Truth and The Bible

Sometimes I forget what Bible College has taught me.

Or maybe it’s that I forget that people haven’t been taught the same way.

I don’t mean it in a bad way. There are many good things and, crazily enough, bad things I learned while in school. When I was finished with my first semester of my sophomore year, I was confused as to how I went this long not being equipped with what I learned up to that point. Every new thing I learned was like another tool on a utility belt, and I was the Dark Knight of biblical exegesis, preparing myself for when I would go out into the world and defeat Falsehood with the Truth of the Gospel.

Then something happened.

The bible ended up becoming a textbook to me. It was hard to balance the scales of seeing the pages of my bible as inspired text while learning about textual criticism and the like. I became cynical of speakers and preachers and teachers and commentators. I started to only read the ESV, because it was more literal to the original text, and if ever I saw an ambiguous passage, I knew I could just look it up in the original Greek (or Hebrew… if you’re into that stuff).

The bible is a crazy thing. Some people see it as an inspirational text. Some people use it as a justification for war, sexism, racism, patriotism, and capitalism. And some people see it for what it is – the Word of God. The Bible was given to us to share with us the story of Salvation History and our place within it. It is a guideline for how we are to walk in the Spirit. And to mishandle or misrepresent what the bible says is to potentially misrepresent the God who orchestrated the words in its pages.

Just because it is true doesn’t mean it is biblical:

This is an interesting statement, but what I want to address is “exegesis.” Exegesis means, “to lead out” and has the idea of drawing an interpretation out from Scripture. Many bible college students know that the opposite of this is “eisegesis” – or “putting in” one’s own interpretation to a text.

What this means is that someone could be saying all the right things, but not using the right proofs to do so. A classic example of this (and one MANY of my professors used) would be when Jesus calms the storm. By reading this passage in context, the author isn’t trying to say: “Jesus will calm the storms of your life.” What the author is trying to say is clear at the end of the text: “Who is this man? Even the wind and the waves obey him.”

Now, it is very well true that Jesus will bring peace to those who suffer. He says it in one of the Beatitudes. But to say that this is what Mark is trying to say in this passage takes away what Mark and God intended – that Jesus is divine. Not only does he cast out demons, and not only is he an incredible teacher, but even the weather is subject to him. For who else can control the weather but God himself?

By putting our own interpretation into a text, we run the risk of being able to justify anything with the use of smoke screens and poor context. Almost every text has one interpretation (for possible exceptions look at prophesies or the idea of sensus plenior). What makes a text different is how we apply that single interpretation to our lives.

Just because it isn’t biblical doesn’t mean it isn’t true:

This is something I find myself saying to my roommate a lot. He laughs at me, because we both know it really doesn’t make sense without an explanation. It honestly makes me feel like a heretic sometimes when I say it. But everyone knows that this is true. There are many ideas, and there are many things that are true that aren’t included in the bible. I know abortion is wrong. I believe that a fetus is actually a person, so it would be wrong to terminate a pregnancy. That isn’t anywhere in the bible.

Smoking isn’t anywhere in the bible.

Swearing isn’t anywhere in the bible.

The word “trinity” isn’t even in the bible.

If we believe that God is truth, then it must also be true that all truth is God’s truth… I’m sorry if you had to read that twice to get the full force of what I was trying to say. It’s scary to admit, because this leaves a big open gray area for a lot of things not mentioned in the bible. But God gave us the bible so that we can make godly judgments regarding these other things. The bible has nothing written against slavery, but we all hopefully know that it is wrong to own a person and to treat them like property.

The bible is the greatest guideline we could have on how to live life. It helps us to understand what God has brought humanity through. It shows us examples of the early church, so we know how to restore God’s kingdom to earth and know how to live Spirit led lives as well. The bible isn’t a tool used to bind people. It isn’t an instrument meant to control people. And it isn’t a book full of passages we can fill with our own “revelations.” This is the greatest physical tool we have for living out the Greatest Commandments. Let’s remember that it might not have all the answers, but it helps equip us to discover them for ourselves.

40 Years

Norma was a young twenty-something. She was poor and lived with her father. And she was pregnant… AGAIN! And already being 21 with two kids, she felt hopeless and depressed. At the time, the law forbade her from having the child aborted, unless she was raped. So she did what any desperate young adult would do; she went to the police and lied. But due to a lack of physical evidence, she was denied the “right” to abort her child…

It’s strange that at this moment in my life, I can really sympathize with Norma. Being around the same age as her, same financial desperation, and same failing feelings regarding life, I can see now more than ever why Norma would want to abort her child. She felt like she could barely support herself, and being pregnant meant not being able to work to support the family she already had as a single mother.

Dietrich spent sometime in America after finishing his doctoral work in his homeland – Germany. He worked at a church at the time, and made friends with the few people that would tolerate his poor English. He looked at the culture of America with ridicule – coming over in the 1930’s when racial prejudice was still at a high. He didn’t understand how human beings, whites and blacks, could treat each other so poorly. And Dietrich loved the gospel choirs of Black America!

Within several years, Dietrich didn’t know that he would only wish that his country had racial prejudice as mild as that in America. What Dietrich faced before him was far worse! The Fuhrer had black listed the Jews in Dietrich’s country. Close friends and colleagues had lost their jobs and were starting to disappear without a trace. Hitler was also using misguided quotes from Martin Luther, a prime historical figure of Germany, to make the people think that the Jews weren’t even human at all.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer would end up being killed by firing squad for his role in the conspiracy to kill Adolf Hitler. He was a theologian, and a pastor, and some would say a martyr. I look up to him because he was willing to speak up for the voiceless, and stand with few against the millions for something that he knew to be true.

Norma McCorvey, who most people probably know as Jane Roe, stood up for what she believed to be the right thing at the time. She went to court to fight for her right to choose abortion as an outcome for her child. The case Roe v. Wade was won on January 22, 1973 (though her baby was born during the trial and placed into adoption). Later, McCorvey would say that she was merely used by her attorneys to get what they wanted – a person who would allow them to challenge the state law.

And now millions of unborn children have died due to that outcome – abortion.

I wonder in another 40 years if we will look back and see the harm that we have caused our nation and the world. Abortion is no more a fight of religion as was the Holocaust. Abortion isn’t a matter of a woman’s right, but it is about the definition and importance of a human life.

I guess my favorite part of Norma McCorvey’s story is one of redemption. Now, 40 years after Roe v. Wade, McCorvey is a pro-life advocate. “I felt crushed under the truth of this realization. I had to face up to the awful reality. Abortion wasn’t about ‘products of conception’. It wasn’t about ‘missed periods’. It was about children being killed in their mother’s wombs. All those years I was wrong. Signing that affidavit, I was wrong. Working in an abortion clinic, I was wrong. No more of this first trimester, second trimester, third trimester stuff. Abortion — at any point — was wrong. It was so clear. Painfully clear.”