Reading the Bible: Part #2, God Has Your Back

Once you become hermeneutically self-aware there's no going back to a state of interpretive innocence. From now on, and forever afterwards, you can see yourself making choices, making interpretive decisions. 

This self-awareness can fill us with dread. Since I'm aware that I'm making an interpretive choice I'm now also aware that I could be making a mistake. And that fear of making a mistake brings me to the second part of my answer to my students.

"There's no avoiding making an interpretive call when reading the Bible," I said, "But you have to trust that God's got your back, even if you get it wrong."

The reason we are so fear-filled when we step into hermeneutical self-awareness is that the game we are playing is perceived to be high stakes, a high wire act. We're making hermeneutical choices but fear that if we get it wrong God won't have our back. If we get it wrong we fear the judgment and wrath of God.

This, I shared with my students, is the really toxic combination, hermeneutical self-awareness combined with a judgmental God. Hermeneutics, by itself, isn't the problem. It's hermeneutics combined with a particular view of God. Simply:

Hermeneutical Self-Awareness + Judgmental God = A Whole Lot of Anxiety

Biblical interpretation is so anxiety-inducing because it's viewed as so high stakes. Your eternal destiny hangs in the balance, so you have to get it right. And yet, given the hermeneutical situation, you lack any firm guarantees you've made the right choice. The whole thing is a neurotic spiritual nightmare. In fact, it's this nightmare that keeps many Christians from stepping into self-awareness to own and admit their own hermeneutics. It's more comforting to remain oblivious and un-self-aware. 

So I told my students, You have to believe that God's got your back, that, yes, you might make a mistake. But that mistake isn't determinative or damning. Just be faithful and humble. You don't have to have all the correct answers to be loved by your Father. Each of us will carry into heaven a raft of confusions, errors, and misinterpretations of Scripture. It's unavoidable. We will not score 100% on the final exam. 

But don't worry. Let your heart be at rest. God's got your back.

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