Do you have someone whom you look up to and appreciate their input into your life? How much does it suck when you discover you don’t see eye to eye on a few things, especially when these things are important and even close to your heart?
Now, I think we can all happily get along even knowing we might have different tastes in TV or movies (for example, I’m more Star Trek than Star Wars!) We are allowed to have different tastes and we’ll get on fine won’t we? We might have the occasional humorous dig, but generally, this isn’t something to fall out over. We might even have a different political persuasion and we can still, just about, get on? Admittedly, political ideologies can be pretty ingrained, so this might not always mean we both come out of an occasional disagreement smelling of roses.
But, when we find out that our faith-based beliefs and how we interpret the Holy Scriptures differ, depending on how fundamental the disagreement is, we can find ourselves on entirely different shores. We can sometimes even dismantle the bridge and start shouting theology at one another over the expanse.
It can be difficult to understand how others can think differently when it comes to Scripture, we find that we’re reading the same words, but coming to different conclusions about what is being communicated. Context is king as they say, and depending on the context that we place around the words we’re reading, this can lead to a preferred or desired outcome. I would argue very strongly that no-one comes to Scripture without some bias, even our choice of Bible translation has some built-in bias depending on the group that have released it. If ever there is a case for reading multiple versions and not favouring one over the other it is this one. The more versions we read, the more rounded our understanding becomes, but, even despite this, we still have a bias, no matter how neutral we try to be.
Someone once said to me, that trying to understand what God is saying through the Bible using purely English translations is like trying to kiss your wife through a glass window! We can see that it’s there, but without removing the barrier of language, we’ll never discover the nuances and connect with what it is trying to communicate. This is why not only is it important to read many translations, it is also important to try and reference the original language and context.
And this is where we run into more problems because some people just don’t do that or only ever pay a fleeting visit to an online concordance. I’ve heard many a loud and convincing argument that has left me floored and beaten, only to realise later that the case presented was based on one translation and a prefered reading.
I’ve personally been challenged on a couple of theological points recently. I discovered that some individuals whom I appreciate and honour have opposing conclusions about these points. I look one way and I’m convinced in one theological direction, yet I look the other way, and I find myself to be vigorously challenged and nearly persuaded. As my metaphorical limbs ached from being pulled in two directions, I was reminded of a verse in Ephesians where we are encouraged not be “blown here and there by every wind of teaching”. This bit of Scripture does go on to say not to be deceived by unscrupulous men, so I’m (somewhat ironically considering the nature of this post) taking it out of context. I don’t think for a minute that the individuals involved are being deceitful, but the anxiety about which way I should go bothered me much. Jesus Himself implores us not to be lukewarm Christians, which I take to mean someone wanting to sit placidly in the middle, not really expressing an opinion and therefore not making a significant impact for the Kingdom of God!
My wife came up with the wisest solution I think, she simply said to go with the conviction of my heart, a conviction instilled by the Holy Spirit. In other words, pick a theological side and go with it. Now with this comes reading the Scriptures for myself, using the methods and tools I’ve previously mentioned. I don’t think this is going to mess with my salvation; I believe I’m still going to Heaven. The two points I was challenged by are not foundational fundamentals – i.e. Jesus is the Son of God, He is God, and He is the only way to the Father. They are important, but, I don’t think eternally significant. I’m happy to meet Jesus and have Him tell me, maybe I should have backed the other horse (I’m not saying Jesus is into gambling, that’s a discussion for another day).
So for now, I’ve made my choices, and I’m running with those. This will indeed affect how I lead our local church, which does mean people will hear one theological position rather than the other. I realise that there is a domino effect as it spreads from the teaching and preaching both from the pulpit and discipleship. But I’m okay with that, knowing that as I equip and challenge, encourage and empower, I am enabling others to think for themselves and ultimately come to their own conclusions which … may differ from mine.