Have you ever noticed how many things in the Bible are unclear or open to interpretation? The story of Creation seems so simple, but it really isn’t. We read it through a completely different cultural “lens” than the original readers. Hence, in the 21st century, we debate which interpretation is correct. Among Christians, who love Jesus and take the Bible seriously, there are those who believe that the earth is 6000 years old and all creatures were individually created by God and there are those who accept the scientific evidence that the universe is about 15 billion years old and life evolved to it’s current state. Then, there are those who lie somewhere in between. But, we share the same faith and the same source of truth.
Right now, there’s some lively debate over at imonk about women’s roles in the church and the home (and, consequently, society). Complementarians (who believe that women should submit to men in the home and in the church) trot out seemingly unassailable proof texts. Then, the egalitarians (who believe that men and women are equal and can both hold positions of leadership, including in the home and the church) point out other texts that seem to contradict the complementarian’s verses – and they’re written by the same author in the same book in the Bible!
My goal here isn’t to try to sort out either of these issues, both of which have had reams of paper and huge amounts of computer memory devoted to them. Rather, I’m curious as to why God didn’t make things more clear. The Bible is made up of a number of books written in different styles – narrative, poetry, epistles, etc. – and written in different times. Wouldn’t life have been easier if God had just inspired a textbook of theology?
I think that the reason that the Bible isn’t as clear as we’d like it is to make us learn to work together. Too often, we allow our biblical interpretations to drive us apart, but we can be united as Christians if we learn to communicate our differences while still loving each other. It’s kind of like marriage. Those of us who are married know that marriage requires a lot of work, since we’re so different in many ways. We often joke that marriage would be easier if husband and wife were the same – but yet it’s the work that brings us closer together.
There is absolute truth – one interpretation is correct. But, we need to have humility about our interpretations. As fallible humans, it’s unlikely that any one of us has all of the answers all of the time. All of us Christians can learn from each other if we will truly listen to those who disagree with us. Sometimes it’s best to close our mouths and open our ears.