It’s not a new thing to point out the flaws of Christians and use that as an argument against the veracity of the Christian faith. Many things have been written on this subject and today I’ve been thinking about something along these lines that I have not yet read anywhere else.
That is, the idea of misapplying objective Truths. While, on the one hand, I could say that non-believers do this, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that believers do this as well. What brought this to mind was that I was reading a post regarding marriage and divorce.
When Christians abuse scripture, it can cause people to leave the Church. It can also be a roadblock for those who are “kicking the tires” of Christianity and checking it out. So, how do we misuse Truth?
One common way to do that is to take something out of context and try to apply it to one’s own situation. Currently, I’ve been talking with a brother in Christ about Jeremiah 29:11. On one view, this passage is often taken out of context and applied to Christians today when the promise is specifically made to Israel. The other view is that this passage shows God’s character and His care for His people.
Fortunately, these conversations are discussed with respect and brotherly love and neither side gets offended or hurtful. It’s a simple discussion to try to come to an understanding. But that’s not always the case. Scripture, when taken out of context, can be very dangerous. A believer may assume a passage means a certain thing in a certain situation and then when the unexpected happens, they could lose their faith.
Another way things can be taken out of context is when people pick and choose the passages that they like. When I hear accusations about Christianity being “male dominated” or “anti-women,” this is usually because people (sometimes Christian husbands) only look at the parts of scripture that show the one side of the story and they don’t continue reading the rest of the story.
For example, one might read that “the husband is the head of the wife” and then stop right there. Well, taken this way, certainly one can abuse scripture (not to mention one’s wife) and take passages from the Bible to make it sound like it’s biblical. The problem is, that’s not the whole story. It goes on to talk about how the husband should sacrifice himself for his wife and family. It talks about how husbands should love their wives “as their own bodies.”
How else can we misuse Truth? Well, we can take it to extremes. When Jesus says “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off,” we can take that literally rather than as hyperbole. That’s a pretty extreme (not to mention painful) example, but hopefully it gets the point across.
Something a little more obscure might be to claim a Truth that may not actually be Truth. This often happens with some of the more ambiguous texts in scripture. Many times, people get very riled up about certain doctrines that, when you look at the scriptural evidence, are not entirely clear. There may be a lot open to interpretation with some things.
Whenever scripture is not abundantly clear on something, it makes it very difficult to set such things as foundational and build doctrine on them. Just look at all the various understandings and teaching with regard to Revelation and the coming of Christ. Most of this book is steeped in imagery and allegorical speech. Yet, there are people who will go toe-to-toe with each other about whether they should be pre-millennial or amillennial or post-millennial or whether or not there will be a “rapture” and so on and so forth.
The fact is, some areas of scripture are less clear than others. If it’s not clear, we have to be careful how staunchly we defend our own understanding of things. We have to understand that what we are taking as Truth may not actually be true.
Sometimes, when scripture makes something pretty clear, there is still debate. Take, for instance, works-based salvation. There are some passages of scripture that, if interpreted a certain way, could seem to indicate that we have to “do something” to be saved. Yet Paul says that we are saved “by faith, through grace and not by works so that no man may boast.” I’m not sure how much more clearly that could be stated.
If we Christians will abuse the Truth in these and other ways, imagine how wide that flings the doors open to non-believers to misuse scripture or exaggerate Truth to the point of absurdity and damage the credibility of the Christian faith.
What other ways have you seen or heard anyone abusing Christian Truths or scriptural teachings?
Grace, love and peace.