I am now, have been and hope to continue to be a student of scripture. That does not mean I have exceptional biblical knowledge or understanding. But it does mean that I am open to new insight and allowing the Bible to say what it says without much interference from me. Which I believe most good students of scripture should do. It also means that insight to the understanding of scripture is not unique to anyone group or theological branch of Christianity. That is certainly obvious when one comes to realize how there came to be so many different denominations based on interpretation. Not to mention the multitude of translations that are available.
For the most part, if I were to pigeon-hole my stance on scripture, it would most likely be more liberal than conservative – Less literal and more figurative. Nevertheless, I consult multiple and what I deem to be credible resources before landing on any particular platform or position.
When I came across a post on on the SharperIron blog – a conservative, fundamental blog, entitled “What is Clear Biblical Teaching” (a several part series), naturally I was interested. I flipped back to part one of the series, an introductory article, and read the entry. Here are a few paragraphs:
But how can we ever discover “clear biblical teaching” on topics as the creation of the world, God’s plan of salvation, church government and ordinances, and how the world will end? To be sure, some teachers deny that the Bible provides “clear” answers to any of these and other questions pertaining to us and to our world. But the Bible constantly warns us against such teachers…
Obviously, the huge question is, how do we determine what is clear biblical teaching? In the first place, we must honestly recognize that for some people nothing in the Bible ever becomes “clear.” Throughout church history, many who have claimed to be “biblical Christians” have drastically distorted or openly denied such basic doctrines as the triunity of God, the inerrancy of the biblical autographs, the literal creation week, the absolute deity of Christ, His virgin birth, miraculous works, the bodily resurrection, a literal second coming, the millennial kingdom, and an eternal hell. Are such denials really excusable? May such persons blame God for being obscure in His written revelation?
The apostle Peter referred to the deadly danger “unlearned and unstable” people face when they “wrest” things the apostle Paul taught in his letters, even though they contain some things hard to understand (2 Pet. 3:16). Our Lord denounced some of His own disciples as “fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25).
Such biblical warnings can be greatly multiplied. Heretical and even unregenerate persons may hide under the challenge: “I don’t see that in the Bible!” But where do we draw the line on this delicate but infinitely important question of the clarity of Scripture?
Actually, there is no such thing as an absolute “line” of theological discernment finite minds can draw. Instead, there is a continuum God Himself provides: the closer we walk with our Lord, the clearer will be our understanding of His will (John 7:17: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God”). From –
Dr. John C. Whitcomb has been a professor of Old Testament and theology for more than 50 years and is widely recognized as a leading biblical scholar.
When I read those particular paragraphs, what seemed to jump out at me was this – if you don’t think along the lines proposed by conservative fundamentalists, then you are not doing God’s will and have not drawn close to Him. The closer you are to God the more you will have clear biblical understanding.
Most of my adult life I have been comfortable with the understanding that the Bible 1) needs no defense and 2) makes itself fairly clear if one understands what is says is what it means in most instances. Certainly when it comes to cultural influences, traditions and the dynamics of word usage, there can be times when scripture leaves itself open for interpretation. Those instances may be the exception not the rule. Nevertheless, if clarity is the goal, it might be said that most of Christendom seems to be unclear.
Yes, we want finite answers to infinitely illuding issues such as young earth – old earth; creation or evolution or intelligent design or God’s idea of evolution. It seems the more we learn and know, the more perplexing some of these things become. How can God be a loving God and a jealous God at the same time? How can a creating God destroy his creation for something he knew man was going to do anyway? What kind of compassionate God destroys women and children? How can a God who seems to make the ultimate sacrifice for man’s failure, turn around and say, “His way or no way -no exception.”
To think for a moment there is clarity in any of this is ludicrous or at least extremely uncomfortable. Oh, it’s easy to say, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!” But does it really?
I’ve never been a fan of close-mindedness. Nor have I been receptive to someone saying or implying “If you don’t believe the Bible the way I believe the Bible than maybe you are not close enough to God” at the least or a heretic at the worst.
Ain’t life grand!