Thursday, March 6, 2008

"What Does The Bible Mean to You?"

Many Christians today find themselves infatuated with a dangerous way of thought when approaching the study of Scripture, one which attacks and atrophies the perception of the truth within Scripture (of course, truth itself remains unaffected). An apathetic attitude towards the existence of the absolute and even a mindset that we cannot truly know anything for certain provide prime soil for this noxious weed to grow. Frequently, this study method reeking of the cultural assault on truth is summed up in one popular self-directed question: "What does this passage mean to me?"

This little question and all of its similar manifestations (e.g. "I like to think of Jesus as _____, so he didn't mean that") pose a gargantuan problem. Concession to postmodernism in varying degrees is the seed for questions such as these, and as a consequence, the absolute authority of God's Word is reduced to a set of moldable musings, bendable to the whims and "gut feelings" of the reader, and thus the value of an absolutely, objectively true meaning of a passage is placed far below that of one's emotion and experience. To the reader for whom emotion and experience rule, perhaps this truth does not even exist at all. Brian McLaren claims that those under 55 do not have the luxury of opposing postmodernism. Correct; opposition to postmodernism is no luxury. However, McLaren's claim is quite false, as it is the Christian's duty to oppose even the seemingly harmless seeds of such thought.

God's Word is timeless. God's Truth remains regardless of how we feel about it. As Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn said, initially "truth is seldom sweet; it is almost invariably bitter". However, he went on to write grand allegories about the joy experienced by those who embraced the truth, a joy that transcends mere pleasure and happiness, a joy that persists deep in the soul whether "peace like a river attendeth" or "when sorrows like sea billows roll", as the old Spafford hymn says. This prevailing joy is the hope of eternity with the triune Creator, Redeemer and Lord; it is the knowledge of the only universal, objective, absolute, beautiful truth. How we feel about what God's written Word says will always be a reaction to rather than a source of truth, despite how greatly we delude ourselves into thinking otherwise. How foolish it is when Christians deny the existence of the solid Rock that they stand upon in favor of reliance upon themselves as a wavering and fallible source of truth.

When reading and studying Scripture, please do not ask the worthless question "what does this passage mean to me?". Instead, ask yourself "what does this passage say, and what do I need to do or change about myself to understand and accept it?". The truth of God's Word exists independently of how we recieve it or if we understand. Truth is knowable, or there would be no reason to pursue it. In short, Truth IS.


Vertigo said...

Thanks Sarah. Well said.

Doug Groothuis said...

This is a good and clear and pertinent post, Sarah. We must be conformed to the truth or else we will deform the truth into (even pious sounding) error. Christianity is not a hobby.

My faith should be the faith, the revealed and knowable body of doctrine found in Holy Scripture when rightly interpreted.

Sarah Scott said...

Thanks, Vertigo.

Dr. Groothuis,

Thank you for the feedback; it is greatly appreciated! You summed up the heart of the issue beautifully. Too many Christians live as if their faith is a private hobby.

Anonymous said...

When reading and studying Scripture, please do not ask the worthless question "what does this passage mean to me?".

I agree. I'm part of this stupid Bible study (part of my seminary requirements) where I teach a bible study and all these stupid young "bimbos" are always trying to apply things. We read through the conquest and genocide and they were like "I need to represent my power over sin." I was like "get a grip--who gives a crap what means to you or OUR stupid little lifes." I'm so tired of the worthless, moronic, sappy question of what it means to someone. The next time some small group bimbo asks this question, I might just tell them to please not ask anymore worthless questions.

I'm right there with you and appreciate your steadfast stand against soggy standards.


Sarah Scott said...


This is not about application at all-- read the sentence directly following the one you cited. Rather, it is about falsely assuming that we can bend Scripture to fit our wishes.

Your attitude towards these girls (I'm assuming) is very discouraging, especially for a leader, that is, if your comment was genuine and not a parody.

Anonymous said...

I agree, and I don't even want to go into the realm of application. Like you I'm concerned about meaning and application can only be consonant with proper understanding of meaning. To skirt that point, is tripe.

I'm really tired of these high schoolers that I teach. They only talk about personal sin and why dating is wrong, but miss the point of the Bible. Maybe I won't tell them "please don't ask this worthless question" but, I am really tired of their shallow and immature understanding of the text. Christians can be so idiotic.

Thanks for spiritual guidance with this blog. I, too am very frustrated by "bimbo" behavior.