The Bible is generally seen as God’s message to man, relating historical facts, approved practices, and necessary procedures. Within this paradigm, right understanding of the sacred text is the standard by which all theology must be tested. The problem with this approach is that the Bible is not clear and transparent, resulting in numerous interpretations. This is demonstrated by the multitude of different church denominations which exist throughout our land. One need spend very little time listening to the radio or watching “Christian” television to see the vastly differing opinions about what the Bible says and means. Given this “flexibility” of understanding, the church has managed to support or at least condone by silence a litany of “evils”, including slavery, racial bigotry, the subjugation of women, and every military enterprise by a western nation for the past 2000 years. Within this context, an appeal to “holy scripture” as a theological standard of excellence is impractical. That which can be used to “approve” such things proves absolutely nothing.
My conclusion in regards to the above is the reason why I have increasing discomfort with the idea that every personal religious conviction must pass a “jot and tittle” Bible review. Without question every belief I hold can be challenged by someone using a selection of “proof texts.” I therefore feel less and less compelled as time passes to expend much time and energy trying to unravel seeming contradictions and explain individual passages in light of my own understanding. In effect, I conclude that belief is a personal thing, driven in no small measure by pre-conceptions often instilled from childhood and cherished throughout our lives often without re-evaluation or modification.
The guiding principle of “sola scriptura” (scripture only) has delivered a theology which is an admixture of the sublime and the patently absurd and allowed that conglomeration to pass from generation to generation with little re-evaluation. My personal test of theology is whether it promotes the announced attributes of God’s kingdom: joy, peace, and abundant life. If not, it can be dismissed.