by Rev. Joda Collins
I enjoy conversations with fellow theologians about challenging biblical concepts. If honest, well-meaning and disciplined theologians have debated doctrines of the Bible for centuries, those doctrines must be difficult to comprehend. After 50-years of such discussions, to my knowledge, I have never changed a fellow theologians mind. In every instance, the discourse heats up and the person I am talking or writing with assumes this position (or a variation of it), “Well, I have my verses and you have yours, so we will just agree to disagree.” I have never nor will I ever agree to disagree. I will agree that he is wrong, I am wrong or we are both wrong. It is the lazy way out of conversation of importance to state, even if by implication, the Bible contradicts itself and I will hold to one side while I agree that another person should hold to a contradiction. There are rules of proper Bible study. One rule is that there is an exception clause (a disclaimer) for just about every Bible doctrine.
For example, a Bible truth (doctrine/teaching) is “Answer a fool according to his folly.” (Prov. 26:5.) The exception clause (disclaimer) is Proverbs 26:4 which reads “Answer not a fool according to his folly.” How silly and uneducated it would be for two theologians to end a conversation about these two contradictory verses with, “Well, I have Proverbs 26:4 and you have Proverbs 26:5, so let’s just agree to disagree.” What a cowardly way out of a discussion of biblical importance. The biblical truth is that there are times to answer a fool according to his folly and there are times and circumstances not to do so. Thus, the real answer lies in identifying those times. However, that takes a lot of work, and most theologians are lazy, just like most non-theologians.
Give me what you think is a biblical absolute (a concrete Bible truth/doctrine/teaching) and I will give you, if one exists and I know if it, the exception clause (disclaimer) that shatters your theory of absolutism about that doctrine. After I do that, there is a ton of work to do to explore the question of why does that exclusion, exception or disclaimer exist? Answering that question is what deeper, upper-echelon Bible study is all about. I have little respect for the theologian who only wants to wade with the toddlers at the shore line of the ocean of the knowledge and understanding of God’s word.
For example, “God is in control.” No he is not, otherwise children would not be raped. For example, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.” No, they do not. Many sheep do not hear the voice of Jesus and some sheep who hear the master’s voice refuse to follow. “If you have something against your brother, go to him (and confront him about it).” You better not do that all of the time or you will pay a heavy price. Long life is given to the righteous. No it is not. Many godly people die young.
When I was in college I was working a full time job and had precious little time to study or do homework. However, I still did well in College (3.125 GPA) for BA degree. I learned some tricks.
1. If the professor’s voice went up or he wrote the info on the board and/or (especially if he) underlined it, that is on a coming test.
2. Many test questions come from the topic sentence of each paragraph in the class textbook, and many textbooks have the topic sentence as the first sentence in the paragraph.
3. On a true or false test, if in doubt, select true.
4. On a multiple choice question, the later in the test the more likely A is the answer.
5. If the coming lecture is on a chapter that is given as a reading assignment in prep for the lecture, do not spend time reading the chapter.
6. Learn the info in the book that is in bold print or underlined.
7. Do not miss class because the professor will probably tell you during class everything you need to know to pass the next test.
8. If the question has “always” or “never” in it, the answer is probably false.
Here is the key — the secret! Do not read the word “always” in to a Bible doctrine or truth unless you can prove it is always. Rather, read the word “sometimes” as the precursor to a Bible doctrine unless you can prove it is always! If “sometimes” is right, find the exception clause (disclaimer or exclusions) and learn the purpose of the exception clause (disclaimer/exclusion or exclusions). That is the deep water of theology. That is where the best revelations are discovered. Let the spiritual toddlers wade, giggle and splash around with the kiddies with the incoming waves. Swim out to the deep water where beneath is a world of wonder and surprise. “I have my verses and you have yours so let’s agree to disagree” (or any derivative of it) is the comment of theological infants and spiritual teenage brats.
Rev. Joda Collins
I make no claim that anyone else agrees with me.