I’ve been reading quite a bit lately on “competing”, for lack of a better word, belief systems, or more accurately, areas of secondary doctrines within Christianity. Some of them have been more “out there” than others.
I won’t get into the specific issue that was being discussed on the blog I was looking at, but in the comments area, a woman was talking about how she needed to not discuss that particular issue any further (after a considerable amount of contribution explaining her viewpoint) because she was always going to interpret scripture her way and the person challenging her was always going to interpret scripture their way and, well, what was the point?
While I would agree that in certain instances that is the appropriate course, the particular discussion in question was fascinating. I thought the two engaged in the conversation and the view points being defended were both well stated. It was a little disappointing to see the discussion that had developed between the two come to an end, frankly.
The woman who chose to end her part of the discussion relayed that she came from the privileged position of having a husband educated in Greek and Hebrew and that he had written many papers on the subject being discussed. The implication, no doubt, was that his interpretation would be the correct one, because of all of his education vs. the “lay person’s” study and interpretation. I won’t make the assumption that the view opposing hers was from either a “lay person” or from someone not as educated as her husband.
Well, okay, let’s just for the moment assume that the challenging view did come from one not as well educated as her husband. So what? Funny how some think that God can only speak to/through the educated – that they are the ones to whom we must primarily look to divide the Word correctly. A verse in the book of Acts comes to mind where the priests in the temple observed that the apostles Peter and John were not educated men . . .
When they [the priests] saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13
Peter and John, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit, were boldly proclaiming the Gospel. And they were using the Scriptures and their witness of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to do it. They were not formally “schooled” in religion – they were bathed in the Word and they were led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Unschooled, ordinary men. Hmmmmm . . .
I’m not knocking education and higher learning at all, but what was it that these priests (educated by definition because they were priests) “took note” of? That these men had been with Jesus!
Education can be a valuable element in dividing and interpreting the Word correctly and discerning the things going on around us, but it must be an element, not the primary foundation on which we choose to stand. That which we choose as our primary foundation must always be the Word and prayer asking God for wisdom and discernment.
We have available to us the resources to look up original Hebrew and Greek for any passage in the Bible and there are lots of resources explaining cultural and historical issues of whatever period of time you may be studying. If you’re reading this, you have all of that information available at your fingertips.
But sometimes, folks, we need to remember that God has been faithful to provide His Word in our language, and often it just says what it says. Yes, we need to be confident of the overall integrity of the translation(s) we’re reading, that’s part of discernment and being responsible in what we choose to read. Yes, there are parts of the Word that have imagery and poetry and history, etc. that require further study, but mostly it just says what it says.
I’ve read some “word studies” that have taken people to places nowhere near where the text intended them to go. I’ve seen some go into a study trying to prove a pre-supposition or mis-conception and get themselves (and unfortunately others, if they are in leadership) so tangled up in semantics or jumping through so many hoops linguistically, that the end result is just plain false, and not at all what God intended.
Beyond that, there are even those who deny the canon’s validity and have come up with whole new “translations” of Scripture to support their views and teachings. One example of this is in the Hebrew Roots Movement, which claims that the New Testament, for instance, was really originally written in Hebrew (a claim for which there is no credible historical or archaeological evidence, by the way), for Hebrews, and from a Hebrew perspective, opening wide the door for questionable and outright false doctrine. These folks will then tell you that the scriptures need to be looked at from a Jewish mindset, and not a “Hedonistic, Greek, Westernized” mindset. (I guess they forgot about all those Gentiles to whom Paul preached and wrote.) Then, of course, you need them to lead you in that “new way of thinking”. Then the door opens wider still to “hidden meanings” or “forgotten truths”, or “restored translations” setting up unsuspecting hearers for great deception.
We need to be careful not to puposefully take scripture and make it fit what we believe instead of taking what we believe and submitting it to scripture.
I’m getting the impression that for some, when a long-held belief or “system” of belief is challenged, some tend to do the equivalent of closing their eyes, putting their fingers in their spiritual ears and loudly singing “la la la la la la la la”! Not to say that we should be tossed about by changing winds of questionable interpretation or doctrine at every turn. That’s why praying for wisdom and discernment and staying grounded in the Word and the Gospel are so important.
Of course EVERYTHING has to measured by the Word of God. That’s the conundrum, I suppose. We come back to interpretation, then, don’t we? That’s where having “formulas” in our belief systems can really stick it to us. Learning to hear God, and letting the Holy Spirit speak to us in spite of our pre/mis-conceptions . . . that’s the challenge! That’s our responsibility.
Filed under: Belief Sytems, Formulas, Grace and Law, Holy Spirit, Revelation, Teachable/Unteachable, Torah | Tagged: Belief Systems, Christianity, Discernment, Formulas, Hebrew Roots Movement, Holy Spirit, Integrity |