Most Christians I know have a problem.
Their life experiences and interactions with people do not match up with the Bible. This new knowledge and understanding lends itself to a life of grays… and the Bible does not tend to lend itself to a life lived in the grays.
Biblical truth often becomes subjective and left to the complete and total interpretation of the reader. You can find almost any biblical scholar to back you up on any point or perspective. And if that doesn’t work, then you just move forward and have faith that God is big enough to figure it all out in the end. Faith is the ultimate answer for any question offered…and how can one argue with that.
This was first evident to me when I discovered as a teenager that my father, a deacon in the church, was previously divorced prior to marrying my mother. It was a shocking discovery for me, one that shattered the image I had of my father for a period of time. As I heard the story, my dad fought in World War II and shortly after he entered the service, he met a woman whom he rushed to marry. Apparently, after realizing it was a mistake, he ended it a short time thereafter.
When I found this out, I had questions. If divorce was a sin and didn’t qualify a person to be a deacon in the church, why was my dad allowed to be a deacon? I asked my mom and she said that the church realized that the first marriage was a mistake, didn’t mean anything and looked over it. I finally talked to my pastor, the one who ordained my dad and he pretty much said the same thing. My father was a good man, had asked forgiveness from God and there was no reason that he shouldn’t serve God as a deacon regardless of his previous mistake.
But still, the way I read the Bible, divorce was a sin. Although I was only a teenager, I knew there were clear rules about divorce and to not abide by those rules meant you could go to hell. Actually, the way I read it, my father was still married to the first woman and that he and my mother had committed adultery. In other words, now my mother was in danger of hell.
It was all very confusing for my youthful, literal brain. My pastor, who believed in Biblical inerrancy, was saying that everything was fine and that I shouldn’t worry, but I just didn’t get it. Either the Bible was true on these points or it wasn’t right?
Eventually, I came to read more and understand more. Just as importantly, ultimately I became dulled to my strict interpretation of the Bible. Over the years, as a pastor, I spoke less of sin and more of grace.
Most Christians I know still have this problem. They are constantly seeking to justify and explain away the parts of the Bible that do not fit with their life experience. Most of my Christian friends still speak more of grace than sin, believing that God will figure it out in the end. Faith again becomes the ultimate answer. They talk about faith and their beliefs as truth, but to me, it just seems like a lot of guesswork.