Occasionally I will see a sign or ad or hear someone say something along the lines of ‘Our church teaches the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible.’
Whenever I hear this, I cringe.
Not because I have a problem with the Bible, though some might think so. 😉
No, but because statements like that imply that the church doesn’t know that they interpret the Bible just like everyone else.
When you say “We ONLY teach the Bible”, you are saying that: “What we teach is pure Bible truth… no possibility of growing, because we already know exactly what the Bible says and that is all we teach. It’s plain as day in our eyes.”
Well, we can find out if your church teaches only the Bible with out interpretation or tradition pretty quickly:
Do you wear blended fabrics?
Do you enjoy an Easter ham or Red Lobster’s coconut shrimp? (hmmm… shrimp…)
Do you stone the adulterers and female non-virgins? (Please say no…)
Do your new believers need to sell everything they own?
Do you tell your slaves to obey their masters? (anti-abolitionist, anyone?)
Do your women cover their heads while prophesying? (this would imply your women cover their heads AND prophesy.)
I can hear the groaning from here- “but those verses aren’t meant for today,” or “that was cultural”, or “that was what that individual needed to hear!”
Well I agree of course! But making the determination of what is for now and what was for then requires more than a plain reading of those passages. It require a sense of what the Biblical story is about and where we are in it… it requires cultural context… it requires a understanding the purpose and the heart of God’s commands… it requires some common sense.
It requires interpretation. And we should all be working towards good interpretation.
So please, lets not act like we ‘only’ teach the Bible as if we simply read the words indiscriminately off the page and let them interpret themselves. Because we don’t, and we shouldn’t. Also, lets remember that questioning our interpretation of scripture isn’t the same as tossing scripture out the window. Questioning interpretation and honestly re-evaluating our doctrine is about recognizing that we are not inerrant. It’s about allowing possibility that we are wrong about something and being willing to change.
And being willing to change is a healthy thing. It’s how we got the reformation and abolition. Even more, if the first Christians hadn’t been willing to reconsider what they believed scripture clearly said, they would never have followed Jesus. But Jesus had captured their hearts and it demanded that they reconsider their assumptions. So they gave up their lives as they knew them and let the Jewish carpenter challenge everything they knew.
In the same way, our allegiance should be to our King, and we should expect nothing less than that He wants to challenge us and cause us to re-think our assumptions. If our faith is in our King and our hearts are submitted to Him, we have nothing to fear in challenge or change.
After thought: Surrendering to Jesus and being open to challenge doesn’t of course guarantee that we will suddenly have 100% correct opinions, but it sure does put us on the best foundation for the journey of seeking God’s truth and fulfilling the greatest commands. Ultimately, we ALL have the attitude of being un-open to challenge and change at some points or on some issues… it’s not just the more ‘fundamentalist’ churches. The goal is here is for each of us to more in a more ‘Jesus grounded’ direction.