There are, within our Christian walk, a number of “challenges” or areas of interest or controversy that all of us eventually have to come to deal with, in one way or another. And I find, that these challenges that we encounter are not the same for all of us. Some of us will dig into Creationism as an example, and for some that topic won’t spark an area of particular interest. And that’s all fine, I can appreciate or accept that. We all have some areas that interest us that won’t necessarily interest everyone else. But for me, personally, the challenge of balancing what I read in God’s Word, with what I encounter within the various avenues or flavours of Christianity remains one of the most difficult. And, even more importantly, how that balanced understanding that I have or gain, translates into my daily walk with our Lord and others.
This “balanced understanding” is critical because it normally defines how I interact with God and with my family (immediate and distant), my brothers and sisters in Christ and non-Christians friends, neighbours and acquaintances.
Another way of defining “balanced understanding” is to associate it with discernment.
C. H. Spurgeon is quoted as saying that “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.”
And, if one is not conversant with what the Bible has to say in its entirety, from cover to cover, there is no possible way in which Biblical discernment can be exercised. The short story is you can’t discern right from almost right, if you don’t know what is right in the first place. And learning takes time and what we learn can be “refined” over time.
In order to properly evaluate something as to its correctness, you need to be able to compare it with that which is biblically and doctrinally correct. And yes, that can be a considerable task, but there are also many excellent sources, teachers, tools and aids available to us.
I don’t actually know how many times I have read through the Bible. I’ve probably spent about two thirds of my time in the New Testament and one third of my time in the Old Testament over the years. And as of the last few years, that has switched to probably more of a 50/50 ratio. The reason being, the more that one gets into the New Testament, the more important the Old Testament becomes.
Getting to know God’s Word is absolutely essential for any Christian who is worth their salt. It’s as important for our spiritual growth as physical food is for our physical bodies.
God’s Word itself tells us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV)
Here’s another scripture that comes to mind, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
(2 Timothy 2:15 KJV). Or, as the NIV translates it “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV).
In the old days, before the Internet and computers were available, we used to use what was called Biblical Concordances or Topical Concordances (actual hard copy books) where various Biblical topics were identified and all of the applicable verses that addressed the particular subject being looked at, where identified under the subject. So, for example, one would select a topic such as “Tithing” and then read through all of the verses identified in the Topical Concordance, in the Bible, that addressed or spoke about that subject. Yes, you’re right, doing it that way took a long time, considering how many hundreds and hundreds of topics that one could potentially look up.
Of course, these concordances did not necessarily deal with context, so in order to get a good understanding on a particular subject, one would not only have to read through all of the various scriptures verses identified on the subject in the concordance but also invest a good amount of time ensuring that the context of the scripture verses was also being taken into consideration. Short story is balanced knowledge takes time. There are no shortcuts that I am aware of.
There is an old adage that states “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text”. In other words, it is a dangerous thing to take a single text from scripture and make a doctrine from it, especially if that passage has been read out of context. Context is absolutely critical, indispensable, and therein lies a significant problem. Context is frequently ignored and when it is, false doctrines and unbalanced concepts can quickly appear.
When considering context I recommend the following principles be considered as per link below:
Interesting enough, one will note, upon closer examination, that whenever someone is proposing new insight into a “new revelation” or a “deeper understanding” on a given topic, numerous biblical verses will be quoted which support the particular “new insight” that is being put forward. Unfortunately, what is not quoted, are Biblical verses which do not support the “new insight” that is being put forward. So what you may end up getting is an opinion that someone wants you to see and buy into, that is supported by selected out of context biblical verses, while non-supportive bible verses are conveniently ignored. This has happened throughout our Christian Church history and it happens today.
Some basic rules of engagement that I recommend:
- Research your source author. Work history plus accolades and criticism.
- Research their associations, get a feel for who they work with.
- Research their lifestyle, are there lavish excesses.
- Research their credentials. Drill down, validate their academic accreditation.
- Research topic discussed. Be aware of different schools of thought on subject if applicable.
- Ensure that provided biblical references are used in proper context.
- Weigh what is being proposed with what the entirety of what the Bible says on the subject.
- Note statements which distort or deviate from recognized Christian doctrines or truths. Be critical when necessary.
There are an abundance of avenues laid before Christians that can move you away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Use some common sense precautions when evaluating sources you are thinking of opening yourself up to. And lastly, be prayerfully and constantly feeding on God’s Word, for there is no better trusted source.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!