Yes, I know: “God has breathed life into all Scripture. It is useful for teaching us what is true. It is useful for correcting our mistakes. It is useful for making our lives whole again. It is useful for training us to do what is right. By using Scripture, the servant of God can be completely prepared to do every good thing” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
This affirmation doesn’t mean, however, that some portions of what we now call the Bible (pulled together in its current form long after the just-quoted epistle was written) are not of more value to our understanding of faith and to our faithfulness as followers of Jesus than others.
And it doesn’t mean that this collection of divinely inspired writings should itself become the source of our ultimate devotion. Acknowledging such is not being dismissive of the spiritual value of the broad biblical revelation.
Rather, it puts the Bible in its proper place as something other than God being fully trapped and preserved within a genuine leather cover – to be manipulated for our personal desires and political purposes.
How we approach the Bible really matters; much evil has been carried out in God’s name by using and abusing the inspired texts in improper ways.
One of the main ways many misuse the Bible is by treating its full inspiration as an excuse to choose an isolated text, and then interpret and apply it to suit one’s own desires – with disregard for how it aligns with the life and teachings of Jesus.
Claiming a high view of the Bible and employing non-biblical terms like “inerrancy” – that suggests any selected text is as definitive as any other – is really a way to manipulate Scripture for one’s own agenda.
The popularity of a “flat Bible” has flat out misled many Americanized Christians to treat it as a catalogue to shop for needed “biblical” evidence to support believing and acting in ways that contrast with what is clearly revealed in the culminating story of Jesus.
“Flat,” of course, means treating every part of the Bible as having equal authority and value – whether pulling out an obscure verse regarding ancient purity laws or male-lined genealogies, or reading the Sermon on the Mount.
That was a reason Bible publishers put the words of Jesus in red; some parts matter more. The Bible is not flat but progresses toward God’s fullest revelation and its primary focus.
In much of Americanized Christianity, “believing the Bible” (that is, aligning with some authoritative person’s interpretations of carefully selected portions of the Bible) has been elevated as the test of faith ahead of the ancient confession “Jesus is Lord.”
That’s how the manipulative and misguiding tool of holding a narrowly defined, politically wrought “biblical worldview” replaces the primary call from Jesus to “follow me.”
A flat Bible allows for someone to dislike something or someone and go scouring the ancient texts for some justification for their exclusion or even hatred. Even though such attitudes, values and attending actions are at odds with Jesus’ life and teachings.
That justification is excused by saying that Jesus affirmed all Scripture – therefore Jesus must be in agreement with my conclusion since I’ve made a biblical connection of some sort.
I refer to this practice as the “Jeffress Pivot” – named for Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, and a leading advocate of white Christian nationalism.
Jeffress, in a Religion News Service commentary, turned to a flat Bible to justify harsh immigration policies and practices by claiming: “Since Jesus fully affirmed every word of Scripture, we can assume that asking, ‘What would Jesus do about immigration?’ is the same as asking, ‘What does the Bible really teach about immigration?’”
NO! NO! NO! That is precisely backward. What Jeffress has done here is to tag Jesus, and then quickly pivot to find some isolated biblical texts to support hostilities toward non-white immigrants.
In doing so, he can stake claim on a view completely at odds with the life and teaching of Jesus because he is holding Jesus hostage to his own manufactured “biblical” view.
The ridiculousness of this common, yet damaging practice, is that Jesus gets blamed for stuff that is completely out of line with his person and purpose.
This abuse of the Bible is precisely how Palestinian Christians, even in Jesus’ birthplace, find their current oppression aided by “Bible-believing” American evangelical brothers and sisters.
It’s how Jesus – who is “the life” – gets largely ignored by the narrow, political and discriminating claims of so-called “pro-life” Christians.
Many Americanized Christians today hold Jesus hostage to their political whims propped up with “biblical” positions that have little to do with the Bible and less to do with Jesus’ calling upon his followers’ lives.
This whole house is built on the sandy foundation of a carefully constructed approach to the Bible that seeks to conform Jesus to a human-made, self-serving religious/political ideology he would not own.
It is completely opposite the way the inspired Scriptures should be approached by those who have confessed Jesus as Lord. That is, the Bible is to be interpreted through the lens of Jesus rather than redefining Jesus to align with one’s manufactured “biblical” truth.
So, when someone starts touting a so-called “biblical worldview” as a measuring stick for orthodoxy or political posturing, please look around for Jesus. He could well be missing or held hostage to “biblical beliefs” unlike anything he said or did.
Skipping over Jesus does injustice to the Bible and to those whom he called us to love.
Yet when Jesus is the lens through which the biblical story is viewed, indeed these inspired texts can “teach us what is true,” “be useful for correcting our mistakes,” make “our lives whole again” and enable us to do “what is right.”
Tragically, misuses of Scripture have led to some of history’s worst carnage. Yet with Jesus as Lord and lens, these texts allow us to “be completely prepared to do every good thing.”
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.