I would like to use this week’s column to dispel two misconceptions that prevail in Christianity.
Myth one is the misconception that the Bible is a fluid document that is subject to individual interpretation. You know the argument, "Well, that’s just how you interpret it. My interpretation is different."
If it is true that the Bible is merely a book of subjective interpretation, no one can ever really be sure of what it has to say. The Bible says, "The main thing to keep in mind here is that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of private opinion. And why? Because it’s not something concocted in the human heart. Prophecy resulted when the Holy Spirit prompted men and women to speak God’s Word" (2 Peter 1:20-21, The Message).
While I understand that these words from Peter are referring to how we got our Scripture, I do believe they have application in how we interpret Scripture. When all is said and done, there is only one correct interpretation for any given verse of Scripture. One correct interpretation, but many applications.
The reason we get different interpretations at times has to do with our own theological bent and the method we use in our interpretation. This does not mean that correct interpretation of a passage changes. It simply means that the reason we sometimes interpret things differently is because we are either forcing the interpretation through the lens of our particular tradition or we are using faulty interpretive methods to make the passage fit what we have already determined to be truth.
I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. It is his self-revelation to us. If that is the case, we must assume that it is objective truth not truth based upon one’s own interpretation. If the latter is the case, you might as well throw the whole thing out because it’s pretty useless. However, if the former is the case, it becomes imperative that we submit ourselves to its teachings. More importantly, that we submit ourselves to the person of Jesus Christ who claimed to be God in the flesh and who died for our sins and rose again so that we can have life. If the Bible is true, we have to deal with passages like Acts 4:12 with all seriousness. Acts 4:12 says, "Jesus is the only One who can save people. No one else in the world is able to save us" (Acts 4:12, NCV). You may not like that statement, but you have to deal with it someway. If the Bible is God’s truth, you have to make a decision about where you are going to place your faith. If the Bible is not God’s truth, you can simply dismiss the claim as absurd.
Myth two is the misconception that all Christians should look, act and think alike. Believing as I do that the Bible is the infallible and inerrant revelation of God, I am compelled to believe that in Jesus Christ there is true freedom (see John 8:36 and Galatians 5:1). Let me put this another way: there is no cookie-cutter Christian. God has created us all unique and different, that doesn’t change when we are born by faith into his forever family.
The hardest thing for Christians to do it seems is to recognize that we don’t have to act, look, or talk the same. Other than some essentials regarding faith, we don’t even all have to necessarily believe the same (See Romans 14-15 for a discussion of that). We who are members of God’s forever family desperately need to learn how to respond to those who disagree with us graciously and not judgmentally. We need to remember the truth of Romans 14:4, "What right do you have to criticize someone else’s servants? Only their Lord can decide if they are doing right, and the Lord will make sure that they do right" (Romans 14:4, CEV).
I understand that I write some difficult things from time to time in this column. I understand that people may not always agree with me. What I need you to understand is that is OK. I write these things for your consideration only, but be aware of the fact that no matter how strongly I may write on an issue, I am acutely aware that I am not the judge (thank goodness). Because of that those who choose to disagree with me, please be aware that while we may choose to disagree I will never stand in judgment against you; I will never "write you off" as the saying goes. That is not my place.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard Thursdays on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m.