You will have to put on your thinking cap to understand me here—
And there are certainly those who would rather misunderstand
Than to put on their thinking caps. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
And yes, I know better, from years’ of bitter experience,
Than to think that this stern introduction will
Keep the dedicated nonthinker from misunderstanding.
But the fact of the matter is that the nonthinker is not
My target audience. So here goes.
I’m going to describe to you what
A great many Christians are like,
Along with my hope that you and I
Could avoid the problem
I’m going to point out.
People have their basic theology in mind,
Whether it’s right or wrong—
And of course, it’s right. So really,
I could just stop this right here.
But as they read the Bible,
They occasionally find a passage that
Gives them pause.
It does not seem to fit their established
Model of understanding.
That is, it doesn’t fit with their overall
View of the Bible and how it all works.
And they tilt their heads to the side
And furrow their brows
And say “Huh???” like Scooby Doo.
And they are very very uncomfortable inside—
For about two seconds.
But then, thank God, their years’ of
Careful training kicks in
And they become aware immediately
That everything’s OK
And that there is no need to be troubled
About their understanding of it all,
Or about the authority of scripture
Or about whether the author or speaker knew
What he was talking about.
Rather, the culprit in this mini-crisis is summarily judged
To be the translation.
And a sigh of relief is sighed
And the feeling of relief is felt.
And it doesn’t really even matter
If they can settle on what the translation should say,
Though it’s a bonus if they can come up with something—
Even if it’s just a guess,
Because their guesses, they’re pretty sure,
Are probably inspired by the Indwelling Holy Spirit,
And the thing I’m driving at here
Is not that all translations of all passages are good,
To be sure, but that not all of them are bad—
And that one should expect that,
From time to time,
The Bible might just have something to say
That conflicts with the model of understanding
That they already have running in their heads—
Unless they are perfect people already—
Which most of us probably are,
And why am I even bothering to write this?
But if not through the texts, how could Jesus ever let them know
They’ve got something wrong?
Thus should we be careful to notice that
The default assumption in this story is that
They do not, in fact, have anything wrong.
And to further insulate themselves from
The possibility that they do,
They will rally around them a few
To bolster their conclusion that
The problem here is with the translation.
And that is that.
Meanwhile—and there’s some irony in this—
They are convinced that many other believers
Are indeed misunderstanding the Bible here and there,
And really need to reconsider their positions on this and that—
Which is the very thing they refuse to do themselves
When the Bible gets it wrong.
Notes for the stubborn reader:
For the record, I’m not saying that
The Bible gets it wrong.
But we’ve already talked about this.
I’m saying that some people are highly-trained fools,
Knowing a thousand ways to miss the truth,
And to do it in Jesus’ name with a self-assured hubris
That would offend even the gracious Jesus himself.
They are terrible students,
And certain that if they were wrong about anything,
They would know it already.
And this, they did not learn from Jesus.