All my life, I have been on a quest to find them: Bible-Believing Christians. However, to this day, I haven’t found a single one – not in myself, and not in others. And I do meet many kind, devoted, and faithful Christians in my travels as a professional Bible story teller. It’s somewhat like bird watching. Occasionally, there’s a rumor that a Bible-Believing Christian has been spotted somewhere, but upon investigation, it turns out to be just a regular Christian. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s not the same.
Sure, there have been Christians who loudly claimed they were Bible-believers, but upon inspection, it was clear this applied only to their theological showpieces and never to the full breadth of the Bible. Anyone can be ‘Biblical’ in the Biblical matters they are most convinced by. But that merits little respect. This is even something that I can live up to!
Do I know that as a Bible-Believing Christian, I should live minimally until everyone has as much as I do? Yes, I know! Do I do it? No, absolutely not!
No, I’m searching for Christians who strive to be Bible-Believing in all words and aspects of the Bible and who don’t stoop to the three main excuses to not take certain commands and texts in the Bible seriously, namely:
- Oh, that’s not for this time…
- Oh, that’s not intended for us…
- Oh, you shouldn’t take that literally…
Perhaps my standards are too high. My litmus test for Bible-Believing is Luke 3:11, where John the Baptist says that if you have two coats, you must give one away. In my eyes, someone who labels themselves as Biblical should, at the very least, have only one coat, one pair of shoes, one pair of pants, one bike, one… everything. A Bible-Believing Christian has only one of everything because everything else has been given away. They are also people who give away all the food they have left to the poor and don’t freeze it or save leftovers in the refrigerator.
I have never met this person. But as I said, perhaps my ideal is too high. I know for myself that I don’t want to comply with it. I do want several coats, shoes, pants, bikes, and of course, multiple vacations. Do I know that as a Bible-Believing Christian, I should live minimally until everyone has as much as I do? Yes, I know! Do I do it? No, absolutely not!
Later, I discovered that every church and Christian organization has its own behavior list labeled as Bible-Believing.
Oh, it’s also entirely possible that I, as an ordinary Christian, don’t understand what being Bible-Believing means, even though I’m supposed to know everything about it. I was, after all, born and raised in an evangelical Bible church that prided itself on being supremely Bible-Believing. In retrospect, this mainly meant there was a long list of things you had to believe and adhere to. Things like:
- You believe that the Bible is God’s inspired and infallible Word from cover to cover, which you should largely live by, although you don’t have to take other things seriously at all (for this, we use the above three excuses…).
- You believe in Dispensationalism, the end times, and that you won’t grow up because Jesus will return before 1980 (that required some adjustment in 1981…).
- You don’t have sex before marriage, you’re heterosexual, and during your courtship, you only touch parts of the other person which you have yourself. Unfortunately, this didn’t apply to our friend John with his man boobs… (we did purity culture a bit different in the Netherlands).
- You don’t smoke, don’t have tattoos, and especially don’t listen to secular rock music (the Beatles? Never heard of them…).
- Women may not hold leadership positions and definitely may not preach in church (although they can perform all these tasks as missionaries in far-off Africa…).
Probably, the list was much longer, but these left the most significant impression on me. My entire youth, I was convinced that this list applied to all Christians worldwide. Later, I discovered that every church and Christian organization has its own list of behaviors that are considered Bible-Believing.
“Young man, that Bible text is no longer applicable to this time.”
I remember well that as a teenager, I wanted to be Bible-Believing above all else, so I fervently adhered to our list. Until the day it went wrong. Not even with sex, but with women. Some of the sisters in our church desperately wanted women to be allowed to preach. The male leadership wanted to put a Biblical stop to this and invited a famous Bible teacher to explain to everyone, but especially these ladies, why this is not Biblical. I was ready that evening with my Bible and notebook at hand. This man was one of my spiritual heroes.
That evening, he read from 1 Timothy 2:8-15. That section starts with men who must lift holy hands in prayer and ends with women not being allowed to teach or have authority. After he had explained why, based on this text, the sisters’ request to preach was un-Biblical, I asked him as a recalcitrant teenager (I had it in me early on) why he had his hands folded during the prayer instead of lifted high.
To this, he uttered the legendary words: “Young man, that Bible text is no longer applicable to this time.”
No one is Bible-Believing. We are all wrestlers who are good in certain aspects that God asks of us and fail in many other aspects.
Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather. Nowhere could I find a time delineation between the first text about men and their holy hands in prayer and the sentences about women who are not allowed to preach. How can you lay down one section as law, which, as a man, you have no trouble with, and not be consistent enough to take the effort to lift your holy hands instead of folding them, which, by the way, is nowhere in the Bible.
This event turned my whole thinking about being Bible-Believing upside down. When can you label yourself ‘ Bible-Believing’? If you’re 100 percent Bible-Believing, or if you’re 100 percent Bible-Believing on your theological hobby horses that cost you nothing, and 0 percent on the other themes in the Bible?
My conclusion was that no Christian manages to be 100 percent Bible-Believing. Nobody is Bible-Believing .We are all wrestlers who are good at certain aspects that God asks of us and who fail in many other aspects.
You would expect that these Bible-Believing people would also be the most gentle and gracious people to other Christians.
If that’s the case, you would expect Christians, who long to be Bible-Believing, to be among the most gentle and gracious people there are. Because if you fail over and over again in your desire, this requires a great deal of brokenness, gentleness, and grace towards yourself. Otherwise, you couldn’t live with yourself. Maybe you’ll need to be able to smile about your desire, your failures, and the amazing love of God that permeates all this. You would expect that these Bible-Believing people would also be the most gentle and gracious people towards other Christians. That they would speak with full love about those who, in turn, desire, fail, and are permeated with God’s love. Unfortunately, this is often not the case.
In my fifty years of experience among Bible-Believing Christians, those who label themselves most strongly as Bible-Believing are often the most judgmental people I have ever encountered in my life.
“How can that be?” you ask.
I’m going to play the amateur psychologist here. I think for many Christians, it’s unbearable to live from a place of constant failure and an unfulfilled desire for Biblical-ness. This means we focus on one or several themes in which we can be 100 percent Biblical and which, at the same time, cost us little effort: like the male Bible teacher whose pet issue is that women should remain silent but doesn’t lift his own hands. Now we can still label ourselves ‘Biblical’. Of course, there will always be Biblical themes in which we fail, but for these, we have three excuses.
“Oh, that’s not for this time…”, said the preacher when confronted with the question of what Paul meant by everyone having something to contribute during the church service. This would, after all, endanger his professionalism, his livelihood, and position.
This longing to be Biblical should not make us judgmental people, but rather people full of compassion, understanding, and love.
“Oh, that’s not meant for us…”, said the wealthy speaker when confronted with Jesus’s words that we should not accumulate treasures on earth. “As long as your possession isn’t a treasure to you, you can have as much of it as you want. You just have to make sure it doesn’t become a treasure. Hey, be careful not to scratch my car…”
“Oh, you shouldn’t take that literally…”, said the heterosexual Bible teacher who is very outspoken about homosexual Christians but certainly appreciates the female beauty around him and still walks around with two functioning eyes. “You don’t really have to gouge out your eye. That’s not meant literally, but the abomination to God certainly is.”
Many a Christian strives for Biblical-ness, but in practice, it seems an unattainable goal. All Christians, no matter how devoted, struggle with certain aspects of Biblical teachings. Precisely for this reason, this longing to be Biblical should not make us judgmental people, but rather people full of compassion, understanding, and love. Because if we all fall short in certain aspects of our faith, then we should also be able to smile at our own imperfections, be empathetic to others’ struggles, and find comfort in the overwhelming love of God that continues to embrace us despite everything.
Or is my bar still set too high?
Have you read some my other articles:
- Secularisation: Are Evangelicals Losing Their Young People?
- I’m Trying to Follow Jesus, but I Can’t Keep Up with His Pace
Matt Vlaardingerbroek, a former seasoned church planter and pastor in Holland’s inner cities, brings Bible stories to life through ventriloquism and magic. He’s authored three books, and founded www.creativekidswork.com, providing over 1,500 innovative Sunday school activities worldwide.