As a young Christian in an Assembly of God church, I was trained to deal illogically and dishonestly with Scripture. Because of the Christian atmosphere in my town, at least among evangelical denominations, I was also trained to argue vehemently on behalf of my own denomination. As I argued, I saw that both the defenders of other evangelical denominations and defenders of groups we called “cults” treated the Scriptures in the same irrational and dishonest manner.
I was only 9 months old in the Lord when the US Air Force sent me to Galena, Alaska on a remote assignment. There were about 700 Native Americans there in two small villages, about 300 military, and about 200 other government workers. The available choices for attending church were the Catholic service at the chapel, the Protestant service at the chapel (led by a North American Baptist chaplain), and the little missionary church of 10 members or so in the Indian village.
I tried the Protestant service at the chapel, but it was clearly meant not to bother the unbelievers, so it did nothing for me. In the small world of Galena Air Station, I quickly found out who the committed Christians were. Including the chaplain, there were seven.
I got them together for Friday night prayer and Saturday evangelism in the Indian village. The chaplain did not join us for these. The others were all from varying backgrounds, and it took only 6 weeks for them to stop speaking with each other.
At that point, I realized I needed to start over. I needed to get in the Scripture and read the Bible just for what it says.
That is not as easy as it sounds. I was filled with preconceived notions that I had rapidly accumulated as I read the Bible and listened to sermons over my first year as a Christian. Divesting myself of those was not easy.
I have been working at reading the Bible honestly since that turn of mind in 1983. It is a chore that requires great effort.
The great effort is not the study. I love looking up Greek words, reading commentaries, and comparing passage to passage. I love finding out about the various books of the Bible, and the writers.
The great effort is fighting my desire to be right. The great effort is choosing what is right when I am embarrassed that I am wrong. Most often, this problem arises when someone else points out a solid truth in defense of a doctrine with which I did not agree.
I say “did not” because I have learned to quash that defensive desire. Nowadays, when I realize I was wrong, I change. 35 years have given me a lot of practice at being wrong and changing sides. It is no less painful and humiliating, but I have gotten used to the pain.
This series, “Dealing with Scripture Honestly,” will describe some of my embarrassing experiences, if I can remember them. They’re painful. Mostly, though, I want to point out some of those irrational and dishonest interpretations of Scripture that you, myself, and others have held or still hold.