Have you ever read a Bible passage that seemed to be confusing? What was your response? Did you think or say something like, "I wish the Bible was more clear in it's explanations," or "I wish the Bible were not so confusing," or "I wish that God had written this out more clearly," or "It is obvious that there are paradoxes in the Bible." Can you relate to these statements?
I suggest that there is another way to approach confusion about the Bible. Notice it in the following passages.
"To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight,to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." -Proverbs 1:1-7
"It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter." -Proverbs 25:2
"Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us." -Psalm 78:1-3
Do you see the other approach? The Bible is not like a chemistry textbook. It is full of the wisdom of God, the true knowledge of God, the moral understanding of who God is—all set in the historical context of God revealing Himself to self-focused, dull, conceited, self-righteous, foolish people whom He loves. He wants the foolish to become wise and He honors as His dear children those who fear Him and enter the narrow gate into His way of wisdom. Entry is conversion—a beautiful transformative beginning—but it is only the beginning of a life of discovery and experience of the richness, beauty, and multifaceted goodness of God. Life is not a quiz and the Bible is not a handbook for proper behavior to avoid God's anger. The Bible is a history of the revelation of God's goodness. God created us to live in light of His goodness. Our proper behavior flows naturally out of how deeply we perceive our weakness and moral failure in light of His great sin-bearing love. "He who is forgiven much loves much." Love is full of surprises—all is not known at first. A riddle is meant to draw us in to discover more of God's goodness, and has clear meaning for one who has once untied its knot.
Thus the other approach is to declare that God had spoken clearly and ALL the confusion is in my understanding—God is a good communicator but I am a poor listener. Oh how much foolishness we Christians still have and need to sweep out of our minds. Do you have the courage to embrace this way of thinking? "Riddles of the wise" God calls them. Do you have the patience to read the Bible seeking to overcome your confusion (and human confusion generally) by noticing the keys that unlock the riddles?
It is sad and ironic that readers commonly (usually? nearly always?) blame God for the confusion. Why not blame self? Blame-shifting is the all too frequent human response of insecurity. No wonder we lack clarity and argue so much about the Bible. Let's seek to unlock the riddles together rather that beating each other over the head with them.
Coming soon will be monthly articles on untying Bible knots. One Riddle is so significant that it will get a separate monthly article on it and its surprises. That riddle is the parable of the sower. It has caused many a Christian to waver in assurance of salvation. If God is full of grace and truth why would that happen? Could it be that we are reading it upside down?