Anybody who teaches the Phrase of God needs folks enthusiastic about exploring Scripture. Finally, you wish to flip listeners into competent college students in order that they will train others. Alongside the best way, you need to cope with a variety of mistaken strategies and conclusions. However so what? Hey—having of us engaged in learning the Bible is extra vital than what they really assume they see in it. It’s no concern that what most Christians assume is “digging deep” is barely scratching the floor of a passage or a subject. I’ll take one misguided Bible scholar over 100 straight-laced, passive, ecclesiastically-correct “believers” who by no means open a Bible anyplace else however church. No less than these are the types of issues I’ve instructed myself for a very long time. If I’m trustworthy, although, I’ve had doubts in regards to the knowledge of my place. I nonetheless do.
I’ve run throughout a variety of unhealthy Bible interpretation over time. The issue isn’t simply the Web. Granted, most of what passes for Bible instructing on-line may very well be aggregated underneath the banner of the “P.T. Barnum Faculty of the Bible.” Sadly, a variety of poor eager about Scripture has been revealed for well-liked consumption within the Church—and consumed it’s.
However is it actually dangerous? Most of it isn’t harmful. It received’t do something worse than maintain those that purchase into it ignorant and by no means capable of transfer on to what they could actually uncover. And I’ve seen a couple of cases the place unhealthy Bible interpretation has even been useful. Due to the types of issues I do—particularly writing paranormal fiction and sustaining two blogs on unusual stuff that individuals imagine—I typically encounter folks with terribly misguided concepts in regards to the Bible and its which means. My offbeat “ministry” produces all types of, let’s assume, attention-grabbing electronic mail.
Many individuals who contact me are Christians with real testimonies who’ve had an uncommon, scary expertise, or who’ve spent an excessive amount of time watching Historical Aliens on the Fantasy (er, Historical past) Channel. After their pastor or one other pal who’s ill-equipped to speak about what’s inflicting their religious disaster tells them they want counseling (or worse), they’ve a choice to make: dump Christianity or discover a strategy to course of what’s disturbing them utilizing the Bible. I’ve heard a number of the most absurd Bible interpretation conceivable emerge from these types of struggles, however it typically retains folks pursuing the Lord. So be it. In these circumstances, the very last thing that’s wanted is a biblical scholar-bully destroying the interpretations that maintain folks within the religion. It’s much better to keep up some relationship and construct some belief. Possibly down the street we will have a speak about the truth that the Tower of Babel actually wasn’t a Stargate.
Actually Damaging Bible Interpretation
However some Bible interpretation is really damaging—and on a large scale. For that type of hurt, you wanted professionals—people who find themselves presupposed to know higher as a result of they’ve levels or are in positions of religious management.
Maybe essentially the most egregious instance is racism. Because the Age of Exploration (sixteenth century) on via the eras of European empire and colonization, the racism that was an inextricable a part of these centuries will be laid on the toes of the Church. Although it could make you flinch, it’s true—and I’m not launching into some ludicrous left-wing propagandistic screed. It’s fairly easy and, by itself phrases, very comprehensible, although the coherence of the way it all took place is not any excuse.
Within the sixteenth century, as Europeans ventured for the primary time throughout the Atlantic and deepened their penetration east into the “Indies,” they encountered folks and locations that weren’t a part of the biblical world. The place that may be known as North America was not India or China, locations that Europeans had been uncovered to earlier. How did they get right here? The Bible stated nothing about them. Issues didn’t get any extra comfy within the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries after the decipherment of the literary language of historic India (Sanskrit). In a surprising twist, Sanskrit turned out to be from the identical language household as classical Latin and Greek (Indo-European), the mental bedrock of European civilization. Sanskrit texts revealed a for much longer human historical past than that of the Bible. And the bodily proof of a civilization a lot older than the patriarchs gave weight to that historical past.
The cumulative affect of all these discoveries was that the Bible now not regarded prefer it had any declare on being particular. To make the disaster much more acute, in 1859 Charles Darwin revealed On the Origin of Species. Within the wake of that bombshell, the choice tales of creation in Sanskrit and the discoveries of individuals within the New World who shouldn’t have been there (as a result of the Bible didn’t point out them) gave opponents of the Bible all of the ammunition they wanted. The Bible was not solely unsuitable however inferior. In any case, it was such a Jewish guide.
It’s no accident that this was the period that produced theories about how all races not European (particularly blacks and Semitic peoples) had been inferior to the “extra pure” Europeans. Defenders of the Bible couldn’t argue there; as an alternative, they did their greatest to make the Bible help these issues. The period produced “scholarly” defenses of how the sin of Ham produced the black peoples, or how Cain’s spouse proved there have been co-Adamic races in antiquity, inferior to Adam, who wasn’t Jewish by the best way, or that Jesus wasn’t actually a Jew however an Aryan, a Sanskrit time period for the excessive born. Different interpretive leaps had been used to justify older suspicions of Jews as Christ-killers whose disinheritance by God had subordinated them to the civilization that had embraced Christianity—the Europeans. However at the least the Bible wasn’t left behind in its “correct” understanding of historical past. It nonetheless deserved its excessive standing. And so the Bible was “saved” via horrific Bible interpretation. And we’re nonetheless residing with the outcomes since this was all dropped at American shores.
So sure, generally unhealthy Bible interpretation is really harmful—with results lasting generations. That is yet one more illustration why we have to get critical about deciphering the Bible in its personal context, not towards the backdrop of our personal trendy questions. The tragic baptism of racism was utterly pointless. However there it’s.
This text is excerpted from Dr. Heiser’s guide The Bible Unfiltered.
Dr. Michael S. Heiser is a scholar-in-residence for Faithlife, the makers of Logos Bible Software program. He’s the creator of The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible and Angels: What the Bible Actually Says about God’s Heavenly Host.
His latest guide, The World Turned Upside Down: Discovering the Gospel in Stranger Issues, is now on pre-order.
He’s taught many Cellular Ed programs, together with Issues in Biblical Interpretation: Troublesome Passages I.