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Thursday, October 08, 2015

Opinions are like ...

Okay, so here's the claim. "The Bible may be the Word of God and, as such, theoretically infallible, but the best we can ever get is fallible interpretation. That is, all our interpretation of the Bible is fallible interpretation and, therefore, certainly fallible. Thus, the best we get is opinion. You're free to your own opinion, but don't go forcing it on me and don't assume that your opinion is better than anyone else's."

What do you do with that? It is true that humans interpret Scripture and humans are fallible. And it is indisputable that good, serious, well-intentioned, genuine believers will disagree on interpretation. In fact, I doubt if you can find two such people who agree on every point of interpretation for every point in the Bible. So, discarding the kooks, the liberals, those with ulterior motives and anti-Christ agendas, the enemies of God and the opponents of the Truth, we still end up with fallible interpretation at best. Do we therefore conclude that all interpretation, being fallible, is opinion at best and is best kept to yourself? "Believe whatever you're convinced to believe; just don't foist it on me."

In thinking about this, I find it odd that the loudest voices arguing for this line of thinking do so by foisting their opinions on me. They yell, "You're wrong in your interpretation of that passage and you're wrong for telling me I'm wrong." But ... isn't that doing exactly what I'm accused of doing?

Then there's the whole human factor of the original thought. Samuel was a human who, as God's prophet spoke God's Word to Israel in his day. Whatever else he was, he was human and, therefore, fallible. So why would we take his word on it that "The Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for He is not a man, that He should have regret." (1 Sam 15:29)? Maybe God does change and Samuel was expressing a fallible, wrong opinion. Why would we assume that Paul was right when he said we are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8) but wrong when he claimed "No one does good, not even one." (Rom 3:12)? What makes us think that these fallible humans were properly interpreting what God said any more than we are? And, of course, there is the obvious conclusion. If fallible humans wrote the Bible, even under inspiration, then we should only conclude that it was as infallible as their own interpretations of what God was telling them and, as such, is merely opinion that, at the end, should be just kept to themselves.

At the bottom of this question is the question of the conclusion. Let's grant that even if the Bible is the infallible Word of God, humans are fallible and have fallible interpretation of that infallible Word. Is it true that all we get is mere opinion? And is it true that, granting that all we get is mere opinion, we ought to keep it to ourselves? You see, to me the question isn't "Is it opinion?", but "Is it true?" Think of it from a non-threatening approach. A company is building a bridge over a canyon. The engineers "duke it out" to figure out the best way to do it. Most of them come up with "Plan A". One or two are of the opinion that Plan A isn't safe. If the logic is followed, it is merely their opinion and they ought to keep it to themselves. And if that kills a bunch of people, that's okay because it was their opinion that they should keep to themselves. Or maybe they can state their opinion -- you know, say it but certainly don't push by any means -- and then they're absolved when people die because, as it turned out, their opinion was true. So I ask, "Is it true?" If so, after due diligence and finding sufficient reason for the conclusion, am I obligated to keep my opinion to myself, or is it right/true/loving/caring/kind to express what I have concluded is true in order to avoid harm to others? The claim -- "It's all just opinion so you shouldn't foist it on others" -- would tell me not to do it. I guess I just don't have the cold-heartedness to do that to people.

I'm curious if others have thoughts on this type of claim, but I need to conclude with my conclusions. I affirm that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. Further, I believe that, even though we are all fallible, we can all come to true interpretation of God's infallible Word. Some texts are easier than others. Some effort to do so is greater than others. Some disagreement will remain. I believe there is room among believers of the same mind (Phil 2:2) who seek God's truth even in the face of the world's positions for fallible interpretation that produces disagreements on specifics without terminating any sense of ultimate truth. Variations on the details, but unity at the core. But I am convinced that either we have an infallible Word from God with an infallible Intepreter in the Holy Spirit in whom we can end up with reasonable confidence of the truth. Any attempt to relegate it to "mere opinion" is not coming from the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, and those who buy into that line are not being influenced into it by the Godhead. No, that would come from the father of lies.


Bob said...

He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the * Son of Man is? ”7
14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am? ”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the * Messiah, the Son of the living God! ”
17 And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah,8 you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven.

oh how we must depend upon the Spirit of God in understanding all things.
our fallibility is only exceeded by our sin. to move from opinion to knowledge is miraculous, the work of God. Thank you Jesus..

Bob said...

Good Morning Stan
is it remotely possible that there is a difference between knowledge and understanding?
we see in the previous post that the apostles had knowledge of Jesus as most people did at the time. but only Peter really understood Who Jesus was. it seems that knowledge requires understanding for it to be meaningful. exp. many people have knowledge about the acrostic TULIP, but do they really understand it's significance. most Christians have knowledge about the Gosple, but only those that have a true understanding of it, are moved to tears of joy.

Stan said...

There is certainly a difference. There are, biblically, three levels: knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Knowledge is awareness of bare facts. Understanding is a grasp of the concepts and interconnections. Wisdom is the ability to apply it to life.

In the opposite direction there is ignorance, stupidity, and foolishness. Ignorance is the lack of awareness of facts. Stupidity knows the facts, but ignores them. Foolishness knows the facts and how they work, but willfully does not apply them to life.

There is an additional factor that is often overlooked or willfully ignored. There is the problem of the blind and deaf. The Bible speaks both of "blinded by the god of this world" (2 Cor 4:4) and blinded by God (e.g., John 12:40). Jesus spoke to "those who had ears" and could hear, suggesting both that there are those without ears (spiritually speaking) and those with ears who will not hear (spiritually speaking). As such, either blind or deaf (spiritually speaking), reading and understanding the things of God isn't as simple as reading any other book (1 Cor 2:14).