As a younger, slightly more naive Christian, I used to be critical of pastors and Bible teachers who would preach the same messages over and over again. They had a binder or notebook with all the sermons they had written over the years, and instead of coming up with anything new, they’d just cycle through that book.
I’d think to myself, “hasn’t this guy got anything new? I want a fresh revelation. Some new wine for the new wine skins (whatever that means). Something I’ve never heard before. A different take on a commonly known Bible verse, maybe. If this guy had a closer relationship with God, he would have a Word for today.”
Now, after being both a student and teacher of the Bible for some years, I find I have a growing respect for ministers who teach the, “same old, same old.”
The Bible is a Big Book. The more I study it, the less I think I know about it. Sure, I could be like most and take a plethora of Bible commentaries from the same denominational point of view and its pretty easy to convince myself I’ve got it figured out. But when I stand back and have a long, honest look at the Bible, I realize there is little that I am willing to take a definitive stance on.
Contrary to much criticism I’ve received about this, I can’t, in good conscience, bring myself to believe that I’ve got the, “right” position on all—or even most Bible passages.
I’m afraid that our appetite for, “something new” and discontentment with the unknown has contributed to a culture of Christians who feel the need to have all the blanks filled in. A nice, evenly distributed sphere of doctrine. And of course, being the humans that we are, those blanks will be filled in differently depending on the reader. The result? Church splits and denominational divides abound.
It seems to me that we are Jack of all Trades and Masters of None. Except we don’t like uncertainty because we think it makes us vulnerable, so we parade as Masters of all.
Ultimately, I can’t speak for anyone but myself. Like many, I have portrayed myself as knowing more than I actually did. And have led many astray with random, off-the-top-of-my-head explanations of Scriptures because I didn’t want to ruin my image as The Bible Answer Man (eat your heart out, Hanky).
Now a days, there are a handful of Bible subjects I teach. People who have known me for years can tell you, I never really move on to anything else.
I don’t really know what I believe about water baptism. I’m uncertain where I come down on the ideas of predestination, election and free will. And I really have no idea what to think about the book of Revelation. You would be surprised how upset Christians get when you tell them you don’t have a view or an opinion on every Bible verse. “What?! You can’t just NOT have an opinion. You’re ignoring God’s Word, that’s what you’re doing!”
Sigh . . .
Don’t get me wrong, I could erect a lofty position and then hold to it for dear life, unconsciously hoping that my dedication somehow makes it true . . . Like I suspect many others are doing. I could give you my own opinion and jazz it up with terminology like, “proper hermeneutic”, “contextual implication” and my personal favorite, “God told me . . .” But what good does that do?
I study. I pray. I’m open to venturing into other areas of the Word, but common sense tells me my chances for error drastically increase as I push and push for a monopoly on the Scriptures.
Experience has taught me that one of the most authentic answers you will ever receive concerning Bible doctrine is, “Humph! . . . I don’t know.” And we should be okay with that. It should not bother us if there are, “loose ends.” Let’s not allow mainstream Christianity to pressure us into being dogmatic about things that, deep down, we are still questioning.
In a nutshell? Not that the truth can’t be known (it certainly can be) but that we should be willing to consider the very likely and sobering thought that we don’t yet know it.