Ironically, the more fervently we pursue theological uniformity, the more the Bible takes a back seat, even among people who pride themselves on having the Bible in the navigator’s seat. That’s because the lens of uniformity insists that everyone interpret difficult or controversial Scripture passages exactly the same way. There’s no room for differing opinions, blind spots, or simply being wrong. Those who don’t toe the company line are cast aside. The result is that every time a tough biblical question comes up, we have to consult the tribal manual for the “correct” answer. Instead of our answers and theology flowing out of the Bible, we end up with answers and theological systems superimposed upon the Bible and read back into it. Eventually the Bible becomes nothing more than a proof text for what our tribe already believes.1
The above is a good word for all to be aware of as we live in our own theological worlds. At some time or another, all Christians proof-text, especially, around the like-minded. We will consult writings from others in our theological camp. There is nothing wrong with consulting those more studied on particular issues – that’s how we typically learn. For example, Paul taught Timothy and Titus the truths of the gospel and Christian life. Scripture instructs Christians not only to hold to sound doctrine, but to teach it and refute poor doctrine.
So how do Christians know when they’ve gone off-track by consulting their tribal manuals to find the right answer to read back into the Bible?
Osborne gives us something to think about.
Here I blog…
- Larry Osborne, Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 146. ↩