Sunday, August 19, 2018

Scripture Twisting

How do people in various religious movements interpret Scripture? Many cults claim to have a high regard for it. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, claim the Bible as their sole authority. The Mormons place it first in their list of Scriptures. The Unification Church also gives it an authoritative position, as does Christian Science. Even the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of Transcendental Meditation, and other writers in the Eastern traditions quote favorably from the Bible. If traditional Christianity affirms the Bible as its sole authority, how can these very different religious movements claim Scripture for their own?

They can only do so by violating the principles of sound literary interpretation. The extent to which heretical doctrines are said to be based on Scripture is the extent to which misreading has taken place. Of course, not all doctrines held by traditional Christians have an equally firm biblical base. There is room for disagreement, for example, between Christians who hold that baptism is for adult believers only and those who argue that baptism is also for the children of believers. Serious Christians have drawn different conclusions. But both groups believe baptism is an important rite; the disagreement is on the mode of baptism.

There are difficulties in Scripture—passages which are obscure, references which are unclear. This we must admit. In fact, it is often in just these difficult areas that cult teaching makes its entry. Obscurities become key doctrines or important practices.

The point is that for the central core of the Christian faith, the biblical evidence is overwhelming. The deity of Christ, the triune nature of God, the creation of the world by God, the sinfulness of all humanity, salvation by God’s grace through faith, the resurrection of the dead—these and many other such matters are clearly taught in Scripture. Yet all of these have been challenged by one cult or another, and sometimes these challenges have been based—so the cult may claim—on the Bible itself.

If a Christian knows how the Bible is or can be misread, he or she can be properly wary of any evangelist’s claim that the Bible teaches any bizarre doctrine at all. With new cults springing up almost daily, what is needed is a general defense against all perversions of God’s Word.

Christians who respect biblical authority have a special burden to read right. We, too, are prone to fall into error. In fact, none of us is absolutely right about what God’s Word really means. That is why we must ourselves return daily to the Bible—reading and rereading, thinking and rethinking, obeying what we grasp, correcting our earlier readings as new insight is given us, constantly crosschecking our grasp of Scripture with our minister, our fellow Christians, and with the historic understanding of Scripture by orthodox Christianity.