Monday, March 23, 2009

Does The Bible Really Say That?

Often, doctrinal errors arise from inaccurate translations of the Bible, or sometimes merely because verses are misquoted or misapplied. This is actually a common and sometimes an easy error to make. Mixing up a word or two can form a whole new doctrine or an unrelated Scripture can be used to form a new doctrine, merely based on a bad quote or misapplication. Recently someone brought the verse “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” to my attention (Philippians 4:13), but they stated it as “Christ who strengthens me.” The first statement implies that doing things through Christ makes one stronger. The second misquote means that Christ gives strength first so that all things can be done, something not necessarily contingent on being “in Christ.” It’s a simple mistake that leads to serious doctrinal error. It might also be misapplied to state that Christ will strengthen a Believer as they commit a sin, for example.

If you ask random people on the street where the saying “God helps those who help themselves” comes from, many will tell you that the statement came from the Bible and is likely something Jesus said to His disciples. It may be harder to discern what we accept at face value as being Biblical when, in fact, it may not be Biblical at all. We need to examine whether the Bible has actually said what we attribute to it, as it may just reflect our presuppositions about what we assume that it says.

This type of pressure becomes more overwhelming when your environment deprives you of time to process information, you find yourself depleted in some way, or you are subjected to undue stress. Quite often, when the misquotations or misapplications of Scripture are hidden amidst other legitimate information, you might not detect the error. If bombarded with a lot of information at once, and much Scripture is thrown at you at once, it becomes more difficult to identify. Consider also how much more difficult identifying error becomes when you also find yourself under social pressure, when you are isolated from support (your own Bible, knowledgeable others who support you and share your faith, your own enviroment), or when you are physically or emotionally depleted. All these factors make it increasingly harder to ask yourself whether “the Bible actually says that.”