Author(s): Nigel Beynon
It’s all a matter of interpretation. Most conversations I've had with non-Christians about the Bible end up there sooner or later. It’s all a matter of interpretation. Sure, you say it means that Jesus is God and that sex outside marriage is wrong and that heaven is only for Christians, but maybe for me it means that Jesus was just a good teacher and sex with anyone is OK as long as you both want it and heaven is for everybody. It’s all just a matter of interpretation. Actually, we've all been conditioned to think like that. It’s part of the whole philosophical movement called postmodernism, and over the last few decades it has infiltrated the TV shows that we watch and the classrooms that we sit in. Postmodernism teaches that when I come to a piece of literature such as the Bible, what matters is not what it means, but what it means for me. And that might be different from what it means for you. And that's OK. I wonder if you've ever been in a Bible study like this: Leader: Does anyone have any thoughts about verse 1? Person A: I think it’s talking about X, and . . . (blah, blah) . . . Person B: Yes, I see what you’re saying Person A and I totally respect you. For me though it means Y, the opposite of X. Leader: Mmmm. Thank you both. Let s move on to verse 2. That's postmodernism in action. The text means one thing for one person and the complete opposite for another, but both interpretations are to be respected and treated as equally valid. But the apostle Paul doesn't see it like that. He thinks that there is a right and a wrong way to understand the Bible. The book is based on the idea of a toolkit. Each chapter introduces you to a separate tool and explains how it works. Although there are illustrations from the Bible throughout, we'll sometimes spend a bit longer on a Worked example to show you how that particular tool really can help us discover something exciting and relevant that the Bible is saying. Finally, the Dig deeper! boxes give you a chance to practise using the tools for yourself. At the end we've included a brief appendix with a suggestion of how you might use the toolkit concept in your small group.