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.

The Convict’s Confession

I was surprised.

It wasn’t because I got caught. It wasn’t because of the punishment I was going to face, or the disappointment coming from those who expected more from me. I was surprised because I didn’t realize what I did was wrong until after I was found out.

August 30, 2003 started out like any other day. My parents allowed me to have some friends over for my birthday, and we spent the night testing the myth of adolescent metabolic function. We pigged out, joked around, and did everything that you would expect budding teenagers to do. We ended the night by going out for a stroll in my neighborhood.

We knew the kid down the street’s parents weren’t home, and that he and his friend were out toilet-papering houses. One of the boys with us used to house sit for them, so he knew where the key was. It didn’t matter anyway. We lived in the type of neighborhood where people didn’t lock their doors. They had no need to, or so they thought.

The next day when the kid returned to his home, he knew that something was awry. After some minor investigative work, one of the kids in our group (the one who used to house sit for them) confessed that we went in the house. We didn’t trash anything. We didn’t steal anything. But you could imagine the insecurity that the family felt knowing that their sanctuary had been marauded.

It is crazy how God can use the most miserable and bleak situations and turn them into celebrations.

This incident was the “light bulb” I needed. It showed me my own depravity and the depravity of the world, knowing that even “good kids” were subject to actions I thought were only capable of those at the world’s underbelly. Kids of the suburbs need Jesus just as much as the men on death row. I was now proof of that. I experienced it first hand. I might have broken into a house, but through this situation, God had broken into my heart. He chiseled away the mess I was in. And I would never be the same.

When we went to court to plea our case, many of the parents had lawyers advising them to plea, “innocent.” If you know anything of the court system, even if you are guilty it is better to plea innocent, so your lawyer has the chance to work a deal with the judge. Regardless, the idea didn’t sit right with me. I knew I was responsible, and I wanted to show the judge and God that I was willing to pay the earthly consequence despite my heavenly verdict. Sometimes we still have to face consequences on earth that God has pardoned. It is just another portrait of our frailty – pointing to a future hope of reconciliation.

The judge took kindness on us. We got the minimal sentence – no jail time, no community service. I got the incident wiped from my record. People who do a background check on me don’t even know this story. We had to pay a small fine and had to pay a few visits to a probation officer… who was also a pastor.

I remember having to tell my wrestling coach about the incident. Half of the guys who got arrested were on the wrestling team, and we knew that our getting in trouble would affect the team. After we told him what we did, he paused, and then he singled-me-out and rebuked me in front of the whole group. It was my second year being wrestling captain of our middle school team. He told me that by doing what I did, I didn’t do what a leader was supposed to do. I was a follower – doing what I knew was wrong but following regardless. It was a lesson that I have never and will never let myself forget.

Have you ever done something so horrific that you surprised yourself? Have you ever been a follower in a situation where you were supposed to lead the people out of the mess? Have you ever let down the people you cared about most? Are you paying the earthly consequences of actions that have already been forgiven in heaven?

Remember that God is for you. If you seek him, you will find Him. He has His hand outstretched in your direction. He is offering you a gift of reconciliation and grace. You just need to accept it by faith. God is about reconciliation. He is in the healing business… and business is good. If you are in a situation with no visible horizon, know that God loves to make those situations beautiful – just like the sun at dawn.

He will make it beautiful, because He alone gets the glory when He does something we can’t do on our own.

Seek Him. Discover Him. Embrace Him.