However, every once in a while I encounter those who come to the Bible with an axe to grind. It’s not that they’re trying to discover the truth of who God is, what he is doing in history and what their part is in it, they’re just mad at what the text says and want to battle a person who believes it. What’s usually funny about this kind of track is that when one textual “issue” is solved, for example by simply understanding the historical context of the scripture, the offended party simply moves to the next biblical position that sticks in their craw. So when it comes to the Bible and receiving what it says I tend to run into two types of people: those who don’t understand the Bible but are sincerely trying and those who don’t care what it really says because they know what’s truth and are simply angry that the Bible “reads” how it reads.
What’s the deal? Let me turn first to author Clive Staples Lewis.
In the famous “Chronicles of Narnia” book The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis, the sinister character Uncle Andrew is frightened to a deathly silence by the presence of the Christ-figure Aslan the Lion and his surroundings. When his young nephew Digory asks Aslan to help by speaking words that will bring peace to his devastated uncle, Aslan replies, “But I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!”
The problem with Uncle Andrew is the same dilemma with those who can’t bring themselves to embracing what the Bible says. When the pages pour forth the voice of God all that is heard is “growlings” and “roarings”. I wonder if many times the reasons they don’t hear the voice of their salvation is because, like Uncle Andrew, they’ve defended themselves against God by redefining him with their feelings, opinions and observations. They don’t want to really hear God because they can’t get past what they already believe is true. Maybe that’s why Jesus was so big on faith.
I wonder if Jesus’ words in The Gospel of John would be fitting in a Cliff Notes reading of the Lewis story: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27, ESV) Faith gives us eyes to see and ears to hear. While skeptics would say it causes us to be blind to reality, the truth is faith in Jesus is what actually enables us to receive in our hearts and minds the truth about God. In other words, to follow him is to believe him…and vice versa.
I Corinthians 2:14-16 says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. ‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” (ESV)
While these two groups of people who don’t embrace the Bible are on opposite sides of the spectrum in a real way, there is a common thread they share. They don’t get it because they don’t have him. Sure, they may proclaim to accept God but you can bet it’s not the God revealed in the Bible – it’s a god much safer to their belief system, more sympathetic to their views and much more accessible than the God revealed in the Bible. If any claim it is the God of the Bible usually it’s the cut-and-paste version where they embrace some of what the Bible teaches about him but it rejects other scriptures that don’t fit their silhouette of deity. However, all that does is defend the seeker “against all that might do [him] good”. What he needs is faith and that can only come from God (cf., Eph. 2:8-9). God must give us eyes to see and ears to hear (that is receive) his word.
This should be humble us and help us as we dialogue with those who are disappointed if not outright angry at what the Bible says. We should be humbled by the fact that to truly receive God’s Word one must be renewed by Jesus. To hear him is to know him. Even our initial coming to Christ in conversion has Jesus’ fingerprints all over it. We don’t “get it” because we’re smarter, wiser or better with logic than those who don’t follow Jesus. We believe it because Jesus enables us to believe it.
This should also temper any ill feelings we have with those who bring dull axes to their conversations with you about what the Bible says, and it should give us compassion for those who come with more sincere hearts. In a real way both have the same problem. It should encourage us to pray on their behalf that God would allow them to hear not “roarings” and “growlings” but the loving, caring and sure voice of the Almighty.
2 thoughts on “Growlings and Roarings”
Excellent post! Another caveat to this situation is that, very often, the axe grinder is not only dissatisfied with the message, but with the messenger also. And not just today’s messenger. I had a conversation this morning with a co-worker, who is originally from Pakistan, about the sunni and shiite conflict. Our conversation quickly migrated towards the Crusades and the atrocities inflicted in the name of Jesus Christ. It can be very difficult for someone who is bent on finding fault to separate the faults of Christians, which are real faults, with the supposed faults they are finding with the Bible. I would be interested in hearing more about how these conversations you are talking about in your post have progressed and ended, and where that has led you in your approach today. Stew
Unfortunately they were essentially drive-by ravings. Some were people who cornered me after a service while others wanted to interact with me via email. All of them were short-lived because it seemed the goal wasn’t to dialogue but to dump their view and run…