Tag Archives: Interpreting the Bible

Tattoos vs. Taboos: Old School vs. New school

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Tattoos have been a hotly debated topic in recent years within the Church. Some say the Old Testament forbids them, as well as piercings, and argue that since our bodies are the temple of God and where he dwells, we must be pristine and not blemish our bodies. On the other hand, it is argued that the Old Testament laws on tattoos are the same as dietary laws: outdated and no longer binding. They may also say that tattoos and piercings are a way to decorate our bodies as the Temple was decorated by the Jews.

Here’s my thoughts on the issue: A) “tattoo” as translated from the OT is not the same thing we mean by “tattoo” today. A “tattoo” back then was what was left after Pagans cut their bodies in god worship, it was a scar. Not “tattooing” yourself meant making sure you looked different than the Pagans. The same goes for dietary laws and circumcision. It was about differentiation. Even if the “tattooing” definition was the same, the fact that Christ and Paul opened up salvation to the Gentiles meant the need for differentiation in the same way as in the OT was no longer needed. It may be useful for some to abstain, but it was not in and of itself a sin.

Point #2: I have a hard time believing that a tattoo of a cross or a Bible verse or praying hands displeases God. A) it’s a permanent reminder to you of your faith. B) it’s a visible display of your faith that others can see. And who knows, maybe it starts a conversation that leads to meaningful discussion!

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What and Where is the Kingdom of Heaven? Pt. 1

This will be the first post in a series of post that attempts to answer the question in the title.

This is a question that has been on my mind recently, especially as I’m reading through Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright. Many people criticize Christians for being ‘Too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.” And, unfortunately, there tends to be some truth to it. We often have the tendency to talk about what happens after death, as if it is an escape from this life. And while there may even be some truth to that, as well, that is not the whole story.

Wright has helped me refine my understanding of what exactly the New Testament writers meant by “Kingdom of Heaven” or “Kingdom of God.” Instead of some future place of residence, as it is often depicted, it is something that we create and live out now.

When we analyzes the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven/God,” we must define our terms. A Kingdom is the area reigned over by a King. The “Heaven/God” aspect is more often simply associated with God. So the interpretation would be stated simply as “God’s reign.” When we “parse” this out in this way, the “Kingdom of Heaven/God” can hardly be said to be some future place, because that would be to deny God’s sovereignty over us now.

The answer to the question in the title isn’t that simple, however. A reigning king also has servants that abide in his will, and a people to reign over. He must have real power, not just a feigned power like many see the monarchy of England as having, since it is no longer the singular governing body. We must ask ourselves, then, is this the case, and how is it accomplished?


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.