The Supreme Court of the United States of America issued a ruling yesterday (June 23, 2022), effectively overturning a previous case (Roe v. Wade) that had stood for exactly 49 years (June 23, 1973). Many people, including pastors, took to social media to voice their own opinions and perspectives on this landmark decision. I confess…I spent some time scrolling through social media feeds reading what people had written. My first impression of what I read may be a bit different than what you would expect: I was sad and conflicted. I read through the comments of people for whom I have the utmost love and respect only to realize these comments were on opposite ends of the same spectrum. I was then presented with a challenging question: How do I respond when there are people for whom I care equally whose perspectives on the same subject are diametrically opposed?
When looking at two sides of a fence, I realized I was the fence. Now, please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. I have an opinion. I have a perspective. I hold certain convictions. My beliefs, however, are not the central subject of this post. There are three phenomena which have come to my attention: (1) people assuming the rest of the world is vitally interested in what they think about a particular issue, (2) people (including Christians) treating other people with hatred and disrespect simply because they hold an opposing view on an issue, and (3) Christians (people who have repented of their sins and professed faith in Jesus Christ) who claim to believe in the same Jesus and the same Bible yet have polar opposite beliefs on a particular issue. I’d like to address each of these because they each have me baffled to some degree.
First, there is a growing trend where nearly everyone on social media (not everyone, but what I believe is a majority) seems to believe with certainty that the rest of the world is sitting on pins and needles as they await their opinions on the issues of the day. My observation of social media teaches me that unsolicited opinions comprise much of what is posted on a daily basis. Even news outlets are not immune. Is it even possible to hear an unbiased report of events without a particular spin being attached to the report? I don’t believe it is. One of the unintended consequences of social media is the way it compels people to “overshare” about their lives and opinions as if everyone else in the world will lead incomplete lives until they receive this random personal information. In addition, many people appear to be more than willing to share their own personal opinions while passing them off as irrefutable facts. They do this despite the complete lack of any substantive support from credible, objective sources of truth. Don’t get me wrong…I have opinions…lots of them. I like to share them from time to time. However, I am also fairly confident that the number of people who genuinely care what I think is relatively small in the grand scheme of things. This, by the way, is why I am writing this in a blog rather than posting it directly to social media. If people are uninterested, they don’t have to click the link.
Second, there is a growing trend where fewer and fewer people seem to be able to participate in civil discourse. Most of the exchanges I read on social media are filled with hatred and disrespect for one another, often between people who don’t even know each other very well. Rarely can anyone voice their perspective on any issue without one or more people taking the opportunity to criticize both quickly and decisively the opinions of the author. Part of this trend includes the unfortunate equating of disagreement with hate. I see things differently from you. Therefore, I must hate you and everything about you. One of the most common principles of honest debate is that you confine your comments to the issue in question. You never resort to personal attacks on your opponent. You stay on subject. In fact, failure to do this effectively demonstrates a weaker and less effective argument. If you are unable to stand on the merits of your position (because your position lacks merit), then you resort to attacking the other side personally. You also increase the volume or disrespect of your speech in order to intimidate the other side into silence. The problem (one of them, at least) with this approach is this: volume and passion do not equal truth.
Finally, I have noticed a phenomenon among the so-called Christian community that bears some analysis. First, let me define the Christian community. I am referring to all people who have fallen under the conviction of the Holy Spirit of God and repented of their sins. They have surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, trusting only in Him for their forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. They are living each day for the glory of God in Christ, sustained entirely by God’s grace and mercy. They spend time reading and studying the word of God because they understand all wisdom and knowledge is found in Christ. These are the ones to which I refer when I use the term Christians. If all these things are true about a group of people, then it seems almost inconceivable to me how two individuals within this group could arrive at conclusions so diametrically opposed to one another. This final principle is the one that gives me the most difficulty. It causes me to question some things. Are we all reading the same Bible? Are we all being completely objective when we read the Bible or are we subconsciously (or intentionally) bringing our own presuppositions to the text of Scripture? Do we fail to consult Scripture before drawing conclusions and arriving at our opinions?
After seeing these types of things more often, especially on social media, I have no choice but to draw some conclusions of my own. I conclude that not all who profess to follow Christ are actually following Christ. I conclude that not all who actually read the Bible are reading the Bible with objectivity and an open mind. I conclude that many who profess to follow Christ do not consult Scripture when formulating their worldview or their opinions on particular issues. I also conclude that my three conclusions are extremely problematic for the church in general and for the advance of the gospel in particular. So, this leads me to draw one final conclusion.
We are all free to make our own decisions. We are all free to believe what we want to believe. We are all free to form our own opinions on any issue. However, we are not free to choose the consequences of our decisions. We are not free to choose the implications of our beliefs. We are not free to ascribe biblical authority to our own opinions.
So what do we do about all this? I have a few suggestions. Read the Bible more. Pray more. Enjoy fellowship with a local church more often. Listen more. Speak less. All these disciplines are helpful to a growing Christian, but there is one more that may be the most beneficial. Please hear what I am about to say.
I have been a Pastor for nearly 20 years. I have spent 8 years in theological education earning a Master’s degree and a doctoral degree. I have read lots of books. But throughout all my years of study and reading, I must always remember there is only one primary source. For all the books written ABOUT the Bible (many of which are really good, in my opinion), there is only one BIBLE. There is only one book inspired by God, making it inerrant, infallible, authoritative, and sufficient. I believe with great conviction that we can do ourselves (and our theology) great harm by spending too much time reading books ABOUT the Bible and not enough time reading the actual BIBLE. I also believe if a human author is just as influential to you or even more influential to you than the word of God, that is a problem.
The only way to possess a truly biblical worldview is to remember your primary source, the BIBLE. Read the Bible in its context. Follow the sound hermeneutical principles of observation, interpretation, and application. Pray for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit of God. Trust in Christ. Stand on biblical convictions. Preach the gospel. Love others as Christ has loved you. Extend grace as you would hope it would be extended to you. Soli Deo Gloria.