Last week I wrote about the concept of Biblical Justice. This week I want to address the word Biblical. When we see or hear this word before other words, like Biblical marriage, Biblical wealth, Biblical justice, etc., it attaches a theological, moral, or non-worldly perspective to the word it describes. Biblical is an important adjective when used this way.
The more I study the Bible, the more I find myself struggling to define what Biblical actually means. Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe in scripture, I believe the Bible informs and guides us, especially of the Way of Jesus. But sometimes it’s not as clear as I’d like it to be.
For example, in the first part of 1 Corinthians 11, the Apostle Paul wrote about proper worship. We could say he was describing Biblical Worship. Paul’s direction was that men must not cover their heads when they pray or worship, but women must have their heads covered. So today when we gather on Sunday mornings for worship, should all women be wearing hats or veils? Isn’t this Biblical? Or how about this one. At least four times in Paul’s writing he instructed Christians to greet one another with a kiss. This would be a Biblical Greeting…way more Biblical than shaking hands or bumping fists…
In Bible college, I took a class called hermeneutics, which explains the proper techniques of interpreting scripture. I learned how to study a section of scripture, trying to grasp its full and intended meaning as it related to the culture and situations of the person or people to whom it was written. Only then is it correct to make Biblical application for us today. This is what I attempt to do every time I prepare and deliver messages on Sunday mornings.
But hermeneutics gets challenging when the Bible says more than one thing on a given topic. For example, what about “judgment”? During Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He specifically tells His followers not to judge. Does that mean that we never judge, even though in a different place Paul tells Christians to judge? Or what do we do with slavery when Paul says, “slaves, obey your masters”? Does that mean that Paul approved of slavery? Or how do we decide the role women play in Christian communities, given Paul’s specific instruction to Timothy on the subject? Or how do we handle outsiders, especially foreigners? How do we develop an accurate Biblical understanding about these topics?
For the past couple of years, I’ve heard the word Biblical being carelessly tossed around as an adjective to describe whatever current affair or concern might exist. How do we determine if something is Biblical when the Bible doesn’t even address it? How do we determine if our beliefs about vaccinations are Biblical or not? Or whether or not investing in stocks and bonds is Biblical? Or whether our preferred method of educating our kids is Biblical or not?
This is what I’ve learned. If we truly have a Christian (Biblical) worldview, it means the Bible must be the “lens” through which we see and challenge every belief and opinion we have. Sometimes making a determination on whether or not something is Biblical requires a lot of work. We live in a world full of complexity and it’s easy to slap an adjective such as Biblical onto whatever belief we hold. It’s easier to assume we’re correct that way. Let’s be very cautious when we are tempted to say, “The Bible plainly says…” Or, “It’s clear that scripture says…”
Let’s be honest with ourselves. Let’s acknowledge that we still have a lot of room for growth. We don’t have it all figured out. As soon as we think we do, we ostracize ourselves from others who see things differently, and any opportunity for positive engagement with them ends.
Plus, the Bible clearly tells us (there’s that phrase) we should be humble.
I’ve been deeply convicted by the book of Amos. How about you? I’m hopeful that we are spiritually prepared to hear what God has to say to us this week. Please join us Sunday at 9:00 or 10:40 am for Amos 4 with open ears, open eyes, open minds, and hearts.
Grace and Peace,