“Wow, Kevin! Your teaching on [insert topic here] is spot on! I couldn’t agree more. I had previously been taught to believe something different than what you’re saying; however, your analysis of what the Scriptures actually say is exactly right. There can be no argument from the Word. You are 100% correct that this passage does not say what I have always thought it says—on the contrary, it says something completely different…. Nevertheless—and I’m definitely not saying that you’re wrong—I still believe what I previously believed, and your teaching has not persuaded me otherwise.”
I’m not kidding. In response to a recent teaching of mine, to my surprise, I received multiple replies along these lines. My reader would affirm that while my teaching was accurate in its correction of a long-held and firmly ingrained belief among believers, it didn’t change their mind. Even though I demonstrated the truth from the Scriptures themselves—and my reader recognized that truth—they remained unswayed. In so many words, the response was, “I now see the truth of the Scriptures, but… I will continue to hold on to a false teaching, because I still believe it.”
For too many of us in the Body of Messiah, we are failing to have a mature, effective walk in Messiah because our theology has not been shaped by the Scriptures, but rather, by our “buts.” “The Scriptures clearly say one thing, but I believe something different anyway”; “the Scriptures tell us how things should be, but I have personally experienced something else”; “The Scriptures say one irrefutable, self-evident thing in this passage here, but I can connect the dots between otherwise unrelated passages (because I have decided in my own mind that they are actually related) and create a belief out of it that makes sense to me.”
And we wonder where all the bad theology comes from… our “buts.”
We get an idea in our minds that seems reasonable to us—even rational—and we run with it… or, rather, run away with it. The winding road we take to try to make logical sense out of our illogical suppositions, leads us to faulty conclusions—conclusions that can appear Scriptural even when they’re not. This is not the way to practice sound Biblical interpretation—this is how we arrive at false doctrine, misleading teachings, and faiths of our own making.
When we use our “buts” to form our theology, rather than the pure, perfect Word of the Scriptures, we are guaranteed to get it backwards. To look the truth square in the eyes and reply “but…” is defensive, self-preserving, and self-serving. It doesn’t really entertain the truth, but uses the truth as part of a mental or emotional scheme to build a narrative that we can live with, or even comprehend. We follow the conclusions of our “buts” because we can’t let go of certain ideas or feelings that we are unhealthily attached to, even though they contradict the written Word of God—ideas or feelings that enable and comfort us where we should instead be allowing God’s Word to take control.
If the Scriptures really are your guidebook for life, then you will never say in response to the Word, “but…” and then oppose the Word with your creative mind. It’s one thing to say, “but I don’t understand,” or even, “but I don’t like what You’re saying, Master.” But at no time is it ever acceptable to reply to the Word, “but I have a better idea,” and then willfully choose to subvert the truth.
When you are challenged to reassess a long-held belief, don’t panic; but also, don’t dismiss the challenge out of hand. Rather, consider it an opportunity for the Word to show itself true, not giving undue weight to the words of the one bringing the challenge, nor to the words of your own mind. Don’t look for ways to defend yourself or your beliefs by culling together unrelated fragments of Scripture that seem like they should go together; and definitely don’t believe something is true just because you think it ought to be. Instead, read the Word with faith and trust in God, and let God’s Word speak.
Have you been interrupting the Word by injecting your own ideas into the conversation? Then maybe it’s time you consider kicking your “but” to the curb.
What do you think? Share your thoughts below.