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By STEVEN GANZ
It is impossible to come to the text of the Bible without preconceptions. Our language, our various cultures, our questions, our way of reasoning, what we have been taught, our history, all these and more will color what we read. Because of this, how we interpret the Bible will probably reflect just as much on who we are and who we are willing to become as on what the Bible actually says. We need to know that although we may approach the Bible as a discerner of truth yet, in the end, the Bible will be used to discern the truth about us.
Does this mean that no one can know with confidence what the Bible means? Definitely not! My main premise is this: If we believe the Bible, the Holy Spirit can teach us, over time, how the Bible is to be interpreted, understood, and practiced. Understanding the Bible is more than a process of reading the words and trying to figure out what they mean. Of course, what they mean is of utmost importance, yet what they mean needs to be coupled with belief in order to be understood. Learning to understand the Bible is like getting to know a person who grows into your best friend or marriage partner. It is a continual process of discovery. Sometimes you are confused about their behavior, but with careful listening, trust, humility and patience, these problems can be worked out. If we approach the scriptures relationally, instead of as a mere observer, we put ourselves into the best position to genuinely understand them.
Millions of people over the centuries have discovered, from the words of the Bible, that a relationship through Jesus with the one true God — the one who made it all — can be experienced. It is this relationship with God through Jesus that the understanding of the Bible is intended to foster.
Of course, this assertion needs proof. This problem is recognized within the pages of the Bible itself: Elijah had such a controversy with the prophets of Baal. Elijah and those followers of Baal agreed that the god who answered by fire would be the true God. Still, today, the god who listens and responds in a manner consistent with the Bible is the true God. God invites you into a personal relationship guided by the words of the Bible.
This relationship with God through Jesus as taught by the Bible is not a philosophy, although we can develop philosophies about it. Nor is it a religion, although true religion can and should be formed around it. It is a relationship with the Creator of all, with the God who reveals himself as love — who answers prayers, forgives our wrongdoing, guides our steps, corrects our behavior, teaches us truth, demonstrates love, becomes our friend, savior, and our God. All this and more can come through believing and understanding of the content of the Bible.
The Rev. Steven Ganz is pastor of Clover Pass Community Church.
Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.