On Not Filtering Every Choice Through the Bible
This is one of those topics I’m working my way through right now. Maybe a year from now, my opinion will flip on it. But here is where I am now.
I was first made aware of this post from John Piper’s “Desiring God” web site via someone posting to SCCL Facebook group.
Here it is:
(Link): How to Drink Orange Juice to the Glory of God by John Piper
- I said that one of my reasons for believing this comes from 1 Corinthians 10:31. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” I asked, “Is it sin to disobey this Biblical commandment?” Yes.
- …Some of you then asked the practical question: Well, how do you “eat and drink” to the glory of God? Say, orange juice for breakfast?
- ….Orange juice was “created to be received with thanksgiving by those whobelieve the truth.” Therefore, unbelievers cannot use orange juice for the purpose God intended—namely, as an occasion for heartfelt gratitude to God from a truth heart of faith.
- But believers can, and this is how they glorify God. Their drinking orange juice is “sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”
Yes, it’s an entire post explaining why and how Christians may drink Orange Juice to the glory of God.
This is a part of Christianity that I am glad to leave behind. In my faith crisis of the last few years, there have been some advantages to ceasing turning to the Bible as an authority in decision-making in life in every area.
I did discuss this point in passing on a much older post on this blog, though I cannot recall which.
Anyway. Even when I was totally on board with the Christian faith, I was never as anal retentive about turning to God or the Bible on every point no matter how trivial, as is John Piper. I was somewhat in that territory, but not totally, or not to the degree that Piper is.
Since I decided awhile back to stop running every single choice in front of me through a biblical paradigm, since I stopped asking, “What would God think about this choice?” my life has become so much simpler.
If God exists – the Judeo-Christian God – one thing I see in the Bible is that he forgives people for making wrong or stupid choices and God forgives people for disobeying and sinning.
I’ve been praying my whole life (not so much lately), but if there is a God, he remains silent. So, even if or when I did pray for guidance as in, “God, what would you have me to about thus- and- so,” all I got from God was a bunch of silence. -Which meant I had to rely on my own instincts and insights anyway when it came to making choices in life.
There’s this TV preacher who regularly coaches his viewers to “pray to God, obey him, and leave all consequences to him,” and who encourages viewers to turn to God for decisions in life. (I’ve not only watched this preacher on TV, but in the past, I’ve read a book or two of his, and he gives the same advice in his books.)
Well, okay, but what about all the times you turn to God in prayer for help in making a decision, and you hear NOTHING from God at all? That has happened to me over my life on several occasions.
And sometimes, the Bible does NOT address some life choice you are facing, leaving you clueless in-so-far as these preachers must be concerned. You can’t get an answer from reading the Bible, and in prayer, God is silent. So, you are left to your own devices.
I sometimes see Christians actually fretting over things like this, what I linked to above by John Piper – these mundane, trivial topics like drinking orange juice, and they wonder if God approves of them drinking Orange Juice – and it’s so absurd.
Something else I find very sad (and frustrating)- Christian women who are trapped in loveless or emotionally or physically abusive marriages – who believe they must stay with the dimwit they’re married to – because Bible.
They believe that either due to their own interpretation of the Bible, or what their preacher or Christian friends tell them; they will be given a few distorted or cherry-picked verses and told God isn’t cool with divorce, they will be told that the man is the “head” in the marriage, so suck it up and stay married to that loser and put up with the abuse, you can never divorce.
What needless suffering.
I hate to sound cliched, but yes, life is too short – seems the older I get, the faster the years fly by. And, there’s the YOLO acronym – You Only Live Once. Don’t waste your time and your life basing decisions on what other people say, what God might think, or what the Bible says.
And, this brings me to another point: on many topics (including divorce and male headship among others), Christians cannot agree.
I have discussed this topic before on my blog, such as in this post:
Nothing in the Bible says you can have your salvation revoked by sinning.
Nothing in the Bible says your salvation will be revoked if you divorce, or if you don’t agree with “male headship” in marriage and so forth, so why on earth would you bind yourself and limit yourself by staying in an abusive or unhappy marriage?
I actually saw a Christian married woman on another blog who is stuck in a terrible marriage (I cannot remember if her spouse if physically abusive, but I do know he’s a louse of a husband).
This woman gets angry at other commentators who mention that contra to some “permanence view of marriage” preachers (such as John Piper), the Bible is okay with divorce, so you might as well divorce your abusive jerk of a husband and enjoy your life single or with a new husband.
This woman screams and yells at other participants there at that other blog who are accepting of divorce in cases of abuse, how dare anyone at that blog tell her to divorce her jerk husband?
She basically feels unsure on if the Bible is truly okay with divorce or not, when it comes to abuse or whatever. She seems convicted that divorce is wrong no matter what, and she can find no loopholes in the Bible that would give her permission to divorce the creep she is wedded to.
Bear in mind that nobody there (at the other blog) that I can remember ever specifically told her to divorce her husband; the people at the blog were talking in abstraction or general terms only. But she took all the general discussion about divorce to be some sort of commentary on her marriage specifically.
I feel so sorry for her and for Christians like her – I don’t believe the Bible teaches a “no divorce” position in the first place, but so what if it did?
Why would you live your life by the dictates of the Bible in that manner? What would happen if you divorce your Creep of a spouse? I’d like to know. If you divorce your husband because you’ve fallen out of love, or he’s an abuser or for whatever other reason, what do you think God would do to you as a result?
God does not send lightening bolts down to strike dead women who divorce their husbands, so why not go for it? I cannot figure out why anyone would unnecessarily confine themselves based on a book like this, even if that book is the Bible.
Nobody, other than perhaps your legalistic preacher or jerk of a husband, is going to care if you divorce your loser husband – you are the only one who is being hard on you. You are guilt tripping yourself.
Your legalistic “we don’t believe in divorce for any reason” church may treat you like trash if you divorce the bum, but you don’t want to attend a church whose members would treat you like dirt over divorce anyway. You have nothing to lose.
If God does not like divorce, so what? He’s not going to strike you with a case of cancer or dandruff if you go through with it. Lots of Christians get divorced in America daily, and they are all alive and doing well.
I spent my life following the teachings and the rules of the Bible as I understood them and had it taught to me by preachers and my parents, and it did not help me or make my life better.
Following the Bible and going by the “What would God think of this choice” criteria actually created more obstacles for me in life that I am having to un-do in adulthood.
I was actually taught by my Christian mother – whose intentions were well intended (and in addition to other Christian sources in my life) – that Jesus and the Bible teaches that women are supposed to be passive door-mats and allow people to take advantage of them and be mean, rude, and abusive to them.
You know what I found out in mid-life adulthood? That my mother was wrong about all that stuff, as are other Christians who teach that crap.
My mother’s interpretation of the Bible on those matters was absolutely wrong. I’ve wasted a lot of time in my life and missed a lot of opportunities and taken a lot of unnecessary abuse off other people (family, ex boyfriend, co-workers, etc) because of how the Bible, and certain concepts that were deemed “biblical,” were taught to me.
I can no longer imagine living my life and making life choices based on what other people tell me the Bible means or teaches about divorce, marriage, or many other topics – because they sure as hell have been wrong before.
And a reminder: Christians cannot agree on what the Bible teaches.
Christians bicker and fight over the timing of the Rapture or even if there will be a Rapture. They bicker and disagree over if baptism is necessary for salvation, and if so, should a baby be sprinkled with water or adults immersed after a confession of faith?
Some Christians believe women are forbidden to be preachers while others say, no, the Bible is fine with women being preachers. The list of subjects Christians disagree upon is about endless.
And why would you beat yourself up for days, weeks, or months on whether or not to do something as innocuous as drinking a glass of orange juice?
Why would you stay in a cruddy relationship to a guy who mistreats you because you think the Bible says so, or some preacher thinks so – what if your interpretation of the Bible is wrong, or that preacher’s is wrong?
And even if your interpretation or the preacher’s is correct why subject yourself to such misery, when you only get several short decades here on earth?
Why not make choices for yourself based on what YOU think is right FOR YOU?
You’ll be much happier in the long run if you do so. I suppose you may make a wrong choice along the way here or there, but they will be YOUR mistakes, and you probably won’t be filled with as much resentment as you will upon reflection that your pastor was wrong, or your mother’s understanding of God and the Bible was wrong, when you sit there and think,
“I based all these life choices on what my preacher told me the Bible said about X, but it turns out my pastor misunderstood what the Bible says about X, I realize how wrong that preacher was now, and I should’ve followed my own gut on that the whole time instead,” and so forth.
I’ve already ditched the “be equally yoked” teaching by Christians from my list of considerations concerning dating and marriage. And magically, my dating pool is that much bigger, yay.
I don’t look at potential suitors and think, “What would God think of this man,” or “What would the Bible say about me dating this guy,” but rather, “What do I think about this guy and how he treats me?”
One of my new pet peeves from the last couple of years has been seeing how Christians twist and turn themselves into painful mental contortions and loops because they’re trying to figure out what decision they make (in dating, marriage, friendship, employment, whatever) is what would be pleasing to God, or what would be “biblical.”
WHO CARES? Who cares what God would be pleased with, or what choice would be biblical? Just live your life. Make choices based on what you think would work for you.
I’ve been doing that for the past year or so, and it has simplified my life and made me happier and made me feel more at peace.
But if I come across one more article by a Christian, or one more comment under someone’s blog post, where they are advising how to handle thus and so life situation “biblically” or saying something like, “I’d really like to do “X,” but wouldn’t doing ‘X’ make God unhappy with me” I may punch a hole through a wall.
Since I’ve let go of using the Bible as another criteria in making all choices, I’ve felt relieved. Decisions are usually faster to make now.
I do think the Bible has some valuable insights in it. I still believe it should be interpreted literally where it’s obviously literal (not poetic or allegorical).
However, this whole anal retentive Christian practice about running EVERY life choice through the Bible, or the idea of “would God approve of thus and so a decision” doesn’t sit right with me any longer. I wish other Christians would let it go, too. You would feel much more freed if you did let go.
I wish I knew what to say to convince Christians to step away from the over-devotion to the Bible so many of them tend to have and stop following it in the slavish manner they do. But it’s a journey you have to walk along and see for yourself, I guess.
Diversity of Interpretation: