So Many Interpretations of the Bible

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Atheists often point to the many interpretations of the Bible that can be found among Christian denominations as evidence that the Bible itself is unclear/ contradictory/ confusing and therefore could not trusted.

The thing to keep in mind however is that very few Christian denominations actually base their beliefs directly on the Bible. For example:

a) Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches – These two denominations together comprise more than half of all Christians in the world. And, although there are some variations between the two, both of these denominations base their beliefs on Tradition and the Bible inasmuch as it agrees with tradition.

b) The so called “cults” – there are many groups that call themselves Christian that are considered “Cults” by the main-stream churches. Many of these groups either have their own prophets or view their organization itself as a prophet; and, such groups often interpret the Bible based on the views of their prophet. Mormons, for example, base their beliefs on the Book of Mormon and then look for ways to interpret the Bible so that it agrees with their book. Jehovah’s Witnesses look to The Watchtower organization for guidance in how to correctly translate and interpret the Bible.

c) Among the rest of Protestants, a significant fraction belongs to the charismatic/Pentecostal movement where the Holy Spirit allegedly communicates directly with the individual and becomes the interpreter of Scripture.

d) Even among those Protestants that claim to base their beliefs on the Bible alone, what often happens is that the beliefs are based on a few firmly held theological positions. So Calvinists for example feel that a certain view of the gospel is indispensable to the Christian religion and therefore the entire Scripture must be interpreted in light of that view.

In essence, looking at Christianity as a whole, very seldom does one come across a religious group that actually takes the Bible and says,

“Let’s set aside our preconceived ideas, our traditions, what’s been written by past theologians, what various “prophets” might think or even our own opinions and let’s actually read this book, the Bible, to see what the book itself is trying to say.”

The contradicting beliefs of Christian denominations are therefore not a good argument against the Bible since most Christians (by their own acknowledgement) don’t actually get their beliefs directly from the Bible even though they then look for ways to harmonize the Bible with their beliefs.

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