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The Answer to Everything

November 24, 2015

We have an elderly friend, a fine Christian widow living on a fixed income.  While she struggles with both the expenses and upkeep of her home she is fiercely independent and will not accept help from anyone.   Recently her 40-year-old hot water heater started leaking and the plumber advised her to get a new one.  Worried about cost she asked if it could be fixed and he agreed that it could but that it didn’t make sense as it was so old another problem was sure to come up soon.

As she shared her dilemma – whether to dip into her meager savings or repair it – she told us she had been combing her much-read Bible for a passage which would tell her what she should do.  She was convinced that, since God cared about everything, she would find a verse that would speak to her on the matter.  I think she is going to have trouble finding a verse that will address the issue.

I’ve been reminded of her quest as I’ve watched a rip-roaring debate among Christians over whether or not the U.S. should take in Syrian refugees.  To be sure, this is just part of a wider civic debate but I’m impressed by the way Christians go about reaching their conclusions.   Basically the yes we should/no we shouldn’t sides use the same tactics that our elderly friend does.  It is a case of dueling Bible verses, each side sure that the answer is in the Bible somewhere and there is no need to actually think about this, we just look it up.

As always in such debates the two sides are quite impassioned but each seems sure that there is such a thing as a “biblical position on taking in refugees;” that in the Bible we will get clear direction of whether we should or not.  On reading the articles about this it might be said that the “yes we should” side is winning.  There seem to be a lot more potentially applicable verses they can find.  Here is one:

“Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.” All the people shall say, “Amen!”  Deuteronomy 27:19

But the “no we shouldn’t” crowd is fighting gamely on.  While they have bent a few verses, like those talking about walled cities, to their case they mostly spend their effort explain why the “yes” verses don’t apply and talking about how “a Christian worldview” requires government to protect us from evil and surely some of those Syrians are evil.

But here is a radical thought….what if the Bible doesn’t have any position on refugees in the 21st century?  What if it doesn’t speak to that issue at all?  What if both sides are just forming their own opinions and then searching the Bible for verses that they can claim confirm those opinions?

I tend to think that sometimes we, with good intentions, fall into the trap of thinking the Bible is some sort of magic answer book; that the answer to any question – from leaky hot water heaters to Syrian refugees – is in there somewhere.  I have no problem affirming that the Bible is true in all that it teaches.  I do have a problem believing it teaches everything about anything.

Maybe we will have to figure out the refugee issue ourselves and let the Bible teach us what God wants, not what we want.

From → Christianity

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