If people are only reading the Bible because of a “spiritual” or “emotional” inclination to read, due most times to pressure put on them by a pastor or authoritative figure, are they really engaging the text correctly?
After I was saved, I received my first Bible and was excited. I remember praying to God, asking that He would open my mind to accept what was revealed in the text. During this early period of my Christian walk, I was taught that a person would not understand the Bible if God was not guiding them, so that was my prayer because I wanted to understand. When I came across challenging concepts, I would pick up my study Bible and read the corresponding footnote at the bottom, usually taking the commentary as authoritative and moving on. I was a Christian, I had no idea what I was doing, and I used the resources that I had, but still, was I reading the Bible rightly?
We Need to Challenge What We Are Being Taught
One of my fundamental problems in approaching my Christian walk was that I just believed everything that sounded right. We see this behavior everywhere, especially in politics. In thinking about why people do this, feeding their own biases, I came to the realization that humans hate resistance. When I came upon a difficult verse, I hated the feeling, sought an evangelical resource that kind of made sense and moved on. I never resolved the issue; I just believed a random person’s analyses of the issue!
As I have matured in my faith and read much more, I regret not tackling some of my initial concerns; it would have led to me having a more concrete faith. In the scenario given, what would it take for me to have abandoned my belief system? Just a more logical argument from another perspective…
We can’t live our lives like this! For example, there are some logical objections to Paul’s authority in the Bible, if a Ph.D. student at Harvard presents one of these objections to you and your faith in the structure of the Bible is based on a random pastor’s opinion, where are you going to turn? If you have thought critically about the issue, and know the various arguments, and know your position, you will be just fine. But if the reason you believe in Jesus is because “my parents raised me that way” or because pastor x told you so then are you better than the child who is tossed by every wind of doctrine in Ephesians 4:14?
Yes, there is a spiritual reality tied to the biblical text (1 Cor 2:13-14), but your ability to reconcile difficult ideas is critical to right understanding. The Bible attests to objective truth and can take criticism. You should doubt aspects of your faith and seek to reconcile those doubts! Christianity is not like Islam; you should not be scared of doubt. Christianity is a belief structure that can take your questions and will always shock you with its consistency and confirmation of a solution to your greatest needs, Jesus. Don’t repeat talking points, don’t believe what sounds the best, and don’t follow the people that make you feel great. Compare perspectives, read the Bible, talk to your pastor, question everything, and arrive at your conclusion. If you continue to question and challenge yourself, a whole new world will open up to you.
Caleb Russell Jacobs (BS, Liberty University; MDiv, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the host of The Basic Bible Podcast and writes at www.webasicbible.org.
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