Several times in the past year, my wife and I have been talking to someone about some point of biblical doctrine when he or she looked at us blankly and said, in essence, “There are so many different views. Can we ever know for sure?”
We find this sad.
These are Christians saying this. People who believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again and that, because of their faith, they are saved and will spend eternity with Him. But that’s about all they believe. They aren’t willing to take a stand on any other point and get very uncomfortable when we do.
We’ve responded with this: “If you tell me I don’t understand Scripture, I am challenged to study more and learn so that I do understand. But if you tell me I can’t understand Scripture, I have no incentive to study at all.” But that doesn’t convince them because a lot of Christians don’t study Scripture. Or at least they don’t study it for themselves. They do packaged studies or go to groups where they hear somebody else reading from a packaged study or they go to church and hear a preacher reading his packaged seminary notes. For the most part, they are afraid to study on their own. While there can be value in any message from Scripture, unless a person digs into the Word on a personal basis, there’s no way to be sure what they’ve heard is correct.
During one conversation with a young woman, we attempted to explain some basic doctrinal point. We hadn’t gotten very far when she interrupted us with “That’s too hard. I want to just go on believing what I’ve always believed.”
Why have so many Christians reached this point?
On the one hand, the cultural emphasis on diversity has crept into Christian circles in the guise of tolerance for others’ doctrinal views. We don’t want to offend, so we don’t take any stand that somebody might take exception to. And anyway, “if they believe the important stuff, what does the rest of it matter?”
The typical church also bears a lot of the blame because the messages present a bad example of how to study and interpret Scripture. In the church we used to attend, the pastor once gave a message on the importance of being in the Word. As we listened carefully, we realized that “being in the Word” to him meant listening to him preach on Sundays — and that was it. We once heard him preach a message from Ezekiel on why the church should have multiple campuses. On another Sunday, the topic was why the church was having a major fundraising drive to build a coffee shop — based on Psalm 92.
As people without a background in personal Bible study listen to these messages, they’re being conditioned to think that Scripture can be made to mean anything, or that only those who get paid to study can possibly know what a passage really means.
And we know several Christians who will come right out and say that major portions of Scripture — the creation account in Genesis, the entire book of Revelation and even parts of Romans — can’t be taken literally. They say that we have to look to science for the facts. They say that much of the Bible has to be interpreted allegorically, or that much of it can’t be understood, or that there’s no way to know the truth.
Yet these same Christians will look to the very Bible that they just completely discredited and point to a few familiar passages, such as John 3:16, and announce, in essence, “This. This is truth. I will stake my eternal destiny on this.” We don’t understand how they can do that. If so much of the Bible can be so readily dismissed, how can they be sure about any of it? How do they know any of what they believe is true?
Please understand. We are not claiming that we have a full understanding of Scripture.
But we believe, as firmly as we believe anything, that we can understand Scripture. In future posts, we will do our best to explain why we feel that way and how we approach Scripture as a result.