How to Misread the Bible

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, December 9, 2022 1 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about how to read the Bible, and now I am going to show you the opposite: how to misread the Bible, so you can identify it when you head some of these silly ridiculous arguments made by both unbelievers and believers. And don’t think I am bashing everyone out there because all of us are guilty of doing this. We have all read the Bible wrongly. So, this is not just for watching for bad arguments from “out there,” but also for watching for it in ourselves.

We first must recognize that the born-again believer is still not fully redeemed. He still has his mind and body acting on sinful old habits that are in defiance and rebellion against God. That is why we must be in continual process of putting self to death and being renewed with the transforming of the mind into alignment to Christ’s. While we are alive here on earth, we will not escape this reality, but we can be in the process of becoming more and more freed from sin and more and more like Christ. In the meantime, we have the Bible, which is our guide and school master for doctrine, reproof, correction, and righteous instruction. But we have to read the Bible correctly and not let our sinful desires that reject, corrupt, and twist it get in the way.

Perhaps the most common error that I see among professing believers is the practice called “eisegesis.” It is the idea of taking an already established idea or model and using that to interpret the text. One example of this is “Old Earth Creation” models. Because there is no text anywhere that remotely supports these models, the way it is argued is that “modern science” is true, and then they search for an interpretation, a dictionary definition, that COULD be used to support it, despite the context completely saying something different. One example of this is when an OEC cited Proverbs 6:6 to show that we could use science to interpret the Bible. Proverbs 6:6 is telling us to “look to the ant” as an example to ward against laziness and slothfulness. It does not hint whatsoever that science is a valid interpretive tool to understand Scripture. Steve Risner has a couple of blog posts, such as this one, that address this issue in more detail.

Another example of eisegesis has been a lot more subtle, but it ties back to my previous series about how the Christian home needs to ditch the “American mindset” and return to the Biblical concept. Today, we read of the Proverbs 31 woman in context of the American dream. That’s not how it should be read at all. Instead, we need to look at what it says regardless of our culture. But we do this all the time. We bring in our own understanding and our current definitions of terms instead of actually looking at what the text actually says. We must keep our guard up against this.

Another common error is that of pragmatism. I’ve always known what pragmatism was, but it really wasn’t until I was at the Shepherd’s Conference in March 2022 that I really started to get a grip of how pervasive pragmatism is in the church. Pragmatism is the “practical solution” by man’s understanding rather than doing things God’s way. The Shepherd’s Conference dealt with Critical Race Theory as the main false teaching it targeted, but one I will address is the “church growth movement.” It’s all pragmatism with the goal of “getting people in the church.” They change the message, remove the pews, give concerts instead of worship services, and give motivational speeches instead of preaching. And it works. It gets people in the church buildings. But it has gotten few saved. It is the complete antithesis of being Biblical. We must be watchful for the “practical solution” at the expense of prayer and seeking God.

Allegorization or spiritualization of the text is another big one. Here, the theme is “look for the spiritual meaning and don’t worry about the plain meaning.” Again, Genesis is a common place this is used. “It doesn’t matter that God actually created the physical universe. What is the spiritual message we can learn?” My response: you can’t learn the spiritual meanings until you get the plain ones first. But even more common than this is the inserting of yourself into the text. A classic example is David vs Goliath. You are David and Goliath is that big obstacle in front of you: finances, a job, a boss, whatever. You have to take your stone of faith and slay your giant. Sorry, that’s NOT what it is about, and you are NOT the hero. Jesus is the hero. We can learn from David for sure, but you are not David. We are not Gideon. We are not Nehemiah. Those people are all pictures of Jesus overcoming sin, not our tiny little problems.

Another one that I am surprised is still being used often is bad application. It goes like this: Jesus said He was the door, and He is not literally a physical door, therefore not every text in the Bible is to be taken literally, therefore the days of creation in Genesis 1 must be taken allegorically. And I’m like “What? How did you come up with that?” That is not flying at all. Not only is that a strawman argument, but it’s not even coherent. You can’t just say, “This worked here, therefore it must work there,” unless you can demonstrate the same conditions and setting. These arguments do not do this. We all recognize Jesus gave a metaphor, but it is quite obvious what a door is and what it does, and it is obvious what Jesus is saying with the metaphor. But those who say “day” must a metaphor never tell us what the metaphor is. What is the picture? What is the image it is supposed to portray? And is that image clear from the text? It’s not. And it’s not just Scripture where this argument is used. It’s used to defend mainstream geology. In The Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth, 11 geologists argued that rocks can fold without breaking by applying the right pressure in all directions in the same way that in a lab you can deform an ice cube by putting the right pressures in the right directions. What these geologists did not do is demonstrate that those pressure conditions were present without also literally transforming the rock metamorphically. And they accuse us of telling “half-told stories” in the same breath.

A final way to misread the Bible is, “that’s your interpretation.” I get this one quite frequently, and there is a lot of baggage with this claim. They generally mean that the Bible cannot be read or understood as God’s message to us, but one that we have to “interpret” to academically figure out. These people do not believe that God actually intended to say anything to us, because the message is “not clear,” so we have to “figure it out.” God only intended one interpretation and He used precise language (known as the doctrine of perspicuity) to make it so no one has excuse for not knowing what it says. When someone throws the “that’s your interpretation” argument at you, they are trying to put you on defense and make you second guess yourself that you have heard from God correctly. All the while THEY are the one who is “interpreting” it wrongly so they can justify their false beliefs, while professing to be Christians. Don’t fall for it. There is a way that seems right to a man, and the end is death. None of us are “qualified” to “interpret” the Bible. We are all untrustworthy. This is why Proverbs 3:5 tells us explicitly to not lean on our own understanding but to the trust the Lord. Do not try to “interpret” the Bible. Instead submit to it.

Next week, I’ll look at how to unpack Scripture and how to dig into it for richer and purer ore.

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Karah said...

Very much thank you very much for this extremely well written article that is very helpful and informative.