Having spent the past 13 years calling myself a Christian, I have seen my fair share of biblical debates. Ok, you caught me, I have also taken part in 1 or 60…per month. Honestly, they are kind of fun. Most Christians are passionate about what they believe and many of us turn to the Bible to help make our points–to give us that “ordained by God” edge over our opponents. However, I have realized one tiny issue in regard to these debates. They’re mostly pointless.
Calm down. I’m not saying that reading the Bible is pointless or even that discussing your beliefs with those around you is pointless. What is pointless is referencing Scripture in an effort to become victorious over your heathen frienemy. What is pointless is feeling that anything short of a “win” is a failure when discussing the Bible.
There are at least 2 blindspots that ensure the pointlessness of all too many biblical debates.
1. Our Ego
This word is one that I have spent a great deal of time pondering recently. It’s a word known very well among psychologists and many Christians are realizing just how important it is for us to be talking about it. A simple definition I just googled on my phone is, “A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance”. The key takeaway here is the word “self”. Your ego has everything to do with how you are perceived. How you want to see yourself and how you want others to see you.
Too often our ego drives the bus when it comes to biblical debates. It’s not so much about seeking a deeper truth through a conversation with a friend. It’s much more about proving myself right in order to defend the label I proudly wear and to see myself as wise, or even more in tune with God than you. You see, my ego will never admit that you and I could both be right or (God forbid) that I could be wrong. Having a biblical debate with ego driven me is nothing short of pointless. Oh, and when I say “me” I definitely mean “us”. I just wanted to make sure that didn’t get lost in there.
2. What exactly is the Bible?
The other blindspot is the incredibly naive assumption that you should all view the Bible in the same way that I do. I am not even factoring in the belief that it is not inspired by God. Even among those of us who agree that it is, there is tremendous disagreement on how we should interpret it, whether only the Canon should be considered inspired by God, whether God put the writers in a trance and physically wrote through them or simply impressed the ideas into their hearts and allowed them to use their own words and voice to communicate them.
The Bible is not a “simple” piece of literature. The proud assumption that my interpretation is better than yours doesn’t get us very far. On the other hand, a humble conversation about what Jesus might have meant when the Gospel writer records Him as saying “You must become like one of these…” tends to be much more fruitful.
I have become more and more convinced that the Bible is not meant to be a weapon. I have seen many people be transformed through personal study and reflection of those sacred texts. I have seen communities experience transformation through humbly discussing and reflecting on passages together. What I have not seen (not even once) is someone admit defeat in the middle of a biblical debate and experience a life transformation.
I hope that you will join me in continuing to read the Bible. I hope that you will allow the words to truly dig deep into your soul and lead you to a greater awareness of God, Others and Yourself. I hope that you will engage in respectful and humble conversations with your friends about what you are reading. But, I also hope that you will intentionally avoid the types of debates I mentioned above. If we all do a better job of treating the Bible with the respect it deserves, and not using it like a personal weapon, we might be able to get along a little better. Shoot, people who think we suck might even reconsider!