In my line of work, I’m often in circles where I hear phrases like:
- “The Bible says…”
- “Jesus said…”
- “The Word of God says…”
The problem is, generally what follows these statements is not really what “the Bible says”, “Jesus said”, or “the Word of God says.”
While whatever follows those statements sounds holy, righteous, and Biblical, if we’re going to be honest, it’s not really what the Bible, Jesus, or the Word of God (which, by the way, is Jesus) .
Generally, what follows those statements are really just our interpretations of what we believe or have been taught to believe the Bible or Jesus or the Word of God says.
For example, you get the theological conservative and the theological progressive in a room together. You give them the same passage of Scripture to read and study. Let’s say the passage happens to be Romans 1:18-32.
After reading the passage, the theological conservative will say, “Well, the Bible says here that homosexuality is an abomination, a horrible, wretched sin. ”
After reading the exact same passage, the theological progressive will say, “Well, if we are to interpret Scripture honestly, we would understand that this particular passage is not talking about homosexuality. It’s really dealing with temple prostitution and the worship rituals involving various idols. Paul isn’t addressing homosexuals. He’s addressing the dirty old men who come to the shrines and have adulterous relationships with shrine prostitutes. And, some scholars would argue that this isn’t even Paul’s writing. Rather, Paul is simply quoting what someone else wrote and then responds to it in the following verses.”
Same passage. Different interpretations. Both fully convinced through prayerful reflection, the study of Scripture, culture, and tradition that they are “right.”
Both stand before their congregations and say, “The Bible says.” Both clearly have different interpretations that follow the phrase “the Bible says.”
Then, for years, the theological conservative and the theological progressive will focus on their differences. They will go back and forth, arguing about one or two verses that they are totally convinced support their ideology. They will most likely do more damage than good in regards to promoting the way of Jesus.
They will struggle to “agree to disagree”. They will struggle to focus on the One Thing (Jesus) that truly unites them. They will give themselves over to majoring on the minors.
And, they will probably continue to proclaim, “The Bible says…”