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.

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More Than A Four-Letter Word.

Something that has become predominantly popular in movies as of recent is using the Lord’s name to replace a 4-letter word. Jesus Christ, can we stop?!

This supposed breaking of the Third Commandment (Exod 20) is something that Christians have been trying to counteract for years. Instead of “OMG,” Christians replaced it with “OMGosh” – an act almost as highly offensive as making certain “Christian bands” comparisons to “secular bands.”

But how did the Hebrew people hearing the Ten Commandments for the first time receive this instruction that they shouldn’t use the Lord’s name in vain? First of all, in the Hebrew I feel like almost every word is a four letter word. So, if you are replacing a four letter word with God’s name, I feel as though the ancient language would cease to exist entirely. I think Christians are really hindering the meaning of the text if they think that this Commandment only refers to substituting God’s name for a synonym of poop. I think of the popular YouTube video from sketch comedy group “Harvard Sailing Team” where one of the actor’s cats, named “Poops”, dies: “Poops is with God now… and I am sure God takes Poops EVERYWHERE!”

So what does this Commandment mean then? What does it mean to use the Lord’s name in vain?

In simplest terms, it means not to misrepresent God.

There have been times in my life where people have “prophesied” over me or my family or a situation “in the name of the Lord.” If some one is speaking as though their words are the words of God, they are “using the name of the Lord.” And if they are speaking as though they are the Ultimate Power of Authority in the universe, they better get right what that Being is trying to say. If someone speaks wrongly as though they have the authority of God, then they are using the Lord’s name in vain.

I know what you’re thinking: “This makes me a lot more scared than when I just thought it was telling me not to replace a crass word for fornication with the name of God.” If it was that easy, then all we would have to do is say, “Geez” instead of “Jesus” and “Gosh” instead of “God.” But it isn’t that easy. We need to be careful whenever we translate or apply a biblical passage, because we might be using the Lord’s name in vain. We need to be careful when we give people counsel, because we as Christians are speaking for the Heart of God.

When we wrongly judge others, we are using the Lord’s name in vain. When we say that certain actions that aren’t acceptable really are, we are using the Lord’s name in vain. When we condescendingly rebuke another Christian’s theology when it is truly ours that needs checked, we are using the Lord’s name in vain.

Strive to be a good representation of God. Don’t speak with authority that hasn’t been given to you. Use discernment. Seek more to learn the truth, so that you can take in everything through the filter of God’s Word. And lastly, remember that if I am wrong, then I have just used the Lord’s name in vain.

What else can you do to help you not use the Lord’s name in vain?