We’ve just experienced an unprecedentedly contentious and polarizing political season. Throughout this time, I’ve been tempted to enter the fray, especially on social media, where I’ve observed several heated exchanges between my friends and family members. I refrained from commenting or arguing about politics, however, and a few of my followers have asked why I’ve been so silent on the issues that seem to divide our nation. It’s not that I don’t have a view I would like to share, and it’s not that I feel incompetent to express my views. I simply understand the real battle: If everyone held an accurately informed Christian worldview, the number (and degree) of disputes over the issues facing our country would be dramatically reduced. In other words, if people took the Bible as seriously as they took their political positions, we’d probably agree on almost everything.
If you’re in disagreement with an unbelieving friend or family member, you shouldn’t be surprised. They probably reject the Bible (and what it teaches) altogether. If you’re in disagreement with a believing friend or family member, you also shouldn’t be surprised. They may not take their Bible any more seriously than an unbeliever. They may not be reading it, or might not be reading it seriously enough to develop an accurately informed Christian worldview. In either case, our disagreements are rooted in our view of the Bible; if we disagree, it’s because we either don’t understand or don’t accept what the Bible teaches.
That’s why I spend more time making the case for the reliability of the Bible to unbelievers, and the correct interpretation of the Bible to believers, than I do arguing about our respective social, moral or political views. If my goal is agreement, it’s more important to address the cause of our disagreement than the disagreement itself. It all comes down to helping people understand why it’s important to take the Bible seriously:
The Bible Is Seriously Reliable
Most of my unbelieving friends and family members view the Bible as little more than a collection of fables and moral stories, and they think most of these moral stories are considerably outdated. Few of us develop our view of the world from fictional fairytales, so it’s not surprising that unbelievers would fail to see the Bible as a reliable source for their worldview. But the story of the Bible is not a fictional story. It is rooted in true events that occurred in history, and the Bible we have today is a reliable, historical document. I’ve written about this in some detail in Cold-Case Christianity and on this website.
If the events recorded in the Gospels are true, Jesus rose from the grave. If that happened, Jesus is far more than a wise, ancient sage; He is God. We should probably listen to what He has to say, and we’re probably safe forming our worldview around His words. If the New Testament is seriously reliable (and it is), we have an excellent point of reference around which we can form everything we believe, including our moral and social views.
The Bible Is Seriously Consistent
Even if we could persuade everyone that the Resurrection is true and the New Testament is reliable, agreement might still be elusive. Why? Because not everyone will take the time to read and understand what the Bible teaches. It’s one thing to take your Bible to church, it’s another thing to take your Bible seriously.
In my experience, most disagreements between Christians occur when someone misreads (or fails to read) the Biblical text (I’ve written about this in my upcoming book, Forensic Faith). It’s not unusual for believing Christians to “cherry-pick” passages to fit their presuppositions or personal preferences. As a result, we often come to different conclusions about Biblical teaching simply because one (or both of us) has failed to look for Biblical consistency. The Bible reflects the mind of God, and God is not self-contradictory. If you find yourself taking a position based on one verse, without seeking consistency in the entirety of Scripture, you’re probably misinterpreting the text and failing to take the Bible seriously.
The Bible Is Seriously Prescriptive
Many Christians are more comfortable with the Bible’s description of ancient events than they are with the Bible’s prescription for Holy living. It’s often easier for us to tell our friends and family members about the historical Jesus than it is to tell them about God’s moral will for their lives. But the Bible is more than descriptive, it is prescriptive; it describes what is true about history and what ought to be true in the future (especially when it comes to our moral views and behaviors).
If you’re going to take the Bible seriously, you can’t separate its moral teaching from its historical teaching. It’s reliable on both fronts. It’s tempting to embrace the parts we like (or find convenient) while rejecting the parts we don’t like (or find uncomfortable). But that’s not an option for those who take the Bible seriously. We are obligated to know what God says so we can form an accurate worldview that shapes both our beliefs and our behaviors.
If you’re concerned about our increasingly polarized culture, you have a choice. You can either argue about politics (or the hot-topic of the day) or help people take the Bible seriously. Of these two approaches, only the latter offers any real opportunity for unity and agreement. If we can help our friends and family members take the Bible seriously, believe what it teaches about Jesus, read it in context, and embrace what it prescribes, we’ll agree about every issue that really matters. That’s why I continue to avoid public, political debates and focus on the reliability of the Bible. The Gospel has the power to change individual lives and the fate of nations, but only if we take what the Bible says seriously.