I recently had lunch with a good friend. Although we see one another at church frequently, rarely do we get to sit down together and actually talk. I imagine most of you can relate to that regarding someone.
As we discussed a variety of topics–marriage, work, finances, cars–we just naturally started talking about church and the various opinions people–even other Christians–have about the Bible.
I explained that my well-educated pastor father had been pretty liberal by our church’s standards, even though at one point years ago he had served for a while as its interim pastor. I hasten to add that of the number of people there who still speak to me lovingly of “Pastor Ben,” no one has ever complained to me about his theology. My parents believed strongly in the Baptist concept of “priesthood of the Believer”; every Christian should be free to interpret the Bible in whatever way God leads.
So, for example, if I choose to go along with my parents’ beliefs that the seven days of Creation were seven periods of time rather than literal twenty-four hour days, I can do that without fear of criticism.
We also discussed things like the impossibility of ever having a completely accurate translation of the Bible, because that would necessitate an indisputably accurate translation of each word within both the current and the overall context. And we agreed that–although God inspired every word in the Bible–that doesn’t mean He dictated it to the person who wrote it down. If that had happened, why wouldn’t the whole Bible be written in one single, unmistakable style? The very fact that it had so many authors over such a long period of time and yet still tells one unified story goes far beyond amazing.
My friend told me about some of the Bible-related things he’s interested in researching, and I think that’s great. He’s a highly intelligent man, and he won’t chase a rabbit that scrambles away in the least from what the Bible clearly says.
But I couldn’t keep from thinking about a Friday night Bible study I used to attend. We went through whatever passage we were studying that night verse by verse, word by word, almost letter by letter. Our leader was very good, but the process was tedious. It was during those Friday nights that I reached a significant conclusion.
I don’t understand everything about the Bible and I never will. (Neither will anyone else.) But I believe it with all my heart. At the same time, I already understand how to live the Christian life God wants me to live. My failures as a Christian aren’t the result of my failure to understand more, but my failure to apply what I already understand to my daily life.
More power to those who feel called to study and to learn.
Me, I’ll just keep praying for God to help me become more loving and more self-sacrificing. And less critical and less sure of myself. If God wants me to understand a particular part of the Bible I’m currently fuzzy about, I believe He’ll lead me to it. And He’ll help me to see how understanding it will help me to live a more Christlike life.
What about you? Are you a Bible reader? Are you a Bible student? Do you think there’s such a thing as too much learning when it comes to the Bible? How about leaving a comment?
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