We pick and choose what we believe

Years ago, when I worked as a hospital chaplain, I met a very nice man who enjoyed talking about his Roman Catholic faith, but all too often, what he described as his Catholic beliefs were not Catholic at all. These were largely one-way conversations, as he was not really interested in talking with me, but talking at me. Nevertheless, they were interesting.

At the core of his discussions was a belief that the Old Testament, Genesis through Malachi, should be dismissed as having no bearing whatsoever on the beliefs of Christianity. From time-to-time I would try to interject some truth into the conversation by pointing out that the Bible is a continuous story and that the Lord Jesus Christ was very much involved in the Hebrew text. This was not well received.

He told me, “I hate the Old Testament.” I suppose he objected to the times when God’s wrath was chronicled, but without having actually read the accounts, or attempt to understand the context, he had little choice but to believe that God was vengeful and cruel.

When pressed for an explanation as to why he held such an extreme beliefs, he would shut down and get angry. “I don’t want to talk about this,” he would add. Time to change the subject.

We once moved on to the New Testament. He had very limited knowledge of the Gospels and no understanding at all about the writings of the Apostle Paul. He did, however, insist that a person must be a Catholic to go to heaven.

Didn’t believe that Jesus is Jewish

When I told him that Jesus is Jewish, he flatly denied it. His disciples were Jews. They observed Jewish traditions and religious observances. “That’s not true!,” he would blurt at me. Of course, he had never actually read the Bible, any of it, so the only defense he had was to just say it wasn’t true. Unencumbered by any knowledge or truth, he was very confident that his opinion was the right one.

Many people want to pick and choose what they believe about God

I tell you this because so many people will pick and choose what they want to believe when they read or hear about events in the Bible. Some have intellectual arguments, while the vast majority base their opinion on how they “feel” about something. Our sense of justice and right and wrong are different from God’s, so naturally, God must be wrong.

The Bible makes it very clear that God is the center of all things, but so many people have a different idea and believe that the universe centers around them. When God gave man dominion over all the earth, it was like leaving the fox to guard the hen house. People got the idea that they were running to show.

Bible is to be believed on faith and fact

The Bible is to be taken on faith, not just fact. I think that’s why God didn’t take the time to explain a lot of things in detail. It’s like your dad telling you just to believe him and trust him. To be honest, there is more that I do not understand than there are passages in the Bible that I fully grasp.

I ask God for wisdom and understanding and maybe I’ll get it. But knowing that I am not the center of things, I have made the conscious decision to just trust the Bible to be true. There is still plenty of room for intellectual curiosity, study and reflection. I have argued with God about many things, but I have always lost.

To cherry-pick what you want to believe and what you will reject is a very difficult task. What part of the Bible do you throw away. Thomas Jefferson wrote his own version, eliminating what he didn’t want to believe. As serious an intellectual as Jefferson was, his efforts were pure folly in light of God’s perfection. It’s ok to question and it’s ok to discuss, but at the end of the day, God’s word is absolute.