It is often said that Scripture is to be our source of authority, and all of us in the church should ultimately follow the Bible. This is true, but if Scripture is our ultimate authority in the evangelical world, why is it that so many people disagree theologically? Why so many denominations? Should we just abandon Scripture altogether and submit to some ruling body that just tells us what is right so we can just all agree?
Not at all. It is true that Scripture is absolute. Period. It does say something, so it can be our ultimate authority, but how do we come to a conclusion on what it actually says?
The key to finding the absolute truth in Scripture is to find what all of Scripture says on a subject. What does Scripture say about itself? Not just what one verse says, but what does all of Scripture say?
The crazy thing is that we will often realize, once we have seen what all of Scripture says on a subject, that Scripture seemingly contradicts itself. This is what creates much of the disagreement and conflict that results amongst evangelical Christians. In fact, it speaks in such a way that it causes us to constantly balance our views.
Sadly, however, the Church seems to swing from one extreme to the next, like a pendulum, swinging back and forth from one extreme that results in an opposite extreme, with no balance from the Word of God; often, people just throw single Bible verses from each side of an argument. The interesting thing is, both arguments seem right, but how can they both be right? Would it be a contradiction if both sides of a theological argument were right?
Not necessarily. In fact, both sides of a biblical argument are often right, and the trick to finding the truth is to hold both sides of an argument in tension. The Bible speaks in paradox, and often times we need to believe both truths that we find … instead of arguing about which Bible verse is more important.
A paradox is a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense but is in fact true.
If we take Scripture as a unified whole, we are to interpret Scripture with Scripture that results in accepting a set of paradoxes. This balancing act with Scripture is one step in the right direction to solve Christian disagreement and conflict.
You see, a paradox seems like a contradiction, when it is not. It even sometimes seems that people disagree, when really they do not.
I believe that paradox, and a toleration of paradox, is one of the key ways to interpret God’s Word—and a key way to find true unity in the Church.
As C.S Lewis said, "Of course reality must be self-consistent; but till (if ever) we can see the consistency it is better to hold two inconsistent views than to ignore one side of the evidence.”
He is right. The problem comes in when people began to deny one side of the biblical evidence and try to logically conclude something not found in Scripture. Heresy, conflict, and disagreement often result from a lack of tolerance for paradox.
One may ask, how can Jesus be both God and man? How can God exist as three yet one?
If we deny one side of the biblical evidence, we will result in a faulty view of God, when it is in fact true that the Bible teaches that Jesus is both God and man, and that God is both three and one.
We have one side of Christians saying God is all about grace, and another group of Christians saying God is all about His wrath and justice. How about both?
We have one side of Christians saying God chooses who He saves, and another group that says we are responsible to choose. How about both?
We have one side of Christians saying we should focus our efforts on serving the poor, and another side saying we should spend our efforts on sharing the Gospel. How about both?
We have one group of Christians saying God is all about seeking the lost, and another group that says we should focus on discipling believers. How about both?
When one has an intolerance for paradox, it is often rooted in pride, because people want to resolve these issues in their mind instead of allowing the mystery to remain. The consequence is conflict. The power of paradox allows us to remain within the center of biblical tension, and to resolve the theological tension and disunity that exists between us Christians.