People have a lot of different ways of avoiding the force of Scripture. The Da Vinci Code method is one; that’s where we invent a lot of clever conspiracies to prove that it was all made up later. If there’s some doubt cast on its legitimacy, then we don’t have to listen to it. There’s the higher criticism method, which is related; in that approach, we claim that there are different versions and many changes made to Scripture, so we can never completely know what the Bible says. There’s the evolution of religions approach, by which we point to similarities in other religions of the period to demonstrate that the Jewish (and therefore the Christian) religion is just a natural development of earlier themes. There’s one more, one used a lot by Christians themselves today, that I want to talk about.
This is the method where, when someone is presented with very strong Biblical support for some position, they say, “People make the Bible say whatever they want.” I find myself faced with this often when presenting the Biblical doctrine of predestination. The other party starts the argument off by saying, “The Bible doesn’t say that”, and presenting me with some proof-texts (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9 usually, and for some reason the parable of the sower). After I show that the free-will prooftexts actually support my own position, and present my own arguments (Isaiah 46:9-10; Ezekiel 36; John 8; John 10; Romans 8; Ephesians 2:1-10, etc), the next response is typically the same. “People can make the Bible say whatever they want it to say,” they say.
And then they say, I’m not a Biblical scholar like you, but I know what I’ve experienced. I know the God that I know, and He’s not like what you’re saying. He’d never do that.
And thus the word of God is dismissed, and the person relies on his own experience as judge rather than Scripture.
In fact, you cannot make the Bible say whatever you want it to say. It says what it says. Its testimony is sure; its guidance true. That statement is saying that God’s word is somehow inadequately clear, a murky and unsure guide. What blasphemy against God! What arrogance!
God gave us the Bible to be a guide to us. “Thy word is a lamp to my feet; a guide to my path always,” the Psalmist says. Did He fail? Did He not give us something adequate to the task?
When the devil quoted Scripture to Jesus, Jesus did not respond by saying, “Well, you can make the Bible say whatever you want.” No, he used other Scripture quotes to correct the wrong use of the Bible.
We are certainly taught by our experiences. But we can only understand that guidance through the lens of the Scriptures. It is the Scriptures which teach us how to understand those experiences. And how can those experiences ever be an authority between individuals to judge the truth or falsity of doctrines? Everyone has different experiences, but we all have the same Scripture.
The devil’s battle since the very beginning has been to take the word of God out of the hands of men. He started by casting doubt on that word, “Has God really said?” He’s resorted to violence, killing people who would translate, copy and distribute the Word, or even read it for themselves.
But I’m afraid his most effective tool has been the lies about that word that he’s spread. And this is one of the most pernicious of all, since it affects God’s own people so greatly.
The Bible says what it says. Don’t be afraid to trust it; to follow it all the way; to believe everything it says, even the things you’re scared to believe. It’s a scary book. But it’s a good book, and only by that word can we be pointed to the eternal Word who saves our souls.