Saturday, April 21, 2012

Magical thinking

From a Christianity Today interview with Eric Bargerhuff, the author of The Most Misused Verses in the Bible:
Are there specific categories of verses that evangelicals tend to misinterpret?

Our temptation is to interpret the promises of God materially and temporally instead of spiritually and eternally. We Americans have bought into a materialistic, right-now mindset, and so we're tempted to pull verses out of context to fit that mindset. We need to understand that God's greatest desire is to glorify his name. Too often, we interpret God's promises in a way that is appealing to our sinful side. We often grab things out of Scripture and try to use them for our own benefit, instead of taking the necessary steps to submit to Scripture, to be humbled by it.

You critique prayers that uncritically expect God to grant us, well, anything. Like John 14:13: "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son."

God is not a genie in a bottle. Yes, he has a good, pleasing, and perfect will. But this doesn't mean we should pray for whatever we want. We are sinful people and don't even know what's best for us, as the Book of Romans says. Sometimes we pray with wrong motives. Praying random prayers that are self-centered is not God-honoring. We should seek his will when we pray. ....

Why is Jeremiah 29:11-13 ("'For I know the plans I have for you …'") commonly misinterpreted?

Most people overlook the context of the verse because it speaks to what they want to hear for their life. This was a corporate promise given to the nation of Israel, to a generation that came out of 70 years of captivity in Babylon. We think through an Americanized filter based on our preconceived notions of what blessing is. But God's promises are spiritual promises, not promises of instant gratification. Though God does bless us in many ways, he has not promised us our best life now. This world is not our home, and we should long for a better country. ....
'God Is Not a Genie in a Bottle': Ways We Misuse the Bible | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction