It’s stunning how often I hear grown Christians claim “the Bible clearly says” something that other Christians believe it “clearly says,” just the opposite!
We have Baptists who believe the Bible teaches believers baptism and Calvinist, the baptism of infants.
You have serious Christians who believe the Bible clearly teaches that women should never teach men and others, “no problem.”
Even more serious, Armenians believe salvation is a human decision, while the majority of Protestants believe salvation is God’s decision, start to finish.
So who’s not reading the Bible clearly?
This much is true. There are some things the Bible teaches that are “so clear” all Christians believe them to be true. Like, God created the world. Jesus is the Son of God, died on the cross, was resurrected after three days and is returning again to judge everyone. (And much more.)
But, according to The Center for the Study of Global Christianity, there are over 34,000 Christian denominations, many of whom have, what they believe are, serious differences with other Christians. So how can that many Christians read the same Bible and differ on it’s interpretation?
N.T. Wright, a respected British theologian makes this honest observation;
“Most heirs of the Reformation, including evangelicals, take it for granted that we are to give scripture the primary place and that everything else has to be lined up in relation to scripture. But I find two things, which cause me some concern. First, we imagine that we are ‘reading the text straight,’ and that if somebody disagrees with us it must be because they, unlike we ourselves, are secretly using ‘presuppositions.’ This is simple naïve, and actually astonishingly arrogant and dangerous. It fuels the second point, which is that evangelicals often use the phrase ‘authority of Scripture’ when they mean the authority of evangelical, or Protestant, theology, since the assumption is made that we (evangelicals or Protestants) are the ones who know and believe what the Bible is saying. If we are not careful, the phrase ‘authority of scripture’ can, by such routes, come to means simply, ‘the authority of the evangelical tradition, as opposed to Catholic or rationalist ones.’”
So, where does that leave us? Should we be indifferent to all but the core, universally accepted truths of the Bible? No!
Let’s just not be so arrogant that we alone have it right.
Here’s a statement I make often when teaching the Bible. “There are serious followers of Jesus, who have a high view of scripture, who interpret this teaching differently than I just taught you. So, it’s possible I’ve gotten it wrong, or they have also, or perhaps we both have it wrong. However, my view represents the conventional understanding of this topic.”
Once when I was a new Christian, I attended the World Conference on the Holy Spirit and Evangelism, in the Super Dome in New Orleans. We heard some strange things taught.
So, after our first full day I asked a wise pastor friend who came with me. “How much bad theology can a person believe and still be saved?” “A hope a lot! That’s no excuse for teaching bad theology, but I’m sure I’ve unintentionally taught things over the years, that actually aren’t true,” he said.
From that day on, I respected him even more for his humility.
How following Jesus works in real life.
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