“the Bible Clearly Says…”

It’s Thursday, which, according to my calendar, is “Blog Day.” I am exhausted. Three weeks of unmitigated sleep disruption has finally begun to soften, and I am feeling the effects of coming down from my adrenaline high. I don’t want to write. I don’t want to think. I want to sleep. I want to not think. 

But those are not options. I need to think. I need to write.

So here is my brief rant for the day. Nothing profound, just a bit of frustration manifesting itself outwardly.

I’m sick of people saying things like “the Bible clearly says…” and then going on to express an opinion that is highly contested. I began to wonder if there is anything in the bible that is clearly said. I conducted a little survey on my facebook page to see if I was on the right track with my assumption. Here’s what I posted:

“Opinion poll: Would anyone say that according to the bible it is NOT sin to be unloving? Honest question”

And guess what? It was contested. Even something as seemingly obvious as calling a refusal to love someone “sin” was argued against. By Christians. To be fair, the arguments were nuanced and pointed to contextual usage of the command to “love one another” as being perverted so as to perpetuate oppressive systems. But there was still no consensus about the bible being clear about unloving action as sin.

Here’s my point: The Bible isn’t clear about anything.

If it was, it would not contain Acts 8:26-40. In this passage, the Spirit causes Philip to meet an Ethiopian eunuch who was riding in his chariot, reading the bible. Philip asks the man if he understood what he was reading. The man’s response is telling: “How can I since no one has explained it to me?” (31) If the bible were “clear” in the sense that everyone, without training or being instructed, can read it for themselves, then why is this story in the bible?

My point is that we cannot read or understand the bible without the company of others who will read it with us and converse about what we are reading. And our company of readers needs to seek out those who know more about it than we do so they can help us understand it. Here’s what experience has taught me:

Whenever someone says “the Bible clearly says…”they don’t know what they are talking about.

Maybe this is a part of what the bible’s overt stance against pride is all about. Humility is, I think, always the best option. When something in the bible is contested by those who study and try to live out what it says, approach the conversation with humility. Offer your opinion as what it is: your opinion. Say something like “I’m not sure what that obscure Greek word that is only used in this one instance means, but I think it means this because of this.” Own your opinion, confess your filter, and be honestly humble.

It’s funny how often honest and humility go together.

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