In churches, we hand out Bibles like candy. If you are interested in seeking God or you are a brand new Christian, you will be handed a Bible, told to read it, and you will begin to grow in your faith as a result.
So a person, with zero knowledge of what the Bible actually is and how to actually read it, opens it up to a random page to find any number of random verses about slaughtering animals, the Nephilim, stoning people for committing adultery, God commanding his people to exterminate another people group, or the need for women to be silent and to not braid their hair. Um…this is how a person is supposed to grow in their faith???
This brings up a fancy word called hermeneutics, which in simple terms means “The method we use to interpret the Bible.” It is a topic that fascinates me. Growing up, I was indirectly taught that my brand of church was correct about everything in the Bible and anyone who disagreed with our views was being unbiblical. I had read the entire Bible as a teenager, but had mastered the skill of skimming over confusing or upsetting passages (like the ones above) and focusing on the “good parts”.
In college, I was taught hermeneutics. I remember my undergrad hermeneutics professor, who came from a similar background as my brand of church from growing up, teaching us that if we used the proper method of hermeneutics, we could get to the meaning of a text in the Bible (which meant of course that he was right about everything).
It wasn’t until I got to seminary at GRTS that my preconceived understanding of hermeneutics began to unravel. But it wasn’t from anything I learned from a professor. It was from being surrounded, at a non-denominational seminary, by people who weren’t like me and the brand of church I grew up with. I was now surrounded by Christian Reformed, Assemblies of God, Methodists, and most other varieties of Evangelical and Protestant students. I was going to class and becoming friends with students who believed in speaking in tongues, who performed infant baptisms, and who believed women could be in leadership. These people could not be members of my church growing up, yet I could see in them a genuine love for Jesus and his Gospel and a genuine love and belief in the Bible as God’s authoritative Word. These people were on mission and cared about the things of Jesus’ Kingdom. These were people that I would want to be a part of the church I pastor! These are people I would love to be in community with and worship with and minister with. And as a bonus to all of this, I found my faith and understanding of the Bible being stretched and pushed to deeper levels of understanding than I ever had before, because I was gaining so much new perspective.
I will blog in more detail about hermeneutics in later posts, but for now I want to leave you with some questions, which I’d love to get your response to in the comments section of this post…
- What did Jesus mean in John 17:20-21? How should we apply this today?
- What issues of disagreement within Christianity matter to you, and which ones don’t?
- If you are a non-tongues-speaker, can you see the biblical viewpoint of a tongues-speaker and respect it (even if you don’t agree), or do you feel they are being unbiblical? (and vice versa)
- If you don’t believe women should be in ministry leadership, can you see the biblical viewpoint of someone who does, or do you feel they are being unbiblical? (and vice versa)
- How do you decide which parts of the Bible you leave as “cultural” and what parts you apply literally today?
(Read Part 2 of Is The Bible Like Candy?…Problems with the Reformation) and stay tuned for even more posts on this line of thought…
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