Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Scary Example of Poor Biblical Interpretation

This week I ran into a scary example of poor biblical interpretation.

I was talking with another Christian when the topic turned to politics. In discussing Afghanistan, we agreed that we would like to see our troops get out of that country soon. Then he said something that I find downright frightening. His words (paraphrased), "I think we should pull out of Afghanistan and then bomb them. I know this would hurt women and children, but God told the Israelites to kill all the people they faced in the OT. We should do the same."

I was stunned. I managed to spit something out like, "I think we should pull out but not bomb them." At the time I was so flabbergasted that I couldn't think up anything else to say. His reasoning was bad enough that my brain temporarily turned to mush.

This Christian man's thinking is an example of the danger of looking to the Old Testament for specifics about how to live today. In an earlier post I wrote, "The Old Testament, then, should be understood as always pointing ahead to the incarnation of Christ. Its shadows offer clues to us of the Redeemer to come. The OT is not a guidebook for us to follow as much as it is a promise of a better future in the author of the New Covenant."

We must be careful in applying too many OT specifics to our lives as Christ's church. Much of the OT was designed to help the nation of Israel live. The church is not Israel. The USA certainly isn't Israel.

When we want to know how to live today, the New Testament tells us all we need. Jesus emphasized peace with other people. For example, in Matthew 5:38-39 he said, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." A few verses later (5:43-44) our Lord states, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

I'm not addressing here whether or not the USA should ever go to war. Rather, I'm pointing to how followers of Christ ought to think about war. Biblical commands to Israel on warfare have no bearing on the USA today. It is dangerous to think that they do, for it will lead to much death.

We have to interpret all biblical passages in their context. Only then will we be able to accurately understand what the original authors meant. As Christ-followers, we should be people that emphasize the importance of peace. Peace is a hallmark of God's kingdom.

We must be careful. As this somewhat extreme example shows, lives can depend on it.


Arthur Sido said...

The church is not Israel. The USA certainly isn't Israel.

I would add that the modern nation-state of Israel is not the same as the Old Covenant nation of Israel.

I run into this all the time. People seem to read a passage in the Old Testament and then leap to the conclusion that the author was somehow speaking of America, a nation that wouldn't even come into existence for many thousands of years later. The inability to distinguish between Old and New Covenant leads to people reading the Bible without any recognition that there are differences between the two.

Aussie John said...


So sad! Even scarier is the fact that some politicians share that thinking.

One very religious acquaintance observed that it would be an act of love towards God,to wipe out a particular religious group of people.


Eric said...


It is sad that so many Christians do not seem to understand the difference between the covenants. This probably has something to do with the institution's use of so many OT practices to justify why they do certain things.

Eric said...


It is difficult to fathom how Christians come to these conclusions. It certainly doesn't come from reading the bible.