...But what truly amazes me is what happens when two Christians find themselves in a dispute over some doctrinal issue or passage of scripture. Suddenly they forget how messy the New Testament is, how contradictory and convoluted parts of it can be. They forget that their own theology is a product of very selective reading.Do go read the whole thing. It is quite good.
Forgetting these things, they run back to their studies in search of verses of scripture that support their position. They pull out books and commentaries; they scan denominational pamphlets or find help online in locating these verses.
Suddenly, single verses are seen to support whole theologies. Some verse from First John now has the power to shore up an entire worldview. Some obscure phrase from Jude is thought to have the final answer on how men and women should relate to each other. And some phrase that Jesus used in a parable now means that people who disagree with you and your ideas about God will roast slowly over an open fire in the pits of hell throughout all of eternity.
These furious exchanges of quotations are like people lobbing mortar shots at each other from trenches. Those involved only get angrier and more entrenched. I guess eventually they get tired and stop. One or perhaps both camps claim victory. No one generally learns anything constructive from these battles...
...So now I’m gently sliding into middle age. I’m tired of fighting over the Bible. Honestly, I couldn’t care less about most fine points of theology. I know a little too much about how the New Testament was formed, and I know a little too much about what’s in there and how hard it is to keep it straight.
I have much simpler questions for people now.
“You reading the New Testament? Trying your best to understand it?”
“Are you trying to follow Jesus as a disciple, trying to understand what he said and live the way he did, where possible?”
“Yeah, I’m trying.”