Lately I have been troubled, more so than usual, about an issue that surrounds the Bible. And my troubled spirit revolves about this question: “What does The Bible say about ? Simply fill in the blank with any topic or issue. My issue is not about what The Bible speaks into our hearts, but what WE speak into The Bible as we read it.
I am seeing and hearing a lot of what I call “cultural bias” into what The Bible says. For the sake of thought, allow me to define what I mean by “cultural bias” Cultural bias is “the tendency for people to judge concepts and interpret ideas and truths through a narrow view based on their own culture.” In other words, we read into The Bible the influences of our culture. One of those influences, especially for the Western Church (by this I mean mainline U.S. churches), is what we have been told it means. Sometimes this meaning is an age-old meaning. It is what we believe, what our parents believed, what our grandparents believed, ad infinitum. At other times, it’s the modern, more “enlightened” view.
Randolph Richards and Brandon O’Brien wrote a book, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes. In this book they point out 2 immediate dangers by reading the Bible with these “western eyes”. First is making yourself the center of this search for the meaning of the Bible. We tend to search for things we think are relevant us to and ignore the rest. The other immediate danger they describe is, well I’ll just quote them: “Second, and perhaps more seriously, a me-centered approach to the Bible confuses application with meaning. Simply put, I am not the focus of the Bible’s meaning; Christ is.”
While this may explain some of the issues, it does not address all of them. Over the next few posts, I am going to look and speak into some of our “church cultural biases” into some issues. And it may be that when we see how we have made “our” culture central in what The Bible says on these issues, there may be other, call them truths or principles of The Bible that we have read “our” interpretation into those passages to the exclusion of any other possible meanings.
I guess what I am attempting to do is to ask, “Where are we wrong when it comes to the truth of The Bible?” And here is where you, the readers, can participate in this journey. I am going to list some of what I see as “church culture biases” as it pertains to understanding what The Bible says. I would like to invite you to post in the comments section other things that have been either long-hold or modern interpretations of what The Bible says about “life issues”. So far here is my list in no particular order of importance, and please feel free to add to the list or share your insights.
- What does the Bible really say about divorce?
- Are those who have been divorced really excluded from church leadership?
- Are ‘deacons’ and ‘elders’ to be considered clergy (pastors/preachers) or laity (the person in the pew)? Who’s right?
- Who is ‘authorized’ to administer (or serve) Holy Communion/The Lord’s Supper/The Eucharist/The Mass?
- What does The Bible really say about women as teachers, pastors, or preachers?
- What does The Bible really say about human sexuality?
- Does The Bible approve of slavery? What does it really say about it?
- Which is a more accurate term: Christian or Disciple?
- What does The Bible say about “the church”?
- Does God insist on us being a “Christian” nation, and does this fulfill our mission?
- What is the “proper” way to worship?
Well, for right now, this is all I can think of; so if you have more ideas or questions, or arguments, share below in “Comments”. Right now I am like the cat who ate some cheese and then went to wait beside the mouse hole. “I am waiting with baited breath!”