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So you're reading the Bible. But what if someone disagrees with your interpretation?

“That’s just your interpretation.” A lot of times it seems people say this just to get out of dealing with a tough question or dismissing an argument they disagree with. How should we interpret the Bible?

[Related: Calvinism, Arminianism, and Disciple-Making]

What’s Your Interpretation?

We have to determine where people are coming from when they chalk up a theological point to just one interpretation over another. Sometimes it can be used as a disarming tactic or a feint. Other times, however, there are legitimate theological differences (like Calvinism vs. Arminianism) that are matters of interpretation.

Other times, people don’t want to live up to God’s standards of holy living and will say that sex outside of marriage, a partying lifestyle, etc., are just matters of interpretation because they want to keep on doing what they’re doing.

[Related: Is It a Sin to Get “Buzzed?”]

Affirm the Basic Clarity of Scripture

God’s word is clear on the important points we need to know about salvation and how to live as Christians (Psalm 19:7-8). It is not accurate to say that everything always comes down to one interpretation over another (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Not all areas of scripture are as clear as others, but these crystal-clear areas should be lenses for us in understanding the less-clear portions of scripture.

It’s important also to turn to the historians, leaders, and theologians of the past. We must look at how different doctrines have been viewed across history. This isn’t to say that people of the past are infallible, only that what they thought can serve as a guidepost for us today. There is a lot of weight to our doctrines when we can show that many great Christian thinkers and interpreters understood the scripture as we do today.

No matter your church background or level of training, we are not all going to agree about everything all the time. That’s why the Apostle Paul left room for some variations when it came to issues of personal conviction (Romans 14).

[Related Series: Historic Creeds of Christianity]

Christians should stick to their guns on the essentials of the faith and give grace in areas of legitimate interpretive differences.

“In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity” -Rupertus Meldenius

Written content for this topic by Daniel Martin.

Talk About It
  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. What are some things you’ve heard Christians disagree over in the past?
  4. What do you think are legitimate points of disagreement between Christians, if any?
  5. Do you think it is a “bad witness” to non-Christians for Christians to be in disagreement on some matters? Why or why not?
  6. Read Psalm 19:7-8. Do you agree that God’s word is clear on the most substantial matters of Christian faith and life? Why or why not?
  7. Do you agree that we should bring in history/past theologians and leaders to better understand our own interpretations? Why or why not?
  8. What would you describe as the “non-negotiable” or “essential” doctrines of the Christian faith? Why do you rank these as more important than other, lesser matters?
  9. Why is it important for Christians to remain charitable to one another despite disagreements over certain doctrines (Romans 14)?
  10. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.