A Question I Was Asked:



Does One Need a Degree in Theology to Understand the Bible, or to Understand God's Will?








Does God ever say what he means and mean what he says, or must one have a degree in theology to enable diving deeply into what others say about the bible? If Rev 20 says "he will reign for thousand years," what is the principle of interpretation that allows us to say that he didn't really mean that? I find this hopelessly confusing.
Is the bible too complicated for the average man? This seems to be the implication of those who teach that it's not just the obvious symbolism that is symbolic, but that it's all smoke and mirrors ... so why should we bother to read something if it requires massive amounts of education from a bunch of people who all seem to disagree with each other?
What is the fear of the Lord?
Who is the head of the church? If it's Jesus, how does he speak, and how does the church listen and receive his leadership?



UK Apologetics Reply:

You have put some really excellent questions, questions which deserve answers and I propose to tackle them.


QUESTION ONE: Does God ever say what he means and mean what he says, or must one have a degree in theology to enable diving deeply into what others say about the Bible?

On the contrary, the Bible is written in such a way that almost everybody can understand its main message: that main and essential message is the Gospel, the message of what Jesus has done and how one may be saved. Let us be sure that we understand what this is: We can be saved where we would otherwise die at the conclusion of our life spans upon this Earth. Not only be saved from death right then but enabled to receive the gift of Eternal Life which only God can bestow.

Eternal Life, then, is freely offered to us, to all who will come to the Lord Jesus. We then - in the form of our souls - live on in bliss in Heaven, until the day comes when Jesus returns to Earth in power and glory, after which all saved souls enter into the New Heavens and New Earth. Is that not a most wonderful promise? That message is present even in the Old Testament, though in veiled form therein, in the New Testament, however, that message is painted in the most ravishing colours: IT IS INCREDIBLY CLEAR!
Is it too difficult to understand? No, even thousands of little children have understood it!

So, the essential message of the Bible is very clear. Regarding the details, they are certainly less clear but God expects believers to put in just a little effort to 'get' the main doctrines and teachings of the Bible. Most Christian believers don't find this too difficult, although there always remain a few areas where opinions might vary.


QUESTION TWO: If Rev 20 says "he will reign for thousand years," what is the principle of interpretation that allows us to say that he didn't really mean that?

He did mean that; the question becomes: how does one understand that meaning, or that truth, in a book which is very obviously replete with symbolism? Look, we need to be sensible about this: we all recognise that even our newspapers contain different forms of writing, there is main news, there is opinion, there might be a gardening column, a 'gossip' column, there might be a cartoon section, a sports section and so on. None of us have any difficulty in separating these things. My questioner mentions the Book of Revelation; when one looks at this section of the Bible it should be immediately obvious to all that this a book in which symbols are freely used, it is a book of of vivid pictures; the book is frequently not literal. A man once said to me, "As far as I am concerned Revelation is literal." Okay, I said, when is the last time you saw a beast with 'seven heads and ten horns'?? Of course, it is not always literal, it is often symbolic, it expresses great spiritual truths in the most sumptuous colours, although there are very clear sections, John's messages to the seven churches, for example. Now, it's true that Revelation 20 states that Christ will reign for a thousand years, and He reigns right now through every single Christian, but the setting of Revelation 20 is mainly in Heaven. Almost all of Christianity has accepted (for getting on for 2,000 years) the teaching that the '1,000 years' (a number which is always symbolic in the Bible) refers to the church age, that is, this was accepted until the rise of the 19th century cults and sects, who changed this teaching and sadly the '1,000 year literal millenium on earth teaching' has spread from them, though mainly in the U.S.

So most of worldwide Christianity has held on to what I believe is the correct teaching, unfortunately, people like John Nelson Darby and Cyrus Scofield popularized the 'literal millenium on Earth' teaching (in the United States, especially, less so in other countries), it is also often (though not always) found in Pentecostalism and in the charismatic movement. Yet that does not prevent those who hold this view from being Christians, they usually only slip into error when questioning the conversion of other believers who don't agree with them! I personally hold and teach the interpretation of Revelation 20 which most of Christianity has thought to be correct for almost two thousand years, and I advocate it. As Martin Luther once said (who also held the same view as myself on the '1,000 years,' by the way), "Here I stand, I can do no other."


QUESTION THREE: Why should we bother to read something if it requires massive amounts of education from a bunch of people who all seem to disagree with each other?
As already stated, it does not require "massive amounts of education" to understand the main message, as well as the warnings of the Bible; thousands of Africans of little education have understood it, as have many many thousands of children. So I reject that argument.

Also, most Christian teachers and theologians don't disagree with each other over the main points of the Christian message at all, they might - and do - question some areas, but they largely accept the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, all the main teachings of the New Testament, you - my questioner - take this too far; there are massive areas of agreement, areas which no serious Christian teacher questions.


QUESTION FOUR: What is the Fear of the Lord?
We should have a healthy fear of disobeying God Who, after all, is the Creator and Sustainer of this world! Just as children normally have a healthy fear of disobeying their parents, this protecting them from many of the dangers of this world.

10. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 11. For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. 12. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer. (Proverbs 9:10-12).


QUESTION FIVE: Who is the head of the church? If it's Jesus, how does he speak, and how does the church listen and receive his leadership?

Jesus Christ is the Head and Leader of His Church, His teachings are already carefully recorded in Scripture and the Holy Spirit continually brings these things to our remembrance. See John 14:16, 14:26; 15:26; 16:7-8; 16:13. It should now be the case that we can now always know and understand Christian teachings through the Church, unfortunately not all parts of the church have been faithful in the detail, nevertheless, it is true to say that the main Christian doctrines are upheld by Christianity. Find all the essential doctrines of Christianity outlined HERE

Robin A. Brace. January 13th, 2018.

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