I have a soft spot in my heart for every new Christian who wants to learn about God and grow in personal faith and maturity through the Bible.
A deep, warm, fuzzy soft spot.
And in contrast, I have a hard spot for everyone who gets people to question that Bible, especially experts who bring into question its reliability to the average Christian.
A very hard spot. A stone on which anyone who falls will be broken to pieces spot.
Because I know the gospel is the power of God for salvation to those who believe, the Bible useful for thoroughly equipping the servant of God.
So I seriously question any piece like one recently published by Relevant Magazine entitled 5 Things I Wish Christians Would Admit About the Bible that seems to question the average Christian’s ability to know the truth of the Word of God.
And I’m going to warn you about five specific things you need to look out for when listening to people talk about the Bible.
Five Things to Watch Out For When People Talk About the Bible
1. When someone implies you cannot understand the truth of the Scriptures without knowing the nuanced historical, cultural, or literary contexts.
This is one of the biggest lies about the Bible.
It’s the kind of thing a Christian says who doesn’t believe orthodox Christianity. If someone starts expounding on the cultural limitations, social agendas, and differing purposes of Bible authors, pay close attention. Usually he’s trying to get you to abandon orthodox belief for one that isn’t easy to pick up just from a simple reading of the Bible.
That should be a hint as to its reliability.
Each passage and verse gives enough context within itself, even about its literary purpose, to be understood as a clear statement about God’s nature alone. In fact, it’s borderline blasphemy to imply knowing the Bible itself isn’t enough. It’s a kind of spiritual elitism akin to the Catholic church of Luther’s day saying only priests can understand Scripture and then keeping it out of commoners’ hands.
You don’t need to know the history of eating meat sacrificed to idols when Paul makes it clear it’s a temptation to others’ weak faith and recommends Christians avoid behavior that leads others into sin.
You don’t need an extensive understanding of the greeting styles in Corinth to understand “Greet each other with a holy kiss” teaches us to show signs of affection when we see one another.
Even trickier passages are revealed by the context of their passages. Beware of believers who say, “Oh, that isn’t true today, because so-and-so theologian has a theory this was going on at the time of that passage. That’s why the Bible says what it does…” while completely ignoring the written context of the passage that identifies how the verse should be understood.
Claims that cultural factors or the author’s personal agenda influenced passages in the Bible are usually a thinly veiled attempt for a person to scrub portions of Scripture incompatible with his or her worldview, rather than use the context of Scripture alone to interpret Scripture.
Do not listen to people who make you uncertain of your Bible. The Bible alone is enough.
2. When someone uses the Bible’s complexity to make it seem like any interpretation is possible.
Scripture interprets Scripture, so most ambiguities a person finds are explained by other Scriptures that clarify a subject. The number one reason people come up with discrepancies of beliefs from the same Bible is this:
They do not understand direct commands should always be used to determine beliefs before indirect implications.
For example, if Paul lists one criteria of pastors is “not given to wine,” an inference might be made that he implies they should never drink. This is an indirect implication. But since Paul explicitly recommends a pastor friend, Timothy, to drink a little wine for his stomach and Jesus commands all Christians to drink it (wine was alcoholic) as a remembrance of Christ’s death, it becomes clear Paul is saying it shouldn’t have a hold on them (“given to” is likewise translated “addicted to” in other translations). Those are direct commands, and they inform principle truth before indirect references should.
Understanding this way of interpreting Scripture would avoid mistakes like assuming Priscilla was a pastor alongside Aquila or Jesus implicitly endorsed alternative lifestyles, or a host of other subjects, when the Bible makes direct commands on each subject in the context of God’s intended creation, not man’s culture (¹,²).
It’s simply dishonest and dangerous to say we all have interpretations and who knows who might be right? Point people instead to how to find out for themselves.
3. When people shed doubt on God’s Word by calling it God-breathed, but not God-dictated, emphasizing the fallability of the men who wrote it over the reliability of the message.
The Bible says this instead:
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1.20-21)
Bible authors didn’t get some parts wrong because they added their own bits on whim. God’s breath wasn’t a mere whisper they took and whipped into a frenzy. It carried them along, not the other way around.
Never listen to someone who tries to get you to disbelieve the Bible and undermine your absolute trust in what the Word says about God’s nature and you.
4. When people use the argument that every person cherry-picks Scriptures, as though we’re all on the same flawed foundation — to strengthen their own weak theological position.
This is the most ridiculous argument. In truth, we can definitively know the Word of God. Otherwise no one should ever teach it. Sure, bias exists, but so does truth and the Holy Spirit reveals it to those who are willing to look beyond cultural and experiential assumptions and listen.
There’s nothing wrong with defending the Scriptures with confidence as one learns, either. Paul defended the integrity of the Scriptures fiercely against false teachers, and you should be confident as you grow in it — from personal time spent sitting at the Lord’s feet, soaking up time with him learning in his Word.
5. When people use the Bible as a straw man to draw into question its words in contrast with the greater glory of God.
The Bible is not merely inspired words about God. Jesus is the Word made flesh.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through him and without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1.1-3)
The Bible is the written infallible and inerrant Word of God. It is not magic. And yes, we still see in part as through a veil. But it is true and everything about it can be trusted. The Bible is the written reflection of the Word — Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is more than good and lovely things that “simply fail” as words when pointing to God.
Be careful of anyone who says “God is far too big to be contained in those words.” I would listen very carefully to what that person says next, to find the error in what he’s trying to suggest. Usually they make you question where they don’t want you to believe what the Bible says.
I suggest you listen to the word of God that stands forever.
And there’s only one place you can absolutely depend on hearing that.