Some claim the bible is irrelevant. However, its amazing claim to be the very word of God (2 Timothy 3:16) demand that it at least be looked at and considered. I have real problems with people who claim it to be irrelevant, and yet have never really read it properly. I find that attitude very arrogant. Usually people dismiss it and claim it to be irrelevant simply because they heard it somewhere, or read a newspaper article from some so-called intellectual, believing this person’s view to be correct due to his reputation.
I would strongly advise to check everything out personally. Never assume that worldly intelligence equals wisdom or that intellectuals know everything about what they are talking about. One day God will ask you what you made of His word and it will seem pretty feeble if we quote some atheist or sceptic who disagreed with the God of the universe!
I suspect that people who dismiss the word of God may be secretly worried that it might actually be true. This being the case, it would then mean major upheaval in their lives, therefore they don’t really want to dig any deeper. If you have stumbled upon this site and you are of that opinion, I challenge you to take more than just a cursory glance.
Since the Bible claims to be the inspired word of God we should definitely sit up and take notice of what it says. By not reading it, surely we are telling God that His opinion doesn’t count, or that we find other things more important. But even if we don’t believe in God, it at least makes sense to be open to exploring the Bible’s claims so that we can say with integrity “I’ve looked into it closely and I believe it leads nowhere”.
Even people who read and study it closely can fall into two camps. Firstly, there are those who believe it is just another ancient book, interesting from a historical point of view but not really relevant for us today. When people take this view it is very difficult to persuade them to change their lifestyle based upon what it says. Then there is the second camp of people who believe the Bible is true, that it is the Word of God, but find themselves interpreting certain parts of scripture in vastly different ways from each other. We can very easily interpret the Bible based on our own beliefs and make it say what we want it to, explaining away the difficult passages as not being relevant for today. Clever and persuasive people can twist the Bible to say anything they want to and they can often sound extremely convincing. I don’t know about you, but if (as I believe) the Bible is the inspired word of God, then I want to know exactly what God is wanting to say, not someone’s opinion of what they think He is trying to say based on their own prejudices and opinions.
So how can we work through this ‘minefield’ of interpretation?
The ‘science’ of interpreting the Bible is called “hermenuetics”. Good hermeneutics helps us to be confident that we are interpreting correctly. This process involves ‘digging deep’ and is the key to good bible study. There are such precious truths in the Bible which are not always obvious from just a surface reading. They are like gold nuggets set deep in a rock which need to be chipped away at in order to be discovered.
One of the most important principles of hermenuetics is to interpret the Bible from its main meaning, by this I refer to its most obvious meaning. This is our starting point and if it then disagrees with other passages, we dig deeper and we search for more understanding whilst still remaining faithful to its intended meaning. To get to the intended meaning we need to have an understanding of the history (culture and background). We also need to understand any grammatical nuances of the original language it was written in. Then finally we put it all into the context in which it was written.
Are there any parts of the Bible that you simply don’t understand and therefore ignore? Or is there something that you just don’t agree with and causes you a major problem? Next week we will look at some reasons why people don’t like what they read in the Bible and how we can handle our own disagreements.