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Friday, February 22, 2013

I have to Understand?

Tuesday morning a few of us were talking about – well the specifics do not matter.  During the conversation one of the guys was struggling with synthesizing several passages of Scripture.  In doing so he stated tentative conclusions that would have at a core level redefined the relationship between Christ and God.  We talked that through bringing other passages of Scripture to bear.  We did not resolve the tension he felt, in fact we probably heightened it, because we determined that his answer did not align with passages of Scripture we clearly understood.
What do I do with things in the Bible I do not understand?
It occurred to me that my friend’s struggle is a common one.  Common, especially for those of us who are committed to following the Word of God practically in our lives, we really want to understand, we are passionate about it.  That passion sometimes overwhelms truth.

In our passionate demand to understand sometimes we will either force connections between concepts in Scripture, or in the extreme judge passages of scripture as not worthy of study, or that they are really not part of the Bible.  Passages that do not line up with current cultural “norms” are explained away as applying to older unenlightened cultures and no longer relevant (if you need examples of this ask).  I know of one leader who has taught that all one needs for the Christian life is the gospels largely because the rest of the New Testament is difficult for those whom he leads to understand.  So rather than encouraging them to engage at a different level, he discards most of the New Testament.  He is not the first.  Martin Luther struggled with James, calling it a right strawy epistle; wondering if it should be in the canon.

If it is the case that the Bible is the Word of God, every stroke of the pen inspired by the Holy Spirit as it says it is, then we do well not to force our understanding, our cultural norms, our concept of God on it.  Rather if there are passages we cannot reconcile, we would be better served by living with that tension knowing that our understanding of an infinite God is finite.  Not to do so, has been the breeding ground for all heresy.