Honest Bible Interpretation: Assumptions, Humility, and Reality

It seems that there’s always some incident making me want to talk about honest Bible interpretation.

Today it was a phone call  made to a call-in talk show. The hosts, conservatives like most talk radio hosts, had repeated a rumor I’ve heard that the lastest statistics say there’s been a 7-year cooling trend globally.

Caveat: This blog’s not about global warming. I have not yet checked whether that rumor is true. I don’t care about global warming.

I’m against polluting the earth. I am for weaning ourselves off coal and oil and using as much clean, free energy (sun, wind, tide, rivers) as possible. I like clean water and clear air.

I think if you don’t agree with that, then you’ve been blinded by politics, and you should ask God to deliver you from the world.

The caller was deeply offended. “What if,” she began, “listeners simply take a sound byte off the radio from you and assume it’s true?”

They went back and forth until I couldn’t take it anymore, and I turned the radio off. I had a question to ask her, and the hosts weren’t asking it.

Assumptions and Humility

Here’s what I would have asked. “What if listeners just took a sound byte off the radio from those hosts, assumed it was true … and it was true? Would you mind so much then?”

Or, “What if you just took sound bytes off the evening news, assumed it was true, and never checked it out? Is that a problem?”

The underlying assumption in her call was that these guys were wrong. What they said was false. Why? Not because she researched it. The other parts of her call made it obvious that she knew very little about global warming.

She was simply assuming that what she heard was true, exactly what she was accusing their listeners of doing.

Honest Bible Interpretation

Like I said earlier, this isn’t about global warming. If global warming is true, we should stop polluting the earth. If global warming is false, we should still stop polluting the earth. (What I do know is that we are polluting the earth less, especially in America. Yeah! Don’t slow down now!)

The problem is that so many Christians do exactly the same thing with the Bible. They are absolutely confident of so many doctrines that have a weak Biblical basis at best.

By itself, that’s not a big problem. You can get a lot of doctrine wrong and still be a great Christian if you obey Christ and walk by his Spirit.

However, the flip side is the condemnation and haughtiness associated with these assumptions.

Let’s pick a not-very-threatening example.

An Example: The Devil’s Rebellion in Heaven

Almost every Christian knows the story about the devil deceiving a third of the angels into rebelling against God. That’s how he became the devil, and he was thrown out of heaven.

Almost every modern Christian believes that everything from Revelation ch. 4 and forward is future prophecy.

Almost every modern Christian thus believes a contradiction.

The story about the devil deceiving a third of the angels is in Revelation 12. There’s no reason at all to believe that this happened before Adam.  It’s strange that any of us believe it at all.

Worse, the story simply says that the dragon drew a third of the stars of heaven with his tail and threw them to the ground. That could mean angels, I suppose, but I don’t know any Christians who believe that the stars which fell to earth in Revelation 6:13 are angels. I don’t know any who believe the twelve stars in the crown of the woman in Rev. 12:1 are angels.

There’s a lot of guessing and contradiction going on here.

That’s not the only place.

Honest Bible Interpretation: The Rest of Our Doctrines

I’m not going to talk about the rest of our doctrines. I don’t want to correct the rest of our doctrines. I want us to be more humble.

No, I want us to quit dividing.

We violate the Scriptures every day by telling young Christians to go to “a Bible-believing Church.” Of course, there will be 75 “Bible-believing” churches within driving distance of his house, and they will disagree on some really major doctrines, including how he is saved, how he keeps his salvation–or whether he even needs to–how he should be baptized, and what that baptism means.

Our tracts should say

Dear new believer, I am so sorry but I have to tell you to pick among our many sinful divisions of Christ’s body. I weep and cry to God every day that we might repent of our sin and unite. Until we do, you’ll have to choose from one of those divisions. Please don’t join the division. The Bible clearly teaches that it’s our unity that will convince the world that Jesus is God’s Son (Jn. 17:20-23), and Paul tells us that we’re being carnal when we say we belong to a denomination (1 Cor. 3:3-4). In fact, our divisions could keep us out of the kingdom of heaven (Gal. 5:19-21)!”

Assumptions and Honesty

I got a little off track there.

Let’s use another political example. In Hank Hanegraaff’s The Bible Answer Book (I can always count on Hank as a massive resource for presumptions and assumptions; generally I can find one on any page I look) , he writes, “The Book of Hebrews warns us that there were Jews who, like Judas, tasted God’s goodness and yet turned from grace. They acknowledged Christ with their lips, but their apostasy proved that their faith was not real.”

Really? Where does Hebrews say their faith wasn’t real?

The fact is, it doesn’t. Hanegraaff has argued the eternal security issue with people for years. He’s discussing Hebrews 6:2-6, actually, and he knows very well that whether the people mentioned there had a real faith or not is exactly what people argue about.

But he doesn’t care. He has a point to make. Who cares if it’s false or unreasonable?

Let’s quit picking on Hank Hanegraaff. What about you?

That verse you’re using to prove your point, does it really say what you say it says? Or do you just have a point to make whether or not the Bible really backs it up?

Maybe we could try saying, “You know, I think this, but I can’t really back it up well right now. Besides, you’re more important to me than this doctrine, even if I could back it up well. We’re both servants of Christ. Let’s follow him together.”

I know, I know. There’s doctrines we can’t do that with. We might be surprised how few doctrines we can’t do that with, however.

Humility and Good Works

We fight so strongly for our doctrines, and we are so offended when they are crossed. Yet, have you ever read the part in your Bible where we’re going to be judged for our doctrines?

I’ve never read it, either, because it doesn’t exist.

We are going to be judged by our deeds. The words of a Don Francisco song make the point perfectly (and Scripturally):

The thing I need to ask you is, have you done the things I said?
Do you love your wife?
For her and for your children, are you laying down your life?
What about the others?
Are you living as a servant for your sisters and your brothers?
Do you make the poor man beg you for a bone?
Do the widow and the orphan cry alone?

Now that’s some honest Bible interpretation!

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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4 Responses to Honest Bible Interpretation: Assumptions, Humility, and Reality

  1. Shammah says:

    Hi, Robin. I missed your comment in the admin section of my blog, so it didn’t get approved until today (May 11).

    The things I say about salvation by faith alone being common among Protestants don’t apply to the Church of Christ denomination. They reject that doctrine.

    Thanks for commenting!

  2. Shammah says:

    I haven’t left a reply in a long time! Just so everyone knows, I never set up what the comment box asked for. I was surprised to find out an email address is required.

    WordPress does that, not me. Maybe there’s an option. I’ll look sometime. I don’t use the email addresses.

    Anyway, good to hear from you, Nate. David definitely emphasizes the story–uh, prophecy–of the sheep and the goats. It’s a good thing to emphasize.

  3. Robin says:

    I like the link to the article “sound doctrine in the history of Christianity”.
    Good stuff. Its funny I have been going to a coc for a long time, and we don’t talk about romans much ( i didn’t know that was common in prot. churches, even someone at church mentioned this very thing a few weeks ago, i hadn’t realized Romans as such). We do actually have people repent and turn around before they get baptized. I think you are onto something. a person who lives out humility and patience is better testimony than any preacher…

    By the way, i am prideful and am working on being more patient. I want to be like the above, but not there yet.

  4. Nate Morales says:

    Hey Shammah!

    Great post!
    We had David Servant with us this weekend and he shared exactly along those lines. He took off on the judgement between the sheep and the goats as the ultimate standard for christian living as opposed to the salvation by faith alone concept.
    He was great and so was this post!

    Love you dear brother

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