Our Opinions: Based on the Bible or Bias?
People have opinions. In the sea of social media, opinions abound about everything. While it is important for people to have opinions and ideas, for a Christian ultimately what God thinks is paramount.
As a committed believer, I want to express my thoughts based on the Scriptures and The Holy Spirit. But, in today’s polarizing climate many of the faithful express what “they” want, and not so much God.
You might say those people believe they are expressing God’s thoughts and not their own. So how can we distinguish whether our beliefs and ideas are spiritually based and not from our flesh nature?
I begin with a discussion on prooftexting. “Prooftexting is the practice of using isolated, out of context quotations from a document to establish a proposition (introducing one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases). Such quotes may not accurately reflect the original intent of the author, and a document quoted in such a manner, when read as a whole, may not support the proposition for which it is cited” (Wikipedia).
In simple speak, Christians start with a belief and then search the Scriptures to find a verse or passage that backs up their thought. But this is backward and wrong. Christians should search the Bible to find what it is saying and as a result formulate their beliefs.
A classic example of prooftexting is when Jesus challenges the religious leaders of His day and tells them in John 5:39-40, “you search the Scriptures because you believe they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me so that I can give you this eternal life.”
So here is the back story. Both the Jewish religious leaders and Jesus believed in the Old Testament as authoritative text blessed by the Heavenly Father. But the “biases” of the Jewish leaders was they felt just reading and practicing the Scriptures gave you eternal life. Jesus corrected them to tell them that ultimately the Scriptures were about Him. So this is a classic case of missing the forest for the trees.
The Jewish leaders and all of Israel were looking for a Messiah. So when the Messiah (Jesus) shows up, most of the Jews reject Him, because he doesn’t fit into their prearranged belief system. This is prooftexting at its worst!
Another insidious situation occurred a few decades after the resurrection. There was a Greek philosophy called Gnosticism that taught the physical body was evil and only “pure spirit” (whatever that is) was good. So the Gnostics believed Jesus was the ultimate Gnostic because he used supernatural demonstrations to prove who He was.
So these Greek philosophers married their system with Jesus to create a heresy. Even though the word “Gnostic” never appears in the Bible, the influence is weaved throughout the text. Right in the first verse of 1 John, the author tells us “…we saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life.”
Why did John write this? He did so because the Gnostics taught that Jesus was some kind of Spiritual being while on planet Earth, and did not have a real body. It only appeared as a real body, because remember they think the physical body is evil. So again, if one has a bias or viewpoint as their starting premise, instead of what the Scriptures say, then all of that person’s understanding of the Bible will be slanted wrongly toward their viewpoint.
Years ago I had a pastor that was a good acquaintance say to my face in my home that Paul the Apostle got it wrong on some issues. What he meant was he believed everything Paul said about prosperity and blessing to be true, but anything he said about suffering was inaccurate. I was so stunned I couldn’t even respond. As a Christian you take the whole of the Word to understand it. You don’t pick and choose what you like and don’t like.
When I see social media posts and hear from people directly about “their” opinions as authoritative and truthful, I want to know how they arrived at their certainty. Have they done their homework or do they start with biases and throw in Scripture to justify what they wrote?
I try my best, but certainly fail at times, to understand what the Bible teaches I also ask The Holy Spirit for clarity on things I read. Once I believe I understand the Scriptural teaching, I then look at all the present controversial issues, and apply that teaching to the topic at hand.
Trust me! It is hard to not prooftext. Experience can cloud our understanding and give us slanted views. I appeal to us believers look afresh at the Bible and commit to prayerfully understand what the Scriptures teach. Otherwise we will continue to miss the forest for the trees, and miss what is most important: JESUS!