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Emily Timbol Headshot

Is the Bible 'Clear' on Those Verses?

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One of the quickest ways to shut down any type of theological discussion is to utter these six words: "Well, the Bible is clear that..."

Gay marriage is wrong.

Women should stay silent in church.

Hell is a real, literal, fiery, place.

Any attempt to counter these claims, with or without Scripture, has already been shut down by the person who spoke those six words. Because you can't argue with Scripture right? It's clear.

This of course, depends on how you look at the Bible.

One popular way to do this is by viewing it as a book full of proof-texts. This transforms the Bible into something to root and search through, on the quest for Scriptures justifying an already made up opinion.

Or you can look at it the way many Christians do-as an instruction manual. The Bible becomes, to quote my cheesy middle school youth pastor, "The Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth." Every word in it is meant to be taken literally, at face value, to be followed to the T.

Well, except the verses forbidding the wearing of clothes made from two different fibers, or the command to pluck your eye out if it causes you to sin. Those are a different category.

But the verses on women's role in church? Or homosexuality? To the biblical literalists, or proof-texters, those verses are almost always clear.

Thankfully, there's a third way of looking at the Bible, the way that I, and many of my friends do: not as an instruction book, or a composition of verses meant to be dissected -- but as a whole. A story. One that has a beginning, middle and end, all centered on one man: Christ. There's the Old Testament Scriptures, filled with pain, suffering, sacrifice, and the longing for the coming of a savior. And then there's the New Testament that includes the birth, life, and death of this savior, and His commands for how to live life after He's gone. The beginning is the waiting and longing. The middle is the arrival and life of Christ. And the end is His joyous resurrection, followed with letters and commands meant to help us live a life that is most pleasing to Christ's father, God.

This third way of looking at the Bible notes something crucial about it -- that it's a book. A book with context, culture, and a story to tell. Any reader or writer will tell you, with passion, that a book is not meant to be partly read or reduced to a single chapter. It's a whole.

The Bible is one part of a Christian's faith. It cannot and should not be the only part. Prayer, communion (relationship) with Christ, and fulfillment by the Holy Spirit are essential. As is the use of two tools God gave every human; a brain and a heart.

It is not a sin for a Christian to look around them, see injustice, feel compassion and, after prayer and time spent with God, change their interpretation on a certain Scripture. It is not a sin to view certain verses differently than your family, friend or neighbor. It's also not a sin to think that the Bible is not "clear" on lots of things, other than the life of Christ. To question, and research, and weigh cultural commandments against the wisdom and teaching of Christ is not "dangerous." It's good. When your goal is using scripture to grow your faith and belief in Christ, and live according to His example, there is no sin in questioning certain verses of the book.

What is a sin is misusing the Bible as a justification for discrimination. Or an excuse for shutting off your heart and brain. Sin is anything that goes against God. God is love. Sin is the opposite of love. So if you're using the Bible as a tool for hate, you are sinning.

If we look at the Bible as a book with a beginning, middle and end, we can see the one "clear" thing we are supposed to glean: that we are all sinners, in need of a savior, and Christ came to Earth to die for these sins.

Everything points to Christ. The Bible is clear about that.