God said it. I believe it. Does that settle it?

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com

Back when every mall had a Christian bookstore, they sold bumper stickers beside the little metal ichthus fish. One of the most popular bumper stickers was the pithy – God said it. I believe it. That settles it.

It’s 2020 now, so we may not have Christian bookstores. Or bumper stickers. Or malls. But we do have social media and Christian memes. Which means we have the same terse sentiments without the pleasure of sauntering past that leather store that wafted its weathered, tanned, oiled animal skin scent into the main mall hallways to blend with the delicious aroma of giant cookies at The Great American Cookie Company and pungent cinnamon pine cones from Kirkland’s. Aaahhh, those were the days.

As I scroll social media, I regularly come upon a meme with a Bible or a stained glass window that says some variation of The Bible has the final say; your opinion doesn’t matter or God’s Word is the final authority, no matter what society says.

And I get it. I understand the notion that God is the same and doesn’t change with the whims of trends and circumstances. I can appreciate that the idea behind these memes comes from a place of respect for God and the Bible — and maybe a little bit of side eye to anyone who interprets the Bible differently.

Recently, I posted something on Facebook about how our beliefs and understandings and interpretations are supposed to change and grow as we change and grow — that if everything about our beliefs and faith is the exact same now as it was twenty years ago, something is wrong. And like a pucker-lipped old schoolmarm tapping a ruler on the desk to get all the children in line, someone swiftly replied, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” To which my brain immediately answered, Yeah, and I’m not Jesus Christ. And neither are you.

The problem I have with those memes and bumper stickers is that they close the door of conversation. Slam it shut. With a thud. They arrogantly declare that the person posting has the corner market on understanding the Bible, and no further discussion is required. Thankyouverymuch. The End.

What does it even mean to say The Bible is the final authority, and your opinion doesn’t matter? As if every Bible scholar ever has come to one agreement on everything in the Bible. As if we don’t have a boatload of denominations with various opinions about everything from whether we can have the piano accompany our hymns to whether women can teach grown men to whether we sprinkle or dunk at our baptisms to whether women can wear pants to whether believers still actually speak in tongues or not.

Since the very first Christians – way back with Peter and Paul – believers have had opinions and understandings and teachings that differ. Whether we like it or not, God has left room for us to wrestle out our own faith, our own understanding of what passages of scripture mean and especially what they mean to us in a different culture than which they were originally written.

My entire life, I’ve heard Christians criticize other Christians who hold different beliefs — They pick and choose from the Bible what they want to believe. Yes. they do. And so do you. We all do.

Every believer reads the Bible through some lens, interprets scripture through some preconceived notions or with some goal in mind. In her book Inspired, Rachel Held Evans wrote about interpreting the Bible, “We’re all selective. We all wrestle with how to interpret and apply the Bible to our lives. We all go to the text looking for something, and we all have a tendency to find it. So the question we have to ask ourselves is this: are we reading with the prejudice of love, with Christ as our model, or are we reading with the prejudice of judgment and power, self-interest and greed? Are we seeking to enslave or liberate, burden or set free?”

God is the final authority. And my finite mind can’t pretend to understand God or God’s Word perfectly. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But I am not. I’m a work in progress – learning, growing, changing from day to day and year to year. Isn’t that a relief? God is God, and I am not. I’m just doing the best I can with the understanding I have and with the help of a God who loves me.

God and God’s Word are the final authority. My interpretation of God’s Word is not the final authority. Your interpretation of God’s Word is not the final authority.

So as I grow, as I get to know God better, I’m going to approach scripture with the prejudice of love. Because I know the two greatest commandments are to love God and love people, that’s the lens I’m going to read the Bible through. How can I understand this passage in a way that prompts me to love God more? that helps me love other people well?

I’ll hold tightly to Jesus and the Bible, but I’ll hold loosely to my interpretations – allowing plenty of room for God to teach me new things, to change my mind, to stretch me.

God said it. I believe it. As best I can right now, but maybe I’ll understand it better next year.

Maybe someone can Cricut that on a window decal for us. And throw in a giant cookie and some cinnamon potpourri while you’re at it.

9 thoughts on “God said it. I believe it. Does that settle it?

  1. There are several (difficult) universal truths of Christianity and Christian growth, and you have tackled one of them right here. The bible is an amazing living word, but certainly one that is subject to interpretation. Your suggestion to read it through the lens and purpose of love is absolutely solid advice, in my opinion. Thank you for taking on another tough topic!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent !!! It reminds me of when I went through a Bible Intensive course and several times a week I would see something I hadn’t noticed before and say ‘well, that changes everything!” … The Bible did NOT change … but my understanding of it DID. ONE ADDED NOTE: I also read the Bible in several different translations, often side by side and looking at the wording. We all need to remember that the Bible was not written in English and translating a text is a complex and nuanced proposition. My best friends husband has been translating the Old Testament for years and it is amazing listening to him explain all the things that he finds necessary to properly translate just one paragraph! Now I look at a passage of Scripture in BibleGateway displaying 5 different translations in parallel). If you haven’t tried this yet, here is what it looks like: https://classic.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts%2017%3A10-11&version=ESV;VOICE;NET;NCV;NLT … it helps me understand a passage to see how five different scholars interpreted it. In this example, take note of the second verse … The Bereans were not just taking everything that Paul said as absolutely true, but went and reviewed the Scriptures to verify and confirm what he was saying. Paul did not criticize them for the. The Bereans were “more noble” (ESV)… they were “more receptive” (Voice) … they were “more open-minded” (NET) … they were “more willing to listen” (NCV) Thank you Jenn for this well worded article!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. And no mention that the Bible has been through several translations and some theological and political discussions and decisions on what should be included and what the wording should be.

    Like

  4. Thank you for sharing a part of your heart and mind with your blog! The thought you’ve given to these important topics, and the way you wrestle with them, is wonderful. Your blog is a tremendous help for me to work through my own thoughts, and to understand what’s in my own heart.

    Bless you!

    Mike

    >

    Like

  5. Thank you for putting my thoughts into coherent sentences!
    Unfortunately, when I tried to express this to someone in my family regarding the Creation accounts in Genesis, he accused me of being an agnostic. 😔 It didn’t matter that I have loved and lived for Christ for 25 years. Not seeing it his way – and he uses the exact phrase you question here – meant I am not a “real” believer.

    Reading your blog and following you on Facebook has been a balm to my heart. Please keep sharing!

    Like

    1. Yes … that happened to me multiple times over the past few years. It likely has nothing to do with how you said things, merely that you were not echoing what the other person thought was the only correct way of thinking. He may even have told you that you needed to fix the way you were thinking. Don’t worry about it (it is Biblical to keep anxiety at a distance). A good Christian friend of mine told me that she thought there was something spiritual covering our country (the world?). Our battle is NOT with the deceived people under that spiritual darkness, but the cause of the darkness … we need to always speak with love and kindness.

      Like

  6. Good article. Growing up in the institutional church, the bible was definitely given a position that was close to idolatrous. I sometimes felt it was the Father, Son and Holy Bible. I was glad to find that our God is much bigger than a book. The book tells us about God, it tells us about God’s relationship with humans over the period, and it leads us to the real, inerrant, living Word of God, who is Jesus. The bible was not written to us who are living in the 21st century. It still can be used for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness with the guidance of the Spirit. Also, times, words and meanings have changed and interpretations have been made incorrectly. Yet, God by the Spirit still teaches, guides and speaks of God’s love day by day, with or without the bible.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: