A challenging question that we sometimes would rather shy away from is How do we form our own convictions? The root of the question stems from the notion that we either find evidence to support what we already believe is true, or we allow truth to transform our opinions.
I can think of three areas in life where this true:
Where do we come from answers where we are going. If we came from cosmic dust, then to dust shall we return. Why you believe what you do believe about the two alternatives (Natural or Supernatural origins) might simply be based on accepting what you were told.
Ethics, that idea of fairness of treating others appropriately, of doing what is right or ethical is also based on what we were taught. I doubt too many Germans in the 1930’s were for genocide all on their own, but there’s the prime example of “tell people the lie long enough” and it becomes acceptable and the conscience of many becomes seared.
Relationships, as in the family, are deeply imprinted on us from an early age. Think of the TV show on TLC, “Sister wives” where there’s a polygamist family trying weekly (weakly?) to let the rest of the world see how great that choice works for them. Where did they come up with the idea that a husband could have multiple wives, while the rest of the country deems that act illegal? The family on the show was taught that, while the rest of America was taught something different. IS marriage simply situational, or relativistic?
These three examples are interesting to me, but not nearly as important to me as how our people approach the Bible. Do we as believers turn to a passage to support what we’ve always been taught? Or, are we willing to go where the facts within the Text lead us?
One way we can safeguard against “proof texting” is to not randomly pick and choose what we’ll keep and what we’ll disregard from a particular verse. Sounds fairly elementary, I know. An important first step here is to ask yourself, How many of my beliefs have I personally thought through?
While it is helpful to let Scripture interpret Scripture and refuse to build a doctrine out of one verse, it’s also helpful to let the entirety of Scripture build a cumulative case for our beliefs. Having said this, this doesn’t happen at the cost of turning a blind eye to what the passage clearly says, even when it’s unsettling. This comes home when you ask: Where would the Restoration Movement be if the people of the day, back in the 1800’s, simply acquiesced to the common held beliefs, ones that were held for centuries?
Without giving an example, lest anyone misunderstand my goal here of promoting any certain doctrinal slant, I’m simply going offer the suggestion: Read through a book of the Bible. As you see certain views you’ve held surfacing, compare the consistency of your belief with the content of the passage. Are there parts of, say, one verse you say “amen” to, while overlooking what the author says in the very same breath, i.e., same sentence?
IF you think about it, within most of the doctrinal squabbles Christians have, there’s a verse or a passage that has been championed, but that very set of Scriptures has parts some folks will choose to ignore while others will highlight a certain phrase to the neglect of another segment. There are no easy answers to some of the challenging passages you’ll come across. If, on the other hand, you see never see any passages that challenge you, then this post probably isn’t for you...
Where am I going with all of this? When you hold up a Bible verse for examination, and you compare what is written with what you’ve accepted or applied, if and when these two aren’t always seamless, that’s when it’s healthy to confess to yourself, and perhaps others, there’s an inconsistency. Don’t worry, the whole tapestry won’t come unwoven. It’s not heretical to think you have room for growth in your understading; it’s healthier to submit to the Written Word than it is to suppress It.
To have ownership of your faith, sometimes you’ll need to form your own conclusions and not simply accept the Emperor’s new Clothes.... Therefore, as the inconsistencies arise, verbalize, I’m not practicing part of this verse, but I endorse part of it... I say we need to become comfortable acknowledging our inconsistencies, because until we admit them, we can’t work though them to correct them, or better yet, be corrected by them.