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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How not to defend the Bible

God is, and has, defended and preserved the Bible, for centuries, even millenia. Nonetheless, some of us feel that it is necessary to defend it, or, in other words, to defend our faith. The best way, and the most effective one, to defend the Bible is to live a Christ-like life. Period.

This is not to say that it is wrong to defend the Bible. God can, and has, worked through people to do this. Through Bible translators, for example. Sometimes, you or I should defend it.

Unfortunately, there are a number of bad ways to defend the Bible. They actually are ways to attack its truth, not to defend, even though in most cases that wasn't the intention. Here are a few of them:

1) Claim, loudly and publicly, that the Bible tells us exactly when the next event in the unfolding of history will occur, or what it will be. See here for a recent unfortunate example. See here for an indication that prophecy is not as easy to interpret as some people seem to think that it is.

2) Claim that the Bible unequivocally supports what you believe about a controversial subject that Christians disagree on, such as the ordination of women, eternal security, the nature of baptism, proper church government, use of unknown languages, and many more. We are entitled to our beliefs, and some of them are right, we hope, but some of them may be wrong. To say that the Bible supports only our view, when there are God-fearing, praying, Bible-believing Christians that have another view, which they also think is supported by scripture, is just plain wrong. I'm not the only one who thinks so. We should say something like "I personally think that X is true, and I hope I am right" or "this passage of the Bible supports my view. There are people who also believe the Bible who disagree. Perhaps they are right."

3) Say that the Bible says something that it doesn't. A trivial example is to claim that the Bible says that "cleanliness is next to godliness," or "God helps those who help themselves." (It doesn't say either of these.) Another example would be to claim that the Bible says that behavior Y, whatever that is, is wrong, when it doesn't. I have seen the Bible used to attack hair styles, church music, tattoos, and what people wear to church, when it doesn't say that that particular behavior is wrong at all. (Some behaviors, like gossiping, are wrong, and the Bible says that they are.) Some behaviors are foolish, maybe even sinful, but not because the Bible says, in so many words, that they are. The Bible says nothing direct about smoking, for one example, although it's dangerous.* Another way of doing this would be to claim that the Bible says that the earth was created about 6,000 years ago. Some people think that the Bible supports that view, and perhaps they are right, but it makes no such statement. Such a statement is an interpretation of what the Bible says, requiring some assumptions, not what it says. Other Christians interpret the Bible differently. (See point 2.)

*My own denomination, and others, forbid smoking to members. Therefore, if I smoke, I am breaking a covenant with my church, so I shouldn't smoke. That would be true even if smoking weren't dangerous, so long as the covenant said that I shouldn't. Other practices, such as not eating properly, eating too much, not getting enough sleep, not exercising enough, and too much exposure to the sun or tanning beds, are also dangerous to our health. The Bible doesn't say anything directly against any of these, but Christians, and others, should be careful in all these areas. However, I suspect that there will be smokers, overeaters, and sleep-phobics in heaven.

4) Fail to use good sense, and what others have learned. Peter said that no prophecy was of private interpretation. This probably means, although it doesn't exactly say so, that it's a good idea to find out what other Christians think, or have thought, about a particular topic before striking out on one's own. Before stating some view, check a commentary, or ask a person who knows the Bible well. Consider the context before taking a particular verse as the centerpiece of some crusade.

5) Claim that the Bible supports a particular political party. What do you get when you mix religion and politics? politics. Many Christians are politically conservative. Perhaps that's what God wants them to be, and there are some things that current conservatism supports, in the US, that are good, and things that it is against that are not good. But to say, for example, that the Bible teaches that the best government is least, that taxes are thievery, and the like, is a real stretch. (See point 3) It's an interpretation of scripture. It's an interpretation that leaves out some parts of the Bible, such as 1 Kings 4 - 7, which indicate that Solomon taxed the people heavily for food, and for his horses (and probably for his army) and that he sent tens of thousands of them off to work on his projects for about 7 years. This was a time, according to 1 Kings 8:10-11, when God blessed Solomon's main project, building the Temple. Another part that's left out, in arguments like that, is Psalm 72, which speaks of a welfare state for the poor, by the government of the time, namely the king. Most likely God is not thrilled with many of the views, and actions, of both the left or the right.

The best way to defend the Bible is to live like it was true -- to follow Christ. I hope I am doing so. Thanks for reading.


atlibertytosay said...

Great post.

I think Christ discussed biblical principles through his own parables. He also knew his own words (and teachings) would become the new testament.

I think a great way of "defending the Bible" is to do what you do here and I occasionally do on The Liberty Monitor.

Bible study to me is a part of prayerful living.

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:11

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

2 Timothy 2:15

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Romans 15:4

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

I try to be careful when I make interpretations to explain in detail and/or make it clear this one view and that there are others.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, atlibertytosay. And I know that we don't agree on all points. (Which isn't surprising -- sometimes I don't agree with myself!)

Thanks for the appropriate scripture references.