Sjolander Road Fellowship




Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

why the confusion?

4/23/12

 

To say that people are confused by the Bible would be an understatement. Admittedly. most of the confused have probably never read the book, but even those who have studied are confused because we see so many divergent messages coming out of that study. Additionally, I hear stories from people who have read the book and then tell of their extreme frustration with what it seems to say one place versus another.

Often when addressing the subject of confusion about the Bible, churches want to blame Bible ignorance or willful misrepresentation for the problem. Especially, evangelical churches must have a universally decipherable biblical message in order for their mission to convert the world to their opinion to be viable. A large number of our churches fall into the evangelical camp, so we naturally hear from them that all confusion is manmade and Satan inspired.

As one who has done personal study and listened to countless Bible lessons and sermons over a considerable period of decades, I can attest to being royally confused by the Bible in many cases. To suggest that the Bible is straightforward and totally transparent in its meaning is unsupported by my personal experience and apparently that of many others whose honesty can be conveniently maligned but never disproved. The contention of transparency  is obviously denied by the evident confusion all around us, even among the hyper religious.

No, the confusion about the Bible exists because the Bible actually is confusing. So the real issue that we need to address is why must it be. If the Bible is intended to convey eternally vital information to mankind, why generate confusion?. Wouldn't absolute clarity and conciseness serve that purpose better? If God's purpose in the Bible is to impart knowledge and generate doctrinal conformity to all mankind, what would accomplish that most effectively? Does the Bible represent that divine best effort?

In my mind, there are at least several possible explanations for so much confusion in the Bible. Neither of these explanations are based on the typical understanding of the Bible as the requirements to be met to be accepted by God in the hereafter. The very lack of clarity inherent in the book rule out that possibility for me. These explanations do assume that the Bible contains divinely inspired truth.

My number one reason for Bible confusion is the fact that its subject matter and underlying message deals with a realm of reality that is very nearly beyond human comprehension and therefore largely beyond the ability of human language to capture and convey. Not many would argue that the divine is a deep, deep subject, one that challenges the human mind. It is therefore not unreasonable to assume that the Bible, at best, is a mere glimpse into the mind and intent of God. If we are attempting to comprehend what is largely incomprehensible, confusion would seem inevitable.

Additionally, when conveying life lessons, the words of Jesus and others sound so amazingly counter intuitive. They are so at odds with humanity's normal assumptions and actions. How could such illogical and unrealistic directions be reasonable? The human mind naturally rejects what seems nonsensical, leaving behind a confused and contradictory intellectual acceptance of what Jesus taught about abundant living coupled with a practical rejection.

Finally, we have the very words of the Bible to explain its confusion. As just one example we have the account of John 12:37-41 in which Jesus explains the fulfillment of a prophecy by Isaiah by saying that God used unbelief to meet His purpose. If one accepts that unbelief is another word for confusion, then we must conclude that confusion was and maybe still is a part of God's plan. Somehow the struggle of a confused mind is apparently necessary to our eventual well being. No one could deny that God left Job in such a state in the account of his life. Ultimately, like all of us, Job was forced to remain uninformed in many respects and therefore confused but yet seek comfort in God's faithfulness even in that state of confusion.

Trying to deal with confusion is never easy or pleasant. It becomes devastatingly so if the confusion can ultimately consign one to God's wrath, as the church so often claims. Considering a completely different view of the Bible might just put confusion into perspective and greatly diminish the resultant angst.

The very fact that we are enjoined to diligently study the Bible personally should indicate that its understanding is a challenge. "Confusing" is a common word to describe subjects which are difficult to unravel and must be addressed with long effort. That's all natural enough and not at all surprising. The fact that they were not confusing would be the surprise. As long as we don't perceive that our Bible understanding is immediately critical, then a confused , life long journey toward a greater understanding is a reasonable expectation. It is only when we think God demands an immediate comprehension and response, that Bible confusion seems so devastatingly out of place.