Posted inForthright Magazine

Decisions of realty

It’s not philosophy, nor psychology, but decisions about reality and how it impacts our daily choices. It starts with a decision about God or not God.

If not God, that is, if there is no God, then anything goes, and the conversation ends right there. If we are products of chance, there is no meaning, no purpose, no hope beyond the present. Neither is there morality or ethics. Do what you want. Don’t worry with consequences. If not God, none of it matters.

If God, then we have a second decision with two options: One, go by your own idea of what or who is god. One god is as good as another. Or not. Or maybe my god is better than your god. What actually becomes god is opinion. In other words, each god is an idol. An idol is not only a physical object or image, but the creation of a superior being or cause in our mind. An idol is what we worship, what we give our efforts and time to. For example, the apostle Paul wrote that greed is idolatry, Colossians 3.5.

The other option for God is to listen to God himself, to accept his revelation of who he is, what he is like, why he does what he does, what his purpose is. There are a few books or documents that purport to be from God or from a representative of his. Not much is required to determine that the Bible alone has all the marks of a divine revelation. Much has been written on this subject, so we’ll not cover that ground.

The third decision, once we decide for God over not God, and for his revelation over our opinion, is to how to deal with his revelation. There are two main options: (1) my interpretation, which takes us back to the anything-goes dead-end, or (2) the original meaning invested in Scripture by God himself.

In the first option each one reads the Bible according to one’s own lights. Each person has his own idea as to what the text means. Here would apply the dismissal: “That’s just your own interpretation.” Indeed, there would be nothing but individual interpretation. If correct, there need not be, ought not to be, any discussion at all, for all ideas and interpretations would be equally valid and true, if “true” has any meaning in such a case. But the apostle Peter seemed not to be impressed with this option: “No prophecy in Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” 2 Peter 1.20 BSB.

That takes us to the second option of reading the Bible to discover the meaning placed there by God. When we reach this point, then we have common ground, a basis for study and proper conclusions. We can discover God. We can understand the divine mind, insofar as he has chosen to reveal himself. Jesus spoke in order to be understood and “kept speaking the word to them according to their ability to understand” Mark 4.33 ISV. When we read the Bible today, we can understand its message.

Some people, like the Ethiopian, start reading Scripture and feel the need for explanation, or guidance, Acts 8.30-31ff. That’s what we’re here for. Some people have been reading a little longer than others. They can be helpful, as long as they don’t inject religious tradition, denominational theology, or personal conclusions. That’s why careful study is needed to make sure everyone is sticking with the sacred text, Acts 17.11.

Here’s the proper decision line: God – his revelation – his meaning.

So shall we sit down and read together?


 

J. Randal Matheny
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