WHY EVEN SINCERE CHRISTIANS DISAGREE OVER THE BIBLE

In the course of my personal Bible study, I have struggled with a realization that has somehow defined my over-all worldview and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This has become a path that led me to great peace about the Bible in a day when there is still tremendous controversy about the Bible even among sincere Christians. One Christian focuses on this passage, and another focuses on that passage, and they disagree and build walls of denominations. We are all guilty as human beings, and I understand where it’s coming from, because our mind is like a gigantic computer, and we categorize all kinds of information into some meaningful grid. What we have done, of course, is to systematize the Bible into certain categories – Calvinism, Arminianism, Dispensationalism, and so forth and so on. We forget that these are man-made structures that the Bible does not really fit well, because the Bible is not primarily a theological dictionary which we just turn to for a certain topic, and look up what God says about it. To a very large extent, we are all influenced by western culture, and western culture is primarily Greek. We think as the Greeks, and we structure our thoughts as the Greeks. We tend to be logical, rational, and literal. We tend to order our thoughts on precepts built upon precepts. The only problem is, the Bible is not a western book. The Bible is an ancient eastern book. The people of the near eastern world would never have structured their thoughts in those ways. They are much more used to tension in their presentation. They are much more used to overstatements, understatements, and exaggerations. They are used to presenting truths not in ‘black and white’, ‘either/or’ categories, but in categories of stories that pointedly tell this truth, and another story that seems to say what looks like exactly the opposite truth. It is for this reason that the Bible is so greatly misunderstood, and so easily proof-texted, that we say, “Well, God said it right here, and that settles it”. I think in doing that, we have destroyed the very nature of Biblical truth itself.

I believe that most Biblical truths come in paradoxical pairs, sometimes called dialectical pairs. In other words, the Bible seems to speak out of both sides of its mouth. Like in the Parable of the soils, on one hand, it teaches the absolute necessity of fruitfulness as an evidence of a true salvation – not the means to that salvation, but on the other hand, John 10:28; Ephesians 2:8-9 and a whole lot more teach believers about grace as a bedrock truth on which to base their assurance of salvation. Here is an obvious tension created by two paradoxes; perseverance on one hand and faith assurance of grace on the other, and both truths are divinely inspired. Other examples are: God as transcendent versus God as immanent; security vs. perseverance; Jesus as equal with the Father vs. Jesus as subservient to the Father; Christian freedom vs. Christian responsibility to a covenant partner; etc. Therefore, we need to take these scripture texts to a balance by living our Christian lives within the tension created by these seemingly opposing truths. We do not have the right to affirm one inspired Bible text and at the same time reject or relegate to second importance another equally inspired Scripture text. Therefore truth is found between the two seemingly paradoxical extremes. Denominationalism tends to proof-text one side of the paradox and radicalize truth by literally and dogmatically interpreting one expression of truth without seeking to relate it to the opposite truth. We must live within the tension created by these truths no matter how seemingly paradoxical they are because all Scriptures are divinely inspired. If all Christians will have this kind of mindset, i believe Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-23, for the unity of all believers will be realized.