The Bible as we have it is what it is. It probably isn’t what you wish it were. It isn’t a handbook for life or the missing manual. It doesn’t have an answer to every question. It isn’t always a happy book with blessings and sunshine for your daily devotions.
Instead, it is a very messy book full of very messy people and very messy situations. It is full of teachings to we pay no attention to if we don’t want to. We like the things we like and pound on about those things, ignoring other things that we don’t like.
Your interpretation of the Bible will take a turn for the better if you are practically realistic about your view of scripture.
- Not every propositional statement is the truth.
- Most of the truth is not in propositional statements.
- You can’t trust every speaker. People lie and people are mistaken.
- Not every character is a good example. In fact, good examples are hard to find.
- Not every prophecy comes to fruition. God sometimes changes his mind.
- There are lots of seeming contradictions, making it hard to know what God is saying.
- People get orders to do things our modern sensibilities tell us are wrong.
- There are punishments and requirements (death penalty, ethnic cleansing, Jubilee, etc.) that are never seen to be carried out in real life.
- Even if we could assume verbal inerrancy (and we cannot), there are still lots of things verbal inerrantists disagree on: Free will vs. Predestination; Baptism; Church government; You Name It.
- You can’t live in a canon-within-the-canon (such as Paul’s letters), nor in a canon-within-the-canon-within-the-canon (such as Romans, like most neo-reformed Piper Cubs). There is a whole Bible out there. Explore it.
Interpreting the Bible is really, really hard. The ability to do it well takes lots of time and effort. Also, it takes an open mind — which few of us have.
Read your Bible and read it hard.