The most popular book in the world is also the most misused book. Here’s why.
One of the most underrated passages in the Bible is in Proverbs 4.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
King Solomon must have gone through a lot in his life to come to that conclusion. But one simple and profound revelation is that knowledge does not equal understanding. Understanding is the doing of something, while knowledge is simply knowing about it.
To illustrate this, one of my favorite YouTubers, Destin Sandlin, made a video about a bike he can ride, but you can’t. The Bible is no different. It’s a tool with a purpose, but some people have been using it wrong for millennia.
I’ll stick to some modern examples, because everyone trashes the Pharisees and the legalists. Today’s Biblical butchers are more on the Gnostic side–but they do what everyone with their own plan does: Come up with your own morality and use the Bible to justify it.
In 2012, Eliyahu Federman penned a HuffPo piece “Is Abortion Murder? A Biblical View Says ‘No’.”
Do those opposing abortion on religious grounds know that the Bible does not consider a fetus a full human life or the killing of a fetus murder?
If one flips through enough pages, conflates enough Scriptures from Genesis, Luke and Exodus, one can justify this view. And Federman did.
Of course he did.
In fact, I could easily justify slavery, prostitution, rape, bigamy, incest, and genocide using this method of Biblical exegesis. I could also use a hammer to pound in a screw and it might hold two pieces of wood together.
Matthew Vines wrote a whole book on how God blesses “gay Christians” using this method. Though many Biblical scholars debunked his arguments, many in the LGBT community applaud it, for obvious reasons. They are hammering screws.
The Bible has one purpose. It’s not a historical document, though it has history in it. It’s not a scientific document, although much of today’s science came from Bible scholars’ desire to understand Biblical principles. It’s not a treatise on botany, though many plants are described. It’s not a morality text, although much about morality is discussed. It’s not a financial plan, though money is one of its chief topics.
I could go on: marriage, child-rearing, war, oil recipes, and tent-making are also in the Bible.
But that is not the purpose of the book. It has one purpose: understanding God. And knowledge of the Bible does not equal understanding God any more than knowing how the gears of a bicycle work gives you understanding on how to ride it.
Understanding God comes one way, and one way only. It comes from knowing Him.
Let me illustrate this. If you’re married or have a boyfriend/girlfriend (or significant other, whatever), this applies to you. If you’ve got a brother or sister or parents it also applies, but I’ll use a wife as an example, since I have one.
If my wife wrote down the details of her life, her thoughts, her dreams, and her actions, all kind of mixed together, on a daily or weekly basis, and handed that to me, but I didn’t know her, I’d have lots of knowledge about my wife. But I’d have no understanding. In fact, I don’t think I could love her as a husband should having that knowledge.
If I did the same for her, and she didn’t know me, I think she’d run screaming from me. But she loves me because she knows me.
Why does God love us?
I think the answer there is clear. If God is God, then he knows us–you, me, my wife–intimately. He knows us and knows that we are worth loving. We are worth loving even as sinners. In this way, Matthew Vines is correct, and Federman is correct. God loves gay people, and God loves mothers who abort their children.
But that doesn’t mean sinners, including those who openly practice homosexuality, and abortionists understand God. The Bible says they don’t (Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9, Revelation 21:8 and 22:15, Ephesians 5:5, etc).
Understanding God means knowing Him. Knowing God means practicing ways to be more like God. Paul wrote “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Jesus Christ.” None of us win while we’re here on earth. We are practicing for a better kingdom where we know Him fully (1 Corinthians 13:12).
How do we become more like God? We love everyone the way He does, even when it’s hard because we can’t see other people like God sees them. But we can take it on faith that He loves them just like He loves us.
The Bible is a tool built for one purpose (a uni-tasker if there ever was one). Love God, love your neighbor, in that order. Love God and then understand God. Using the Bible for any other purpose, to justify ideals, goals, and “vain imaginations” made by people is nothing more than hammering screws.