What God Teaches God knew that Christians would argue about their interpretations of Scripture. Therefore, He had Paul write this to Timothy: “Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen” (2 Tim. 2:14 NIV). Ten verses later God had Paul add this: “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2:24-25).
Clearly, arguing about interpretations of Scripture is contrary to the will of God and therefore should be considered a sin! Scripture rightly says that such arguing is useless and can stumble those who hear it. One writer asked this question: “If we argue about interpretations of the Scriptures, how can we expect people to believe them in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven?”
An Atheist Changes His Mind
Let’s consider how a non-contentious believer led an obnoxious young atheist to change his viewpoint.1 Francis Collins was raised by atheists, became a scientist, and truly believed that what Christians were saying about Christ and their faith was all superstition. He began to change when he saw Christians suffering terribly from things they did not cause without blaming God. Instead, they actually got comfort from their faith. He then realized that he was missing something, and that contrary to his own scientific training, he had made up his mind about faith in God without checking the facts. So he took his irritating questions and challenged a man whom he knew to be a true Christian.
Now this is important! This Christian did not try to argue Collins out of his unbelief. Instead, he referred him to the Gospel of John, and Collins found it interesting, puzzling and not at all what he had thought faith was all about. But, he still had questions and that is where the value of written ministry comes in. The atheist was referred to the book Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.2 Lewis wrote that while the idea of right and wrong is different in different cultures, it is present in all of them. He also realized that science does not and can not provide a good explanation for this phenomenon.
Collins struggled for many months with the questions Lewis raised, and with his answers. Finally, he agreed with Lewis that the existence of a holy God was the only answer. He also came to the realization that God was holy, that he himself was not, and that Christ provided a bridge between God’s holiness and his own unholiness. At that point, Collins wrote, “I gave in and surrendered.” We call this phenomenon “conversion” or “becoming saved.”
Do We Cause People To Become Atheists?
Why do many intelligent people become atheists? Collins offers this possible answer: “The more evangelical wing of the Church and the scientific community … seem to be engaged in a contentious, destructive, and wholly unnecessary debate.” He says this is unnecessary “because science explores the natural world but faith explores the supernatural world.” He continues, saying that there is an interpretation that “takes a relatively recent and extreme view of Genesis, applies to it an unjustified scientific gloss, and then asks sincere and well-meaning seekers to swallow this whole, despite the massive discordance with decades of scientific evidence from multiple disciplines.” He asks, “Is it any wonder that they cannot believe in a God who asks for an abandonment of logic and reason?”
Christians Can Believe In An Old Earth!
God does not ask us to abandon logic and reason to be born-again. Thinking believers, who accept the Bible as the Word of God and who believe that God has created the universe, have come up with a number of different interpretations of the Genesis account. William Kelly,3 a conservative, fundamental, born-again Bible expositor of the last century, wrote: “There is not a word of Scripture to warrant the strange and hasty assumption that the universe was brought into being in the six days of Genesis 1:3-32 … The age of the earth may be as great as … the most enthusiastic geologist ever conceived … there is nothing here nor in any other part of Scripture that opposes vast ages.”
Contending For The Faith
We are to “contend for the faith” (Jude 3), but this instruction refers to “the foundational truths of the faith” 4 – such as the Trinity, the Creator, the divinity and the humanity of Christ, the existence of the devil, and the destiny of man. The age of the universe is not a foundation truth! Quarreling about it diverts attention from the foundation truth in Genesis, namely, that man is a sinner in need of a Savior. Why are we warned against quarreling about such things? Because no souls are saved or edified by such arguments.
God Gives Us Two Revelations
It is appropriate for us to study and interpret God’s two revelations to us, namely, nature and the Bible. The Bible says, “Since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). It is also appropriate for us to want to tell others about our interpretations of them and to try to persuade people to accept them. In doing so, however, “the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach … those who oppose him … in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:24-25). If we are gentle and meek about our interpretations, we will have the attitude that the other person may be right and we may be wrong. And if wrong, we should be ready for God to grant us knowledge of the truth. Scripture says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes … Accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise” (Prov. 3:7;19:20).
Let’s save our energy to do what God tells us to do, and to avoid what He tells us not to do! God tells us, “It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel” (Prov. 20:3).
1. Collins, Francis S.; “Faith and the Human Genome,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Sept. 2003, pp.142-153. This article contains thoughts which the author and reader will disagree with. I quote it only to help with the error in arguing about Scripture.
2. Lewis, C. S.; Mere Christianity, McMillan, 1978. Lewis had been an atheist and had thoughtfully worked out good answers for many of the legitimate questions of doubters. Not all of his viewpoints are endorsed but, as Collins says, “Even today, Mere Christianity seems to be the very best book to put into the hands of a seeker who is trying to figure out if there is rationality for faith.”
3. Kelly, William; In The Beginning, 1884; New Edition, 1970, p. 5.
4. Ritchie, John; Foundation Truths of the Faith, John Ritchie Ltd.
By Alan H. Crosby
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org