Why the Bible is tricky
There it is, sitting in Matthew 4, the 6th verse. Satan is asking Jesus to jump off a cliff, and he's quoting the Bible to prove that Jesus has nothing to worry about. "It is written" he says, and then he quotes from the Psalms, that passage about how Angels will prevent God's chosen one from hurting even a toe.
And then Jesus says, "On the other hand, it is written..." and then He quotes the Bible also, to prove that jumping off a cliff would be an inappropriate appropriation of God's power.
"It is written"...."On the other hand, it is also written." This is the problem right here. It's why there are age old arguments about the deity/humanity of Christ, or whether divorce is permissable, or whether it's appropriate for believers to fight in wars, or whether we humans have free choice or are so totally depraved that, apart from God's irresistable grace, we'll refuse His offers of grace every time.
What makes matters even trickier still is that it is Satan who is using the Bible to his own ends. Therefore it's obvious isn't it? Everyone who interprets the Bible the wrong way is a tool in the hands of Satan. This has, over the centuries, served to make dialogue over conflicting interpretive matters unlikely. After all, do you want to sit down and have coffee with Satan?
Of course we think we know the truth. There aren't many people out there among prosperity theologians, or liberation theolgians, or feminist theologians, or fundamentalist theologians, or any other stripe of theologian, that are certain they've got it all wrong, but are simply out the take boatloads of people down with them.
So what's a pastor to do? There are two errors to be avoided.
First, we need to avoid the cynical despair of post-modernism, which often concludes that making any truth claims at all is impossible because of this crisis of knowing. Of course, there are huge difficulties with this, including the paralysis that comes to each life intent on living this with any consistency. The reality is that we believe Jesus knew truth, even that He was the emodiment of truth. And so his way of interpreting the Bible trumps Satan's way. We believe this. And because of this, we will wrestle with his words, pray over his words, wrestle amongst ourselves with his words. We'll do this because we believe that, though we might not interpret it absolutely right, there is truth. And so we're on a journey - studying, praying, believing, and acting on what we believe. We won't be paralyzed into inaction by the multitude of truth claims.
Second, we need to avoid the rigid dogma which refuses consideration of any countering positions. To presume that our truth claims, as they stand in this moment, are perfect, is to declare our ignorance of history. The church has been wrong on anit-semitism, wrong on slavery, wrong on salvation by works, wrong on _________ - you fill in the blank. Isn't it a bit arrogant to presume that we're now the ones who see it perfectly, especially since Paul indicates that we'll look through a glass darkly until that day when we look at Jesus face. So, although we'll study, wrestly, pray, believe, and act on our beliefs, we'll also be best served by remaining humble and teachable, because the reality is that I can be the one quoting Jesus interpretation of the Bible one second, and Satan's the next.
May each of us who open the Bible seek to find God's heart and mind. May we have the grace to believe and act, and the humility to remain teachable and correctable. This will be the path that leads upward, causing more of Christ's life to be seen in us and among us.