In studying through a difficult passage of Scripture recently, I came across a quote from Charles Spurgeon that applies to every passage of Scripture:
“My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater. I would sooner a hundred times over appear to be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God.”
As important as a systematic and careful theology is for each of us individually, or as a congregation of believers, Spurgeon’s point is well taken.
We must perform the pain-staking labor of incorporating every verse, unaltered and unmanipulated, into our theology.
Too often we may opt for the seemingly easier task of wrestling a single verse of Scripture to fit our religious framework, rather than doing the harder work of wrestling our entire framework to include a single, clear passage of Scripture. It is much simpler to dismiss the potency of some clear-but-problematic verse by simply saying, “It can’t mean what it says, because that doesn’t fit into our overall framework of understanding,” than it is to perform the pain-staking labor of incorporating every verse — unaltered and unmanipulated — into our own theology.
It is interesting (and should be cautionary) that this is exactly what Peter seems to have in mind when he on one hand admits that Paul’s writings include “some things hard to understand” and on the other hand describes “ignorant and unstable” people who respond wrongly to that Pauline complexity by wresting the scriptures to their own ends and thus to “their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16).
When it is my entire framework versus a single text of Scripture, the text must always win.
If there are times when the wisdom of Scripture appears to have a holy tension to it, a complexity or multilayering of truth in it, our goal must not be merely to “simplify” it by explaining it away. Our goal must be to reflect that very tension and complexity in our understanding and teaching of God’s Word.
When it is my entire framework versus a single text of Scripture, the text must always win. And of course, when it does, my framework will be the better for it.