There’s a new moniker going around that refers to voters who are “low information people.” In some cases this is code for minorities without making a specific reference to any group in particular. It is a way to avoid the accusation of rascism.
But apart from the political use of the term, it is an apt description of many a church discussion and many a church decision. Sometimes it can seem that it doesn’t even really matter what the Bible says – all of the Bible, that is. In some cases a favorite Bible verse might be used, as if it stood for all that the Bible has to say about a subject. “Do not judge that you be not judged” easily slips into any conversation as if that was the end of a matter. But are there not other verses that call the church to self-examination and exercising responsibility for its corporate health? Conscience demands that we use all of the Bible when applying any one part of the Bible.
Another case of “low information” response is that the church is about being made right with God through faith alone, and therefore any emphasis on behavioral standards is legalism and a light from our Protestant heritage. Surely we are made right with God through faith in Christ apart from works of the law. But as surely this faith alone is not faith that is alone. “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
Is this not also true with respect to the continuing debate over the sovereignty of God and the free will of humanity? Any fair view of the issue must admit that both sides have texts that support one position or the other. To quote one text as settling the issue for all time doesn’t make it.
It’s all about balance, and keeping balance is the hardest thing to do is life and ministry. It is just too easy to slip over into a favorite verse or a traditional position without thoughtful interaction with biblical texts that seem to teach otherwise.
In no case does obeying one verse mean that we must end up disobeying another verse that seems to teach the opposite. No one verse or text can teach all that the biblical authors would have us consider. In putting it all together, one can begin to sense a trajectory of the biblical teaching that rises from the mass of texts and that needs to be applied with sensitivity to any particular situation.
Surely it is the job of a Pastor to be a voracious reader of the Bible so that the whole of its counsel bears at all times on every discussion and deliberation. And surely laymen should consider the breadth of biblical exposure information the Pastor brings to any one situation. All are invited to drink deep of the biblical fountain, but in fact many do not have the opportunity to read as widely or as deeply as clergy are responsible to do. I have been amazed by the number of times someone has quoted me a Bible verse that they think checks my understanding of the Bible, as if I don’t know that verse. Most Pastors would know that verse – and many others, too. But it is the whole of the biblical revelation with which we have to do and which we are responsible to obey.