Left on the Dock, how NOT to interpret the Bible

So most people know about the Left Behind Series by Tim LaHaye. Even my dad was a big fan. It’s just disappointing that such a non-biblically backed idea, like the rapture, would become so popular and mainstream. There is so little biblical evidence for the rapture, and the “evidence” that is often used is based on taking things out of context and giving them a new interpretation(though I won’t go into that in this post, but hopefully another one soon),which is ALWAYS wrong.

This leads me into the topic of this post, reading the Bible.

I enjoy some of Greg Koukl’s work, and recently his essay on never reading a Bible verse. The title is catchy. It seems un-Christian-like. But he goes on to explain that both critics and proponents of certain views take verses by themselves, which leads to them being taken out of context, and getting wrong ideas. A new idea in the evangelical sphere is to read the Bible and allow the Holy Spirit to call up a personal interpretation for what you are reading. And this is where I am left on the dock. They have set sail into this dangerous, misguided style of interpretation that leads only to confusion and ruin, while I am left standing on the dock trying to tie up as many ships as I can, trying to keep people from making this grave mistake.

The authors of the Bible had a specific purpose for writing what they wrote. It is supposed to be personal, and affect your personally, but while the effect may be different from person to person, the meaning NEVER changes. There was an original intent, and it needs to be preserved. This destructive path that these ships are sailing towards is often liberalism. This is where doctrine becomes wishy-washy, loses the Christian essentials, and allows for personal interpretation of sacred texts. Now this is a fine line in a way. In no way do I espouse, nor should you, the idea that lay people should not be able to read the Bible and ponder on it themselves, for, when done correctly, this is extremely fruitful. This is the route that some have gone, saying that only priests or ministers or those who are “qualified” can interpret scripture. This leads to grave results as well, like people being prohibited from rational thought, and basically being brainwashed (how about some of them JW’s).

So what can we learn from this? Read a passage in its entirety. No one would start right in the middle of a page in the 10th chapter of a 30 chapter book and expect to have an idea about what is going on. And we should not approach the Bible in this manner either. If Jesus is talking in some end times language, what prompted this talk? Was there a question, or two, that he is answering? When Paul is speaking of the dead rising, why is he addressing this issue, since he is writing letters to a church, and he is addressing worries and issues that church has. How should a prophecy be interpreted? What is the context? Context is oh so important, and losing it causes everything else to become worthless.

I think that if Christians all approached the Bible in this manner, there would be far less disagreements, far less controversy, and a lot more love and encouragement in the Church. So the next time you see/hear someone taking a verse by itself, ask them how it is being used and what point it was meant to address, and you could have a very fruitful discussion on your hands.

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About sorentmd

I am a student at the University of Cincinnati and am majoring in Philosophy and Marketing. I love the Lord, and I try to live my life in a way that pleases Him. View all posts by sorentmd

2 responses to “Left on the Dock, how NOT to interpret the Bible

  • katejohnson77

    This is an interesting post. I do not know how to explain my stance on “The Rapture.” I have always viewed it as a rumor of which I shall never in this life truly get to the bottom.

    As for your assessment of modern man’s trend in creating a method for interpreting the bible so that the agenda of liberalism might be furthered…

    Christ came to set the captives free, didn’t he? He came to liberate those who had been held as prisoners, right? So, what specifically were you referring to, here?

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught me something when I read his autobiography. He taught me that if I a person wants to be the best they can be, they must combine in their character a thing he termed “antithesis strongly marked.”

    What this means to me is that there are truths in the conservative philosophy…but weaknesses as well. And although there may be flaws in the liberal philosophy, there must exist within it elements of truth as well…

    What do you think? It’s just stuff I ponder from time to time.

    Again, your post is quite interesting and challenges a person to critically think on these matters.

    Kate.

  • sorentmd

    I do not want to say that Liberal Christianity doesn’t have anything right. My point was not that this is necessarily how liberalism in respect to Christianity is furthered, nor is it the only root of it, but it certainly is a root. Liberal theology is often more about the overall scheme of things, and the stories are simply useful fictions in getting this message across. This is not to say that Christ did not come for me, personally, nor that he did not come to set us free, but that He did so by way of crucifixion, burial, and resurrection as God in the Flesh. Not as a great, Godly man, or a prophet, or what have you. But God Himself.

    Also, if I am reading you correctly, you mean to say that something that you took away as an individual from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s biography was unique to you. And that is fine, and I do not deny that Scripture does not have similar effects on people. But to get you to come away with that lesson was not the purpose of the book, and you would still be wrong to interpret the book in that manner, as if it was only about what you, personally, could get out of it.

    I would liken this to the silly Literature teachers I had in high school that taught Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. I don’t think Homer intended for us to try to get all of this symbolic use out of his writing, but merely to tell a good story that reflected the philosophy of the time. If someone tried to dissect Harry Potter a thousand years from now in a similar manner, we would laugh and call them fools.

    This is not to say that some books aren’t written with individual messages as their purpose. But simply that the Bible is not one of them, especially not the New testament, which is more history than anything. And we would never read Tacitus or Pliny the Younger or any other ancient historian as intending such a message.

    So my answer to your actual question is this: Purely conservative Christianity is not good, purely liberal Christianity is worse, and its not the in between, the moderate Christianity that is better, but that we need to simply consider the purpose of the author in writing his work. Paul did not write 1 Corinthians to me, but to a church in Corinth. But that is not to say that I cannot learn something from this letter, but simply that this letter must be read as a letter to a church in Corinth and not to me. If this method leads us to a “liberal” way of reading a text, possibly like the book of Revelation, then so be it. But it also means that if the book of Mark leads us to take it as a history and not simply useful fictions, then that is right as well. Too often this distinction is made between conservative and liberal reading of the Bible, rather than evaluating the book and seeing how it should be read.

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