defend their own decisions and behaviour. When we uphold the Bible’s standard we are accused of being intolerant. Society doesn’t like judgemental statements. But God is our highest authority and He can say and do as He likes; this is what greatly upsets people and may be perceived as unloving: “Who is God to tell me what I can and can’t do?”. But the fact is, He knows us because He made us and He knows what is right and wrong. He says it for our own good as a loving parent, much like a parent who tells their child not to play near the road. The parent is in a much better position to see the danger than the child who thinks the parent is spoiling their fun.
So how should we approach the Bible, especially when we read bits that we really struggle with?
Ask God to change your heart and desires. We live in the world and we can so easily subconsciously take on the world’s values without even noticing it. If we read the Bible with an openness to learn and a love for God in our hearts, He will help us and change our hearts. He does this because we are His children and He loves to speak to us and direct us. The passages we struggle with and the reasons we struggle with them could well be God’s vehicle to remove false idols and bad attitudes from our lives.
Make sure that you are reading and interpreting correctly the passage of Scripture in question. Does it really say what you think it does? Follow the principles of hermeneutics as highlighted in last week’s blog and keep digging. Get a good study Bible or a good commentary. The more we study the Bible and understand the story as a whole, the more we learn that the parts that seem hard to understand on their own make much more sense within the wider context of the whole Bible.
(3) Understand that our culture is not ‘normal’
Our culture is not to be the means by which we judge things. Actually, our culture is permanently shifting its beliefs and attitudes. Things we believed 50 years ago are very different to what we believe now and what we will believe in another 50 years time. God’s word is constant, eternal and unchanging. Be willing to look at your worldview, culture, and the values around you and understand that just because they are what you are familiar with, this does not make them right or good. As a Christian, the Bible should always be your highest authority
The most important thing is to keep reading and keep trusting God to bring clarity. Sometimes we simply have to accept that He knows best and we need to trust Him.
If, whilst reading this, particular bible passages that you struggle with have come to mind, why not contact me and I’ll see if I can provide an explanation. I enjoy a good dig!