I think we are in trouble when we make doctrine the “entrance exam” into a relationship with God. What we are saying, in essence, is that we, in our own limited understanding, must mentally assent to all the right ideas to be acceptable…. I don’t think we understand what we are really implying there…. we are saying that access to the Almighty God of creation is based on getting our ideas in line.
I think it’s very naïve to think that our interpretation of Scripture is the only way to see it, and thus the key to entrance into heaven. From a purely historical standpoint we should understand this by now. For 2,000 years there have been MAJOR divisions within the “Christian” understanding of what the Bible means…. if all the minds over all this time couldn’t agree, why do we think that we now somehow have it all figured out. Also, some of the major tenants of current Christian belief are totally contrary to what was believed in the first few centuries when people were much closer to the incarnation of heaven on earth in Jesus. Is it because we are so much more educated now that we get it and they didn’t? There is a common misconception that our current evangelical understanding of scripture is what was believed down through the centuries, when in actuality, some of the more basic evangelical “doctrines” are at most a few hundred years old.
Every time we read scripture, we interpret it. EVERY TIME. There is no getting around the fact that we each come to the texts with our own preconceived ideas of what it means over all, and we then filter all we read through that set of eyes. We end up, not surprisingly, finding out that the Bible confirms all that we have thought all along. Wow, how great is that? Not…. because someone else can read the very same passage and get the complete opposite understanding from it. I’m sure most of us have done that little grammar experiment where you take a simple sentence and read it through several times, each time emphasizing a different word, and it totally changes the meaning of the sentence, or gives it all different nuances. We do that whenever we read scripture. And before we say, “well, we must go back to the original languages” How do we really know where they put the emphasis in their writings, and how do we know what a word actually meant at that point. It doesn’t take long to look at English words like nice, gay, sweet, or any figure of speech or idiom out there to find that words change meaning fairly quickly or have multiple meanings depending on context. These days, if someone calls you”bad” or “sick” it is quite likely a compliment….:) explain that to someone 2000 years from now working off a text that was written today. And they would have a lot more documentation to go off of than we have from the time periods when the Bible was written.
So…. there has to be something more…. I believe there is absolute truth… and I believe the Bible can point us toward that to some extent, I love the Bible. However, I heard a great example (and sorry for my rather base reference here, but it really makes the point well) if I write the word sex on a piece of paper, it might mean something, but to experience that is totally different than reading a word… or for a less crass example, try and describe for me the smell of a rose. You can come up with some words, but in the end they are nothing compared to me taking you out to my front yard and pressing your nose into a beautiful blossom. I know we all want the Bible to give us all the answers, but the only real answer it gives is to point us to a reality greater than ourselves and itself. It points us to the One. The creator of us all, the lover of our souls, the one who made us in HIS image….. and that image in us calls out to what it mirrors. THAT is where we find who God really is.
So let’s drop the Christian SAT…. God has no entrance exam to relationship with him.