I need to get something off my chest. This has been bothering me for some time and I want to address it in this post.
It has to do with how we read and how we view the Bible.
For a number of years, in evangelical and reformed circles, I have been hearing things like the following:
- The Bible is God’s story…it’s all about Him from Genesis to Revelation. It’s not your story, it’s His story.
- You should not read the Bible looking for golden nuggets or moral principles as that is not why the Bible was written.
- You should not try to apply the Bible personally and take single verses out of context and out of chapters and personalize them as that would be a violation of good theological exegesis and interpretation. You are not supposed to apply all of the Bible to your life. You can’t, and should not, use verses, passages or chapters addressed to the Jewish nation and apply them to your life.
- You should read the Bible doctrinally not devotionally. It is a theological book, not a book written to give you tips on how to live your life.
I grew up spiritually with the idea of personalizing scripture and applying it to my life. I was taught (and rightly so) that 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 (ESV) is to be believed and taken at face value “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for:
“Training in righteousness
“That the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
I just took a single verse out of context, out of a chapter and applied it to my life. I am happy to do so and have done so with hundreds, if not thousands, of verses over my 52 years as a Christian.
2 Timothy 3:16 states that the Bible (1) teaches me what is right living is. The Bible (2) reproves me and stops me from doing what is wrong. The Bible (3) corrects me, showing me how to right the wrong. The Bible (4) trains and develop me in right living. All of these four through the ministry of the Holy Spirit taking the Word of God and helping me apply it to life
Here is my take on what is going on.
Someone telling me, or any other Christian, that I, or they, should not be looking in the Bible for moral principles to live by or golden nuggets to give you something to think about (the book of Proverbs is a book full of golden nuggets) is a classic example of either/or thinking instead of both/and thinking.
The Bible is both a theological book about His story and a book full of golden nuggets and moral principles to live by. It’s about His story with my story embedded in it--my story of salvation and spiritual transformation in a growing love relationship with Jesus.
Two more examples of either/or and both/and thinking:
1. God is both sovereign and man has a free will;
2. Living victoriously as a Christian is a matter of both grace and hard work.
“It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes or will follow them both.” Ecclesiastes 7:18 NIV
Ecclesiastes 7:18 is a golden nugget and moral principle worth thinking about and has virtue standing alone, as do other verses such as John 3:16. Paul quoted such verses or passages, as did Jesus, when countering the devil’s attacks, so you and I are in good company.
The Bible is both a theological book and a practical book, not either a theological book or a practical book.
Admittedly, we need to be very careful to delineate between interpretation and application. I am speaking mostly of application in this post. There are clear guidelines for how we interpret the Bible, but it is my conviction that we have lots of liberty and freedom to apply verses and portions of the Bible to our lives and ministry as the Holy Spirit speaks to us.
Now I understand that this freedom can be misused and we can apply the Bible in ways that don’t gel with the overall teaching of scripture; and that is where accountability, community and having godly leaders gives us checks and balances.
Glad I could get this off my chest.
The bottom line is to read the Bible both doctrinally and devotionally not doctrinally or devotionally!
As always, your comments are warmly welcomed. And it is okay to share a single verse if you believe me to be wrong!