We Need to Embrace the Nuance of Scripture—Not Ignore It
The Bible is “more than just words on a page,” Hamilton argues, which is why a literal reading will miss a lot of the nuance and subtlety of its main messages.
Consider these nuances, for example:
The close proximity of Chronicles and Job. In Chronicles, the prevailing orthodoxy of the time is very evident: Bad things happen to you probably because you are a bad person. Yet in Job, we are given a different theology: “Really cruddy stuff happens to you sometimes when you’re trying to be a decent human being.”
Ezra instructs men to divorce all their foreign wives while Malachi says God hates divorce.
Paul says we are saved by grace through faith, but then James says: “Whoa! Wait a minute, hold on. Faith without works is dead.”
This is not to suggest that the Bible is not divinely inspired or even orchestrated by God. “God has breathed on it. God speaks to us through it,” Hamilton clarifies. “But the Jews also understood it was important to rightly handle it. To rightly handle it means that they debated it… They hashed it out.” If Scripture was intended to be taken literally, surely the culture for whom and by whom it was written wouldn’t have needed to debate over its meaning.
In other words, Jews didn’t say, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.”
This Isn’t the First Time the Church Has Had to ‘Keep It Together’ When Facing a Disagreement
The church is not unfamiliar with conflict or disagreement. Consider the fact that Jesus disagrees with Moses on divorce. Or consider Paul, who we see defending himself repeatedly in the epistles.
The truth of the matter is sometimes the apostles disagreed with one another, a fact that Jesus foresaw and prayed about: “Why is it on the night that [Jesus] was going to be arrested that he prays the high priestly prayer in John chapter 17: ‘Oh God, please let them be one as we are one’? Because he knows what’s going to happen, what our human nature is. Somehow our sin even infects our spirituality,” Hamilton explains.
Our problem of disunity in the church is not due to disagreements. Rather, it’s due to this feeling that “we can’t be around people ‘like that’ who believe ‘these things’ that are different from what I believe. Or practice something different or interpret Scripture differently.” And this is not a feeling exclusive to the “left or the right,” Hamilton says. “It’s a thing everywhere.”