I really like Salvador Dali.
A few years ago, my wife and I took the train from London to Paris for our anniversary. One stop that I absolutely had to go see was the Dali Museum. Last year, she bought me the Dali Bible for my birthday.
The famous surrealist painter had not only quite the mind, but he also had a mouth to match. On one occasion, he said, “There are some days when I think I’m going to die from an overdose of satisfaction.”
Such is not the case for those who humbly study the Bible.
Sometimes we end up being “satisfied” with our understanding of the text, but being threatened to death by an overdose of total elation with our study of any particular passage is not the case.
Why is that?
Because of the fact that even when we arrive at a theological conclusion and believe we’ve done the best work possible when it comes to interpreting the Bible, there are still others who differ with us for good reasons, sometimes including our own pastors, churches, denominations or organizations.
This is the situation we all find ourselves in regardless of whether we drive a dump truck (as I used to) or pastor a church (as I currently do). It is quite common to reach different conclusions about what a certain text means.
What do we do when this happens?
Questions such as these continue to stoke the fires of biblical interpretation around the globe from every race, nation, tribe and tongue. Christians believe that God inspired the Scriptures and that we are to continually study them, apply them and obey them (Deut. 6, Josh, 1.8, Ps. 119). The Bible is without error and is read by men and women who commit errors every day. This is why all of us do not always reach the same conclusion on certain passages.
Besides, men and women reach different understandings based on how they studied the Scripture, their own personal experiences and their own prior convictions or lack thereof.
Many times, when disagreements lead to divisions, it’s more of an issue of the heart than incorrect Bible study.
So, if you find yourself belonging to a certain church or denomination that you end up disagreeing with regarding a certain belief, there are a few things I’d recommend doing.
1. G.K. Chesterton once advised, “Don’t ever take a fence down until you first know the reason is was put up.” Do the hard work of researching why the church holds a particular belief. Get out your Bible, study, think and pray.
2. Hans George Gadamer, a dynamic theologian, once said, “Hermeneutics is above all a practice, the art of understanding … . In what one has to exercise above all is the ear.” He’s right. Listen to Scripture and then humbly listen to others. Meet with an elder from your church. Buy him a cup of coffee and ask him how the church came to its conclusion on the topic you’re currently in disagreement with.
3. Check your attitude. Are you thinking with the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16)? Are you striving for peace with all men (Heb. 12.14)? Are you following the Holy Spirit, who Jesus said would “guide you into all the truth” (John 16.13)? Or are you being contentious over a trivial matter (Titus 3.9)?
4. Are your ears itching and are you looking for someone to tell you what you want to hear (2 Tim. 4.3)?