Trusting the Bible and Twisting the Bible
Posted on May 10, 2014
I recently had a conversation with someone who objected to the way many churches “twist” the Bible towards a specific doctrine. This is a very fine point in terms of the where the person was going, but I did not really like his use of the word “twist”. Underlying use of this word is the idea that the text of the Bible has an objective or true meaning which can be twisted in a different direction. From my studies in literature, I know that any text at all is subject to various possible meanings, and although some interpretations are clearly better than others, there is no definitive, final and correct interpretation for any text. How much more is this true of sacred text.
As soon as you trust the text to the point of thinking it has a single, specific meaning, you’re subject to manipulation because you will place far too much trust in people who coincide with your definition of ‘truth’ and far too little in those who don’t. Further problems result from the various camps who all assert their version of ‘truth’ and exalt those versions above all else, and begin their arguments, battles and wars, and the ideological manipulations that result from keeping their camp together on ‘the truth’ as they perceive it.
Twisting the text is not so much the problem as asserting an objective certainty that is not really present in the text. The tangible evidence of this happening is the preaching of nonsense like “young Earth theory”, literal interpretations of various tales and prophecies without seeing their metaphoric or contextual relevance, or extravagant eschatological claims. I reject these kinds of claims not because they are twisted or a distortion. They may very well be true, but there isn’t enough evidence in the text to support them definitively, or they defy common sense or experience.
Twisting the text is a relative issue. One person’s ‘twist’ is another person’s ‘truth’. The real issue is in claiming something uncertain or contentious as highly certain. If more people who are in the business of interpreting Scripture would indicate a bit more uncertainty about their conclusions, humanity, and the Christian faith, would see much more progress along the charitable lines which are supposed to lie at its heart.