How many “conservativish” Christians have only a superficial understanding of the Bible?

"I am not arguing that Christians should decide not to engage in politics or civic life. We all have a role to play in our society and if we can influence some changes for the good, I am all for it. However, shouldn’t we be thinking about the most important things and how to achieve them?" - Don Johnson

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Aaron Blumer's picture

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My take is that both "natural law"/general revelation and special revelation are neglected in most of conservatives' reactions to our current cultural shifts... and the more or less related politics.

Politicians should rely on natural law arguments. They aren't supposed to be senators, reps, govs, presidents for Christians, but for Americans/or Floridians, Texans, etc.

But they really aren't paying a whole lot of attention to general revelation as far as I can tell.

If "politics" is the tactical business of winning elections and passing legislation, and "political philosophy" is the underlying belief system--worldview, understanding of human nature, understanding of the role of government, etc.--then the right is completely given over politics these days, and reference to philosphy/natrual law/general rev. is almost always just rhetorical. Seldom understood. Seldom taken seriously. Just one more verbal weapon in the all important business of stoking the base and slinging mud on everyone else.

As for "conservativish" Christians, I think we mostly have lots of consuming of general revelation--or of human creations derived from it/contrived from pieces of it. But not much thoughtful attention to it. Christians seem mostly interested in conclusions rather than underlying arguments... mostly about fighting for already-established commitments vs. looking at the merits and trying to be persuasive.

And then there's the huge problem of biblical ignorance.

So we have a "very little revelation--general or special" situation when it comes to the Christian mind these days.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Bert Perry's picture

I would dare say that even in what we would consider the "best" churches--we can differ on specifics but we all acknowledge that some churches do better at presenting Scripture than others--the majority of attendees and members have a superficial understanding of Scripture and (per Don's article) its impact on politics.  I once got a (perhaps not altogether deserved) compliment from a former pastor of mine when he noted I was one of few people he knew who could be both spiritually and politically involved.

One way of drawing the picture is that recently, I gave a ~20 minute talk to our youth grouop about how to do good Biblical exegesis, building a lot off Fee & Stuart's How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, and I was quite frankly amazed how my talk--emphasizing the basic principle of "context, context, and context"--hit the young people like a ton of bricks, as if they'd never heard it before.

(and since those familiar with Fee might object to his support of the 2011 NIV, I should note that I did make the point that that was one major point where I differ with him...)

So all in all, I agree that we've got a lot of Christians, especially those who are politically involved, whose understanding of Scripture is low.  Part of the issue is a support of "if it works do it" in politics, and another part of it, in my view, is that a lot of people have been taught to hold far more tightly to Christian culture (of whatever "tribe") than Scripture, and this is made worse by the fact that too many are taught to make a beeline for the practical application instead of doing the hard work of trying to understand first what the Scripture meant to the original hearers.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

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I really think there's an appetite for meaty doctrinal teaching in most churches. Really, there would have to be, wouldn't there? We're talking about regenerated people indwelled by the Holy Spirit. The church I've been visiting for a while has a morning class on bibliology. It's not what most people would call "practical," but it draws a surprisingly large crowd.

I don't know if there's a perception out there among pastors that meaty doctrinal teaching is unwanted, or if they feel unskilled in teaching it, or if they have a bias against "head knowledge," or what it is. But I'm pretty sure it's not lack of interest by believers.

Then again, I have heard theology taught in a way that is discouraging/unappealing to people who actually are interested in it. So there's the presentation factor, certainly.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Don Johnson's picture

To a certain extent, this varies with personalities. Some preachers are less academically inclined than others, so we have to allow for that.

There is also a school of thought that teaching isn't preaching. I don't agree, but I've known some who hold to that.

In any case, I think that you are right there is a great weakness on the average in the "conservativish" churches I'm talking about. I've always emphasized Bible teaching, but we have had limited effectiveness over the years. This last year has given us new opportunities. First, we've seen several people come to the Lord and are planning a baptism in a few weeks. Second, with the unsettled situation in the various churches, some Christians have looked around and some found us. Our attendance since reopening is higher than its been for a long time, with others following our stream.

So far so good, but in the past we have had some come for awhile who "loved the teaching" until you happened upon a topic they didn't like. Then I became "the worst pastor ever." So we will see.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Don Johnson wrote:

So far so good, but in the past we have had some come for awhile who "loved the teaching" until you happened upon a topic they didn't like. Then I became "the worst pastor ever." So we will see.

It's astounding to me that any mature Christians (and maybe actual maturity is the real issue) would ever think they will find a church/pastor with whom they will agree 100%, all the time, in every detail.  I'm only 58 years old, but as of now, I've yet to have attended or be a member of a church where that kind of agreement happens.  I'm not even actually sure it would be a good thing.  (It would be pretty hard to provoke others to love and good works if we were 100% in agreement with everyone else.)  If indeed each Christian has "soul liberty," and we can read and understand the Bible for ourselves, I think it's inevitable that, given our imperfection due to the fall, there will be areas of disagreement between any two Christians.

I'm in a church where I generally "love the teaching," but there are areas in which my pastor and I have not seen eye-to-eye.  That certainly doesn't make him "the worst pastor ever," nor does it give me reason to leave for greener pastures (where I'd eventually need to repeat that process).  Obviously, Christians generally want to seek out a church where points of agreement are as maximized as possible, but anyone who wants a pastor who agrees with him 100% should start his own church and be the pastor.  (Of course, then he might not get all that many attenders who stay once they realize there are points of disagreement!)

Dave Barnhart

Don Johnson's picture

On which ox you are goring!

Some sacred cows are more important than others!

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3