Logical Gal – different ways to understand the Bible

13 May

Different churches may claim to be ‘Bible-based’, but what do they actually mean?  As an evangelical Christian, I have probably assumed ‘Bible-based’ to indicate explicitly that a church orients all its beliefs and practices to what is written in the Bible.

Bible

That’s a dangerous assumption! Imprecise, vague terms often allow misconceptions and illusions to grow.  I was helped the other day listening to a well-spoken scholar consider the Supreme Court’s April 2015 oral arguments in the case for same-sex marriage. He pointed out the peril of assuming that a term means the same to the other person as it does to you.  The prompt for Al Mohler was a New York Times editorial written by a Yale Law School professor. Transcript of discussion

The professor asserted and partially argued that America has already shifted her beliefs toward supporting same-sex marriage. He rested his case in part on the nature of the ‘amicus briefs’ submitted by major players in America, to include prominent Jewish and Christian denominations.

Mohler quoted from the law professor’s piece in the NY Times where he claimed that even major ‘Bible-based’ denominations support the federal legalization of same-sex marriage.  At this point, Mohler took the time to look at the phrase ‘Bible-based’.  He modeled what all thinking and reasoning people SHOULD do.  And that is to ask the simple but crucial clarifying question, “What do you mean by ‘Bible-based’?

Here is where I was helped.  Mohler pointed out that there are several ways of being ‘Bible-based’.  He explained that liberal Christians can still claim to base their churches on the Bible because they mean:

  • the Bible to be a useful and interesting collection of stories, myths, fables, explanations
  • the Bible to be a repository of traditions

Evangelical Christians, on the other hand, believe:

  • the Bible to be the true and intentional Word of God.  And as such we, His people, do not have the option of discounting God’s Word or explaining it away. Yes, the Bible contains stories and explanations and describes traditions.  But the stories are what CS Lewis calls ‘true myths’.  They are myths because they contain powerful symbols, but they are also true.  For a short explanation, click here

What’s the bottom line regarding this distinction?

One – we must always be alert to ask questions when we listen to someone (stopping to interact with the person talking to us, or pausing to consider ourselves – ‘what might he mean by XYZ?  What are the possibilities?’)

Two – Christians who believe the Bible to be the very words, beliefs, views, counsel of God MUST use what God says as our measure of everything else.  If God defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman, then it is so.  He IS the author of the Book, hence His authority trumps ours.

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