How Diligent, Detailed Bible Study Can Sometimes Lead to Madness
Matthew 16:5-7, 12 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread….
v. 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Here we have the disciples in personal contact with the Lord Jesus, and He speaks to them. “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They analyzed His words. They discussed what he said among themselves. They came to a conclusion from their exposition: He is admonishing us for bringing no bread. They were, of course, quite wrong.
In seminary and in our churches we are taught to minutely examine the Scriptures. The Christian is to be a careful student of the Word of God. Pastors are taught Greek and Hebrew and theology. We memorize the books of the Bible, catechisms, and portions of Scripture.
And quite often, we go wrong.
It is of course the very thing the Pharisees did. They ended up turning a blessing of God — the Sabbath — into a horrid burden so that people couldn’t even enjoy what God meant to be body and soul-refreshing rest. Jesus rebuked them for it all — the Sabbath was made for man, not the other way round. We have often said on this blog that so it is with marriage. Marriage was made for man, not man for marriage. Marriage is not to become some kind of master to which human beings are enslaved. And yet, as we all know, that is the very thing that so many pastors and churches and theologians and books are teaching today. Marriage is the thing. People are subservient to marriage. It is vital that the marriage survive, even if the people don’t.
Let me suggest to you a principle that we very much need to add to our hermeneutics toolshop (hermeneutics is what we call the discipline of Bible study and interpretation). Here it is — though I am sure it is in no way original with me:
When our conclusions we arrive at through our study of Scripture lead us to ridiculous, unjust interpretations and applications that are not consistent with the character of God, it is time to go back to our study and see where we went wrong.
It’s like a mathematics test. The professor says “show your work on your paper so that if you get a wrong answer I can see where you went wrong and you can go back and correct yourself at that point.”
Now really, who can deny in all honesty that the “company line” of no divorce for abuse is a ridiculous, foolish, and dangerous biblical interpretation that is inconsistent with the character of God? It’s time for a lot of people who are teaching this stuff to be called out on it and sent back to their homework to correct their work.
Someone is saying “but the no divorce for abuse is NOT ridiculous!” Really? Let me paint a picture [Trigger warning, descriptions of abuse] :
Sally has been married to John for 24 years. Sally’s life in this marriage has been a living hell. John professes to not only be a Christian, but to be an exemplary student of God’s Word and one of the finest pillars in his church. But John terrorizes Sally and the children behind the scenes. Tomorrow, John is going to step up the intensity of his abuse because Sally told him she wants a divorce. John is going to carry out one of the following scenarios (you choose any of them):
a) John is going to corner Sally in the bedroom, smash her up against the wall when she doesn’t see it coming, put his hands tightly around her neck while he keeps her pinned there, look right into her eyes and in a demonically cold and evil tone, he is going to tell her that if she leaves him he will kill the children and then her. He will find her wherever she is. She and the children are his property and no one is going to take them away from him.
b) John knows that Sally is going to divorce him and try to take the children with her. He is not going to allow it. She is a wicked, ungodly woman who will not submit to him and therefore is in rebellion against the Lord. John has tried and tried, but she will not listen to him. Well, if he can’t have the kids, then no one can. John takes his 9mm handgun out of the closet and when Sally comes home with the children from the grocery store, he is going to be waiting for them in the living room. He is going to kill them all. John carries these murders out, then gets in the car and speeds down the road thinking about killing himself. Before he can do so however, he is taken into custody by the police. What John would soon learn is that the bullet that struck Sally did not kill her. Sally survived, now having to endure this hell on earth without her children.
John Piper, Jim Ellif, Voddie Baucham and others of the “no-divorce-for-any-reason” school would most certainly tell Sally that God does not permit her to divorce this murderer. But the hermeneutical craziness doesn’t end with Piper, Ellif and Baucham. Oh no. It goes on. All the pastors and churches and professing Christians who insist that only adultery and a very specific kind of desertion (the literal leaving of an unbelieving spouse married to a believer) are biblical grounds for divorce will tell Sally the very same thing. “Nope. Uh-uh. Can’t divorce him. If you do you will be a covenant breaker and sinning before God.” Now of course, if John had been an adulterer, no problem, these guys would say. Divorce is ok for that, but not for murder of the children. Others continue teaching this insanity by saying that the desertion rule doesn’t apply in this case because that is only specifically for the scenario where an unbeliever refuses to live with a believer. “And after all,” these people will tell Sally, “Your husband John professed to be a Christian. Oh sure, he murdered the children and shot you, but hey, King David did a lot of bad stuff too and God stuck with him.”
IT IS TIME TO STOP THE MADNESS!
All of you out there in Christianity Land, listen! This is cruel insanity. This is totally inconsistent with the very character of God as He reveals Himself in Scripture and in the Living Word, His Son. As you all argue over the minute details of Scripture, checking out verb tenses, participles and prepositions, you have come to conclusions that Christ never taught. And instead of saying, “hmmm….you know, maybe the propeller goes on the front of this plane and not down below on the axle,” you absolutely insist that you are going to fly that plane with the wheel where the prop is supposed to be, and you are demanding that all the rest of us get in that plane with you.
Well, we aren’t going to. We are finished doing that. You aren’t a qualified pilot. And more and more and more you are going to hear loud voices saying so.