Friday, August 24, 2012

Don’t Manipulate the Bible

Imagine that you walk into a French hospital and you see a man dressed in white and he says he has the cockroach. Your first thought may be that he is an exterminator, but then you are informed that when the French talk of having the cockroach, they mean they are depressed. With this added information, you then understand that this person is likely a patient rather than an exterminator.
It is amazing how a little additional information can change ones perspective. Often as I talk about the Bible, others will point out how there are so many different interpretations. I must agree that this is true. Since I preach through the Bible verse by verse there are occasions when I must admit that there are a number of views on a particular verse. Still, most of the Bible is quite straight forward. For example there is little room for variations of interpretation when declaring that lying, stealing and murder are sins.
But what do we do with the areas that we are not quite so sure about? Like the illustration about the French cockroach, we must strive for as much information as possible and grasp for the original meaning and intent of words that are used in scripture, realizing that they were not originally written in English. Further, we need to get as much information as possible from the text. In other words we should not just isolate a passage, but we should look both at the immediate context as well as the rest of scripture.
Imagine if you started to read the story of The Three Little Pigs but only read the first two thirds of it. You could easily come to the conclusion that any house that a pig built, a wolf could destroy. You would actually miss the whole moral of the story and end up replacing that moral with one that the story never intended. Sadly the same thing often happens with Biblical interpretation.
I recently listened to an online sermon and I was exposed to such careless interpretation. The pastor pointed out that each of the 5 times the word “breeches” was used in the Bible, that it referred to men wearing them. His conclusion, based upon that information, was that women should never wear pants because only men had worn breeches in those verses. What he neglected to point out is that each of those 5 verses also referred to the priests. Based on his logic, only priests should wear pants. Further, he also missed another important piece of information. Every time the word “skirt” is found (10 verses), it always refers to men. Based on that preachers logic, only men should wear skirts.
It has often been said that a person can make the Bible say anything they want it to say. The truth is, people try to convince others that the Bible is saying something different than what it says, but that does not change the actually text. The problem with some Biblical interpretation is that people try to manipulate the truth rather than just looking at what it says.
2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The person who missed the moral of the Three Little Pigs, and the pastor who drew an unreasonable conclusion from the word “breeches,” had reason to be ashamed. I fear that often such foolishness is not the result of ignorance, but rather of manipulation. That is why all Christians, not just pastors, need to study God’s Word. It really can be understood.

1 comment:

Brandon E. said...

Very good post. There is only one correct interpretation of scripture. Nobody can say "well, that is your interpretation, I'll stick with mine." One or the other (or both) is wrong they both can't be right.

Everybody has blueprints to build the same building -the Lord's Church, but everybody has built all kinds of different buildings. Some have taken liberty and not added things required, some have added things not required.

Interpret the scriptures with the 3 "P"s Purpose, principle, and precedent.

What is the Purpose this scripture is included in the Bible? "breeches" would be giving instructions to a specific group of Levites to follow in their priestly duties.

What is the Principle we are dealing with here? Follow God's design to the letter. Priests couldn't wear skirts or robes when they were supposed to be wearing "breeches".

Was there a Precedent set here? Was this an issue beforehand or was it a precedent that others followed later? No. Women and Kings and others the issue is never mentioned.