By now, I’m sure most of you have seen (or at least heard) about the woman who was thrown off a plane because she was harassing another passenger for her perception of his political views. In case you haven’t, it’s worth a look-see (video and article). Apparently, the innocent party was on his way to D.C. for the inaugural proceedings and (in response to her queries) told her he was going to “celebrate democracy.” That set her off on a long diatribe.
“It’s the Law!”
During her tirade, the woman implied that man-made climate change was a theory that should be believed. She then told him that gravity was a theory and asked, “Do you believe in gravity?” Of course, she pretty much lost all credibility at that point (if indeed she had any to begin with). As most middle school students can tell you, gravity is not a theory. It’s a law of physics. In fact, I’m obeying that law right now.
This woman reminded me of a lot of Christians I’ve run into. She does so in that she was willing to argue from facts that were not facts at all. When we do that, it all becomes emotionalism (or worse).
My friends in the progressive wing of Christianity basically state their philosophy as an attempt to live according to the teachings of Jesus—the ACTUAL teachings. They make it clear they’re not going to hold to some extrapolations of his teachings or to some assumptions attributed to Christ that are nowhere to be found in Scripture. While I am far from the progressive camp, I side with them on this point.
What happens when we assume?
Far too many of us are way too quick to pass off some Biblical theory as fact (or some Biblical fact as theory). Often times it’s a result of some shoddy scanning of Scripture on our part, reading between the lines, or assuming something that just isn’t there.
Sadly, our biggest mistake is this. We too often read, even study, the Holy Book through lenses of our own biases. We need to check those glasses at the door when we’re studying God’s Word. They account for a lot of additions and subtractions to the Bible. They muddle our thinking processes. When our Bible has holes in it (or chunks that have been added), we’re slogging into deep do-do. Our theology is then in danger of becoming scatological (sorry—I couldn’t resist).
Still other times we end up quoting something we thought we heard somewhere along the way. If we don’t check the source, we can set ourselves a course that takes us on a tangent to nowhere (Biblically speaking). Many of us are not willing to grapple with the hard stuff of Scripture. By failing to do so, we end up with shoddy theology and misspent time. Can we spell heresy?
I once heard a wise person say, “Rather than interpret Scripture, we should allow Scripture to interpret us.” Now there’s a theory I can believe in.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]