I frequently check the site Pop Urls to see what’s popular around the Internet. Frequently, the most popular threads or links on the social network site Reddit are in the atheism thread. A few nights ago, I watched a YouTube video on Interpretations of the Bible, and I found it fascinating.
The main thrust of the argument was “Because there are multiple groups of Christians that interpret the Bible different ways, Christians shouldn’t tell me that I have an incorrect interpretation of the Bible because even they can’t get it straight.
An interesting, if flawed proposition.
While it’s true that there are differences between denominations when it comes to interpretations, this was both expected as well as a strength.
Throughout the book of Acts and some of the Epistles we have a lot of time spent talking about “just what should we do/believe” and “what to do with people of diverging beliefs. Indeed, there was much debate in the early church as to what parts of the law new converts to Christianity should adhere to. Should they follow the entire law, and if not, what was binding and what was not?
Paul spent a good portion of his Epistles either defending doctrine or his position, or putting forth doctrine on certain issues. In Romans, he spends chapters defending “grace through faith apart from the law” because people believed that his doctrine would provide license to sin.
Paul laid out in Romans 14 how people with differing views about what pleases God—in essence, how to interpret the Bible—should respond to one another. There were many divergent views even at the time.
Rather than actually causing a problem for the Bible, this actually goes to its strength as an historical document—and one of great importance. One has but to think of another document, that’s very important to this country, but is young—a little over 200 years old.
The Constitution of the United States is the founding document of this nation. It contains the rules that Congress, the President, the Supreme Court, and the rest of the nation have to obey. It grants rights, prevents government incursion where it’s not permitted, and is one of the most disputed documents in this country.
Some believe that the Constitution is a “living document”—that it is meant to adapt with culture1. Some believe that they should adhere to the letter of it. Others believe they should consult writings at the time.
One wouldn’t make the argument that there is not a method of interpretation that is consistent with what the writers had in mind—the question is with what should it mean today. Did the Founders think that “equal protection” meant that there should be same-sex marriage? Certainly not. To those guys that backed blue laws, that would have been something a civilized culture wouldn’t have dreamed.
The same is true when it comes to the Bible. There is a way to interpret the Bible consistent with what the people of the time believed when they were writing it. There is a way to determine what is allegory, what is historical, etc.—but more people are concerned with what they want to do in application than what the text actually says.
No one would doubt that the Constitution has meaning, is powerful, and is important—the same should be counted a strength to the Bible.
- Much as some believe that the culture can invalidate the teachings of Scripture.