As Christians we claim to believe the Bible and we understand that it is God’s message to mankind, but none of us read the Bible the exact same way. None of us read it without a bias.
According to Google’s definition, bias is… cause to feel or show inclination or prejudice for or against someone or something. We have all been shaped by experiences, teachings, and people in our lives.
All of us interpret the Bible personally, individually, and we all have some sort of bias or vantage point or even purpose from which we base our interpretations.
“As philosopher Thomas Nagel used to say, there is no “view from nowhere.” In other words, there is no such thing as an unbiased interpretation, an approach to the Bible (or any text) that has no presuppositions, no precommitments, no cultural, familial and personal assumptions that steer the reader’s eyes to see certain things and avoid others.
Yes, God said it. And certainly, Christians can believe it. But before its truths can be accessed and applied, they must be interpreted.
And everyone brings something to the Bible when they seek to interpret it. Family upbringing, church background, social status, ethnicity, gender, age, nationality and many other personal and cultural narratives have been trafficked into every person’s mind and heart (often unknowingly) and form interpretive lenses as thick as coke-bottle glasses. One simply can’t read the Bible as a neutral observer.” (link to quote)
The Bible is the word of God. It is God-breathed. God has ultimate authority, we all get that, we all profess that. Christians are to believe and follow what the Bible says, but what does it say?
Who has the right to tell us what to say, to do, to be? God does. Why? Because He created us. And He tells us these things through His word via our interpretation of that word.
How do we know what we are supposed to do to please God, whether in our daily activities (what we do, what we don’t do), whether it’s how we worship, whether it’s when we worship, whether it’s what we call the local group that meets together, whether it’s where we meet to worship, or what the collective group of individual Christians together can do vs. what an individual Christian has the authority to do…
God tells us. We commonly refer to the way He tells us in His word as Command, Example, and Necessary Inference. I tend to refer to it more as commands, examples, and our biased interpretations and conclusions of such. We all have some bias.
God tells us. But, God doesn’t always tell us directly by specific commands (“Thou shalt…”) and spell it out action by action.
Sometimes we have to draw our own conclusions on a matter.
Sometimes what we do is just based on an example of what the first century Christians did as it is recorded for us. Are we to conclude, based upon one mention in the scriptures of what someone did that we are always to do it the exact same way for all of our existence?
Can we pick and choose what is important to follow? Who gets to decide? Like taking the Lord’s Supper on Sunday (Acts 20:7), but not being in other Christians homes every single day (Acts 2:46) or fasting (multiple examples)?
Can we assume that, because the Christians met for worship (we see that in multiple places, too) that they met in a large building that they couldn’t afford, so they took out a large loan which unequally yoked them to non-Christians, even though there are other warnings and instructions in the Bible that would tend to make us believe that probably isn’t what God would desire and it seems like all the examples would lead us more towards free-will offerings ahead of time to provide for the needs of a local church, never a loan?
Can we safely assume that someone is going to be lost to eternal damnation and separation from God if they use an instrument of music like a guitar in their worship to Him, because the New Testament only mentions in two passages that we should sing and make melody in our heart?
Maybe we have a bias one way or another about some of these matters?
What about the silence of the scriptures? If God doesn’t say something specifically, does that mean we can or can’t do it?
Are you biased in which direction you lean on any of these topics or are you 100% objective?
(more to come in my next article about Command, Example, and Necessary Inference)
What’s Really Important?
I think there are foundational truths within God’s word that are essential to our salvation, but I feel like we tend to focus so much more on what we might consider some of the “finer points” that separate us from “those other churches,” to the point that we miss the real emphasis of what Christ is trying to say.
The greatest commandment is to love God and our neighbor as ourself. Let’s emphasize that and let the rest of our bias and interpretations spring forth from that point and then see what is truly important to the Lord.
I feel like we emphasize more of what we shouldn’t do than what we should be doing.
“When we gather at the building, we learn to be good. Being good is defined by what we avoid in the world. We are holy because of what we don’t participate in (and at this point we may be the only organization in the world defining success by what we don’t do). We live decent lives in decent homes with decent jobs and decent families as decent citizens. We are decent church members with little more impact on the world than we had before we were saved.” – David Platt
Maybe Jesus’ point to the woman at the well in John 4 might have been that the ‘where to worship’, ‘exactly how to worship…’ those things that were meticulously detailed under the Old Law were a mere tutor to help us see that now that we have the Living Water… the exact manner or tradition isn’t what’s really important – maybe it’s more about the spirit and heart behind the worship.
The Pharisees probably worshiped exactly like they were supposed to, act by act, everything done in order and decent, maybe just like we do, but was it pleasing to God? Are we?
Look at King David. The Bible describes him as a man after God’s own heart – he didn’t do everything exactly right, in fact he was a polygamist, an adulterer, a liar, a murderer, and the Lord even gave him multiple wives to care for, even though God considered polygamy a sin, but yet – David pleased God, because of His heart – maybe not always, because of every little thing he did, we know he made mistakes, but his heart pleased God.
Maybe our traditions and the things that we think are so important are more Pharisaical than we would like to think? Maybe we need to be more like David and lead with the heart?
What Does Your Bias Look Like?
We all have some sort of bias or differing perspective, because of our upbringing at home, because of our current situation (relationship, job, etc.), because of things we have been taught in school or church, because of where we were born, because of the influence of friends, because of traditions we have been exposed to, so on and so on. Even if we try our best to deny it or push it out of our lives – there are influences in our lives that we can’t get out – positive or negative and they impact our view, our bias, or our perspective.
We all have a bias.
Our goal is to be biased with God’s perspective, but we aren’t perfect and our interpretations aren’t perfect, so let’s remember that and love one another and strive to please God together and lead with the heart.