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It’s a clue

October 15, 2013

I mentioned in my last post that we evangelicals love our Bible, something that hardly qualifies as breaking news.  We also look to the Bible in order to apply its teaching to our lives.    We are essentially unanimous on this point.  Sadly, our unanimity frequently stops there.  How can it be that, after reaching this core agreement, we seem to gallop off in all directions, secure in the knowledge that we are acting “Biblically” only to turn around and find that other evangelicals are not always with us?

We have lots of excuses we can turn to.  Those other guys (never me of course) are deceived.  Or worldly.  Or heretics.  Or, if we gracious, sadly mistaken.  Can we turn to experts and scholars?  Yes, but we will find very quickly that they have the same problem agreeing that we do.  Can we appeal to our confidence that we are expressing historic Christian beliefs?  Yes, but they often can too.  We can’t turn to the Bible for proof that we, and not they, are right because they are doing the exact same thing.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were some objective signals that tell us perhaps, just perhaps, we need to rethink our understanding?  Actually, I think there might be such clues.  Mind you, I am not saying that we judge the truthfulness of the Bible through these things, they are merely clues that we need to be careful.  They tip us off to the fact that we may (a) be wrong or (b) need to express our beliefs with utmost grace, willing to consider we may be wrong.

I’ve come up with a few that are by no means exhaustive.  Some of them come from real experiences I have had, others are more from observing the world around me and the way we evangelicals engage it.  So, here is an incomplete list of suggestions that may be clues that we need to rethink our theological conclusions before we set out to conquer the world with them.

–          Do you need to twist Bible verses like pretzels to support your view?  For example, a friend of mine says that Proverbs 31:16 “she considers a field and buys it…” can be understood as teaching that wives should do the grocery shopping.

–          Does the application of your theology produce bizarre outcomes?  For example (true story) I know a church that accepted as an elder a man who, more than 20 years earlier and before he was a Christian, killed his wife but refused to accept as an elder a man who, more than 20 years before and before he was a Christian, divorced his wife.

–          Are there fellow “Christians” whose every action horrifies you who agree with your theology?  If your understanding of Bible teaching on an issue is the same as Westboro Baptist Church, for example, be careful.

–          Can your theology only be lived out in a literate contemporary culture?  For example, it is only in recent times, and in affluent cultures, that the idea that men should go to work and women should stay home and take care of the family is even possible.  Until recently, and in most third world cultures, everyone, young and old, male and female, works as hard as they can, any way they can, just to survive.  I have nothing against the choice to live in the provider/caretaker model but when you say that everyone else must follow that model you ignore reality.

–          Does a single issue drive your theology?  I have a good friend who is passionate about stopping domestic abuse and I support her 100% in this effort.  But it sometimes seems that she feels the entire Bible is an anti-abuse handbook and she is prone to some startling interpretations.  It would be the same no matter what my single issue is.

–          When, every time you read the Bible, are the things you already believe always reconfirmed?  Unless you have the infallibility some claim for a Pope you need to be able to change your mind on issues.

–          Does your theology lead to excuses or justifications for hurting others?  This might be physical, legal or emotional hurting.  For example, do you find yourself saying to your daughter that there are things that, if your brother does them, will give God joy but that, if you do them, will make Him angry?

None of these things constitute “proof”.  The list is not exhaustive.  You can disagree with it.  At the end of the day here is the principle I like to follow – When godly people disagree with me and can quote Bible verses just as well as I do, even when I think they are wrong, I need to admit that it is possible that I too may be wrong.  Let grace prevail.

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