Tuesday, 22 May 2012

This Post Is Biblical

Since I was a kid, I've been told that despite what other people may say, you DO NOT, in fact, leave your brain behind when you become a Christian. I even remember reading a book with a title to that effect. But my experience within the Christian community hasn't really convinced me of the truth of this. Most professed Christians that I have known are willing to use their brain and think in some areas, but conveniently shut them off in others.

The easiest way to tell whether or not you do this is, once you find yourself being pulled into an opinionated discussion or a debate, to count how many times you want to say, "That's not biblical," or something akin to it. For every occurrence, you lose one point - two, if you actually said it (and most likely the respect of the person you were talking with, as well).

If you can't tell, I get really peeved when people use this line. "That's not biblical," is a really horrible argument. First of all, saying it's not biblical doesn't mean anything at all to someone who hasn't accepted that the Bible is the completely inerrant word of God, except that the person who said it is blindly following an authority that, in their mind, doesn't have authority to claim. It won't convince them of anything and serves to do nothing other than shut the conversation down.

A lot of Protestants tend to laugh at Catholics for accepting the authority of the pope on nothing but the pope's say-so, but don't see why other people find it ridiculous to accept the authority of the Bible on nothing but the Bible's say-so.

But let's suppose that we grant the Bible a status of inerrancy. "That's not biblical," is still a horrible statement in the vast majority of the situations in which it's used. Here's an example of a situation where it's NOT horrible:

"The Holy Spirit spoke to me and told me I'm a chicken. Celebrities are the spawn of Satan. Oh, and Jesus was a woman."

Yeah. Not biblical.

But that's not usually where you hear it. Usually, it goes something more like this:

Old earth? Not biblical.
Polygamy? Not biblical.
Altruism? Not biblical.
Feminism? Nope.
Catholicism? No way.
Quantum theory? Uh-uh.
Insert topic x here? Not biblical.

These are incredibly large and complex issues to throw out with a single statement and about as much thought. A biblical case can be made for just about anything - abortion, rape, and space aliens included. We have so many denominations because it can be interpreted in so many different ways. The Bible doesn't lay everything out nearly so clearly as we want to assume.

What everyone really should be saying is, "That's not what I understand the Bible means." And that's fair enough, because such an assertion is not a blanket assumption that we have understood everything correctly and can dictate ultimate truth to the rest of the world. It's saying, "Here's my belief, based on my interpretation of the Scriptures."

I'm not saying there is no ultimate truth, I'm saying it's incredibly presumptuous and really pretty naive for someone to assume that they know it all. A lot of Protestants laugh at Catholics for believing the pope's claim that only the Vatican can properly understand and teach Scripture, yet they have no problem implying that they themselves, and their small circle of like-minded friends, are the only ones who can properly understand and teach Scripture.

If uttering, "It's not biblical," doesn't completely shut down the conversation, it's usually followed by the other person saying, "Oh? How is it not biblical?" Sometimes this is met with, "It's just not," and sometimes it's answered with a verse or two. In either case, when their opponent then says, "I don't think that's strong enough evidence," the fallback position is, "Well, you've just got to have faith."

Faith that their wise opponent has the pope's authority?

There are some things the Bible says that we like to ignore. There are some things the Bible doesn't say that we like to assume. There are some things the Bible says that contradict what it says elsewhere. And there are many interpretations of Scripture that don't take into account the context of the writing or even the intent. Was it a poem? Was it a personal letter? Was it a story meant to illustrate a single point? And - scary ground - is it even possible that the Bible could be wrong?

Maybe, if we listen to the points of view of other people and don't throw them out merely because, "It's not biblical," we'll be able to say, "I think critically," and people who have different beliefs won't laugh in our faces. If you're willing to say that there is some possibility you're wrong, you should also be willing to honestly contemplate what other people are saying. Otherwise it's just words, and everyone who tries to talk to you will know it.

Oh, and the title of this post is tongue-in-cheek. 

"Loyalty to a petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul." Mark Twain

1 comment:

Art said...

I think many people have become lazy in their search for truth. Many people just defer their theology to other people who they think are experts in the field. For example, if a guy on a certain website says something is true, well then, it must be true. To question it is to question God.

By the way, if you ever disagree with me, then just read the Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, the Pauline epistles, Acts and the prophets in the Old Testament - and probably throw in the Pentateuch, then you will understand my view.