“Water is wet.”
What you have read above is a statement of fact, also known as ‘the truth’. You cannot change it or else it becomes a falsehood, also known as ‘a lie’ or ‘not the truth’. You may find different ways of delivering this truth, for example:
- H2o is always wet
- Hydrogen oxide is a damp substance.
These statements are variations of the truth ‘water is wet’, but they all point to the same absolute truth: WATER IS WET.
Now, some people might try to tell you that they INTERPERET the statement ‘water is wet’ to mean something different. For example they may say that the statement doesn’t REALLY mean water is WET, but that if you read it by THEIR interpretation WATER is actually DRY! Another person may tell you that THEIR interpretation of the statement actually means KITTENS ARE FLUFFY! You may then scratch your head and ask a silly question like, “how did you arrive at kittens from water is wet?”, and that person might tell you that your being legalistic and that your ‘interpretation’ of the statement is archaic and outdated.
In case you hadn’t caught on yet this post is about the bible and translations. Now, I am not talking about the different translations you can buy like the King James, New King James, The Message or, my favorite, Da Jesus Book, but rather I am talking about how people seem to think that all scripture is open to an interpretive meaning. This, to me, is one of the most dangerous and pervasive problems with the modern church.
As I have shown with the statement above, the truth is the truth is the truth. The truth is immutable, it cannot be changed or it becomes either a lie or another truth. How another truth? Well, technically you could say that, if the water were frozen it wouldn’t be wet. In a way your right, but you have changed the truth of ‘water is wet’ into another truth: ‘ice is not wet’. Its not a lie, but it isn’t the same truth, its a completely different thing.
Gods word, the bible, is The Truth (capital t’s on that one). It is immutable and unchanging and says so itself:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
If you claim to be a Christian then you MUST believe this truth or you do not believe in the God the bible speaks of.
When people come to me and tell me that “all scripture is open to interpretation” it makes me angry because they are spreading false gospel. Nowhere in the bible does it say that the scriptures can be interpreted in different ways. It may say that the truth is revealed to us in different ways, but the truth is the truth is the truth. No matter how you get there, its still the same truth. So, when your pastor tells an interesting story to explain that water is wet while mine simply says “water is wet”, they have used different methods to explain the truth, but the truth has not changed.
Some people believe that you cannot read the bible as a literal book. I half agree with that. I would say that you cannot read the bible as a literal book where it is not meant to be literal. When I was in grade school they taught us reading comprehension. Part of reading comprehension is being able to read and determine if a text is literal, poetic, symbolic, etc. GRADE SCHOOL. This means that anyone with a grade school level education should be able to read a book and determine if the passages they are reading within are meant to be literal statements, poetic statements or symbolic statements. If you cannot do this you either have a learning disability, failed to complete grade school or are willfully ignorant.
Now, why would someone want to muck up the truth and filter it through a translation? The simple answer is manipulation. By giving their own translation of a scriptures meaning they have the ability to manipulate those who hear it. Want your congregation to put more money in the coffers? Translate scripture about tithing so that it induces guilt and fear if you are not giving enough. Want to get more work out of your congregation? Translate scripture to induce shame and guilt when people don’t use their ‘gift of service’. I read somewhere in my study bible, in the notes, that in ancient times the priests would avoid writing down what they thought of scripture for fear that their writings would be given more weight than the scriptures they came from. Judging by the number of books out there lending their ‘translation’ to the scriptures, I can see that is no longer a fear in the modern age.
When everyone can interpret the scriptures in their own way the truth becomes irrelevant. Now what is your truth may be different from my truth which is different from their truth and total ambiguity abounds.
I believe much of the problems with the American church today stems from everyone ‘translating’ the truth of God as they see fit, leading to a watering down or complete denial of the truth. The only way to avoid bad translations is for everyone to agree on ONE translation and that translation should be NO TRANSLATION AT ALL! That’s right! The easiest way to avoid ambiguity is to read the words as literal statements where applicable! I say ‘where applicable’ because some scripture is written as poetic or symbolic (looking at you, Song of Solomon). But guess what?! Even those poetic versus point back to the truth.
And The Truth – it doesn’t change.