What should I conclude from the diversity of opinion about the Bible, as evidenced by the many different denominations? Is it logical to conclude that I am right and everyone else is wrong? Is it more nearly a sign that I may be wrong in my own interpretation? Is this diversity a call to arrogance or a hint of required humility?
Most probably inherit a biblical understanding from others: parents, church leaders, or perhaps a broad cultural heritage. Few if any have the opportunity or inclination to develop a true personal theology. Therefore, there is really little basis for assuming that my interpretation is God’s own, while that of others is a perversion. To do so is self promotion at best. Despite this fact, the time honored approach to the Bible has been to accept the dogma of the past from the group into which I was born. It is a religious experience not unlike that of OT Judaism. It’s spirituality based on birthright. It is an example of group-think.
A relative few approach the Bible differently, perceiving a God who is consistent with their concept of ethics and majesty and then searching the scriptures for an interpretation which delivers that God. People in this category are generally railed against by the more orthodox religious because they supposedly seek a false god which they try to define to their own selfish (and therefore sinful) interests. Supposedly these seekers are trying to justify their own waywardness by fashioning a god who is suitably permissive and indulgent.
One might reasonably ask whether it is more noble to accept an inherited idea of God, as most do, or to face the challenge of finding a God who appeals to one’s instinctive search for the sublime source of ultimate reality. Certainly, the road of the seeker is tougher and less certain than that of the dogmatic fundamentalist, but that by no means relegates it to a second class status. Personal effort delivers a true personal faith which mocks a contrived, second-hand faith.