By Randy Limbird
One of my favorite movies is “The Sixth Sense” because what’s revealed at the end makes you want to watch the whole movie over again. Once you find out (spoiler alert, but c’mon, the film came out in 1999) that Bruce Willis was dead from the beginning, you want to see how you missed that all along. When you watch it again, it all seems so obvious.
It’s impossible to watch that movie “objectively.” Once you know the central truth that’s woven throughout each scene, you focus on how the Willis character never actually interacts with anyone but Haley Joel Osment, who “sees dead people.”
It’s just as impossible to read the Bible “objectively.” People approach it with certain assumptions about reality that govern their interpretation. Practically no one ever reads the Bible from beginning to end and then forms a conclusion. Growing up, I don’t think the Bible really informed my understanding of God or Jesus. My assumptions about God and Jesus were more derived from the family and culture I grew up in, with influences ranging from Sunday School lessons to existential philosophers.
When I became a Christian — and for me, that meant embracing Jesus as a present reality, the God-become-man who died and rose from the dead and who lives today — then I began reading the Bible in a way I never did before. It was like watching “The Sixth Sense” over again after you actually know what it’s about.
It’s like reading a biography of a Hall of Fame athlete. You already know their successes, so you read the book to understand how he got there. You interpret his life in the light of what you know came later.
There’s also a tendency to read into every twist and turn of that person’s life as contributing to their success. In reality, we don’t know if that’s so. An Olympic athlete may still have have won a gold medal even if she did not have to overcome a childhood illness.
I don’t expect people to “objectively’ read the Bible and discover the truth. Sure, there are stories of people who come to faith while reading the Bible — the classic one is St. Augustine, who heard a voice saying “Take up and read,” and happened upon a single verse in Romans that led to the final stage of his conversion. But that’s hardly a testimony of objectivity. If you hear a voice telling you to read the Bible, I would argue that your objectivity just went out the window. When Augustine took up that book and read, he expected to be changed. And he was.
Randy Limbird is editor of
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