4-6 Why is the Bible Confusing to so Many?
You could almost forgive someone for thinking that the Bible is written in a way which almost invites us to misinterpret it. Take what the Bible says about the devil as an example. The casual Bible reader may open Matthew 4 and conclude that the devil is a person who lives in deserts and tries to stop people being obedient to God. And if he flicks over to Rev. 12, he will think that the devil is a dragon who was thrown down from Heaven: because that's what the Bible says. And Job 1 says satan was an Angel who talked to God, presumably (to the careless reader) in Heaven, and then zapped Job with problems. But we know that all this is actually not the case, if you read the records carefully. Many times I can recall doctrinal conversations with the likes of J.W.s where I want to say: 'Yes, I know that's what it seems, I agree; but the general teaching of the Bible, under the surface, is quite the opposite. But until you give your heart to wanting to find God's truth, that's how you'll always see it'. Thus the superficial Bible reader will be deceived by God's word into believing things which are a false Gospel; a system of understanding which has an appearance of the Gospel, but which is actually an anti-Gospel (cp. 2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6). The fact that so many apparently sincere Bible readers are so wrong shows that there is a power of delusion at work greater than those people just making a few mistakes in their Bible exposition. After all, how can we believe in a 'trinity'? The Bible is so clearly against this idea. But millions read their Bibles (after a fashion) and believe in the 'trinity' idea. The super-human power of deceit which is at work is from God. The hobbyists, the part-timers, those who in their hearts are not wholeheartedly committed to God's Truth, are deceived.
And this leads me on to a serious issue. If we continue to treat our spiritual lives on the 'hobby' level, God isn't indifferent. The Bible then becomes confusing. When you or I meet a brother or sister who clearly show little interest in daily studying the word or in making the Truth the central thing in their lives, we may be sad, we may gently plead with them, but at the end we can't do anything else. " At the end of the day" , we say, " it's their problem, I can't do any more" . And it's tempting to think that God sees things likewise. But He doesn't. He isn't passive to such indifference. He actively does something to those who treat their relationship with Him as a hobby: He actively deceives them. The idea of " the God of Truth" deceiving people may seem strange at first. But consider the following evidence:
- God deceived prophets to speak things in His Name which were actually false (1 Kings 22:20-22; Ez. 14:9). He chose Israel's delusions by making their idols answer them (Is. 66:3,4). Jeremiah feared God had deceived him (Jer. 20:7)- showing he knew such a thing was possible. Dt. 13:1-3 warns Israel not to believe prophets whose prophecies came true although they taught false doctrines, because they may have been raised up to test their obedience. God deceived Israel by telling them about the peace which would come on Jerusalem in the future Kingdom; they didn't consider the other prophecies which were given at the same time concerning their imminent judgment, and therefore they thought that God was pleased with them and was about to establish the Messianic Kingdom; when actually the very opposite was about to happen (Jer. 4:10). This is why the Bible is confusing.
- God gave Israel bad laws (referring to the Halachas?) so that they would go further away from Him (Ez. 20:25). He must have done this by inspiring men to say things which were genuinely communicated by God, but which were false.
- The foolish heart of Israel was darkened by somebody, the Greek implies (Rom. 1:21)- and because there is no devil, that person was God. God gave them a mind which wanted to practice homosexuality and lesbianism (v.28), and therefore they received a recompense appropriate to the delusion which they had been given (v. 27 Gk.). Note that their punishment was to be given and encouraged in homosexual tendencies (diseases like AIDS are the result of upsetting nature's balance rather than the recompense spoken of in Romans 1).
- The Lord spoke in parables so that Israel would be deceived (unless they made specific search of the meaning of the parable) and therefore would not come to salvation. This fact is hard to get round for those who feel God isn't responsible for deception. Isaiah spoke likewise (Is. 6:9,10; 29:10,11). The Angels will work in such a way as to allow the world to be deceived at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:3,8).
- The apostate members of the ecclesia, both in Old and New Testaments, sunk to the most unbelievable levels, but sincerely felt that they were doing God's will. These things included killing righteous prophets, turning the breaking of bread into a drunken orgy, and turning prostitution within the ecclesia into a spiritual act. For brethren to come to the conclusion that such things were the will of God surely they were not just misinterpreting Scripture. There was an extra-human power of delusion at work. And seeing there is no devil, it must have been God.
- 2 Thess. 2:9-11 is the classic proof of this. This passage explains clearly why the Bible is so confusing. God plagued the first century ecclesia with false brethren who could work impressive miracles; because " they received not the love of the truth (they treated it as a hobby)...God shall send them strong delusion, that they might believe a lie" . God deceived brethren in the run up to AD70- it's that plain. And the events of AD70 are typical of our last days.
- 2 Thess. 2 has many connections with the Olivet Prophecy. The idea of brethren being deceived at the time of Christ's " coming" connects with Mt. 24:5,11,24 describing 'the majority' (Gk.) of the latter day ecclesia being " deceived" . 2 Thess. 2:11 says that this deception is sent by God because they refuse to love the Truth. The conclusion is hard to avoid: in our last days, the majority of us will be deceived because we don't " love the truth" - it's no more than a hobby. Whether we have yet reached that situation must remain an open question.
- God worked false miracles at the time of AD70, according to 2 Thess. 2:9-11. This means that the 'miracles' claimed by some false religions may be actual miracles; God allows them to be done because He wishes to deceive such people.
If we accept the above thesis, we can better understand why God has allowed His word to be translated in such a way as seems almost intended to mislead. We must all have pondered why exactly God allowed " Gehenna" to be interpreted rather than transferred as a proper noun; why nephesh was so misleadingly translated " soul" in the AV; why " satan" wasn't translated " adversary" as it should have been, etc. There are whole verses whose translation in nearly all versions which might seem to hopelessly confuse the seeker for truth (e.g. " Today shalt thou be with me in paradise" , or " When he cometh into the world, he saith...a body hast thou prepared me" , Lk. 23:46; Heb. 10:5). Amazingly, these bad translations have never been a serious impediment to even the most simple person who genuinely wants to find the Truth. I find this nigh on a miracle. From this alone it seems clear that the genuine seeker of Truth will always find it, but the Bible is written in such a way, and its translation has been over-ruled in such a way, as to deceive the insincere or uncalled reader into thinking that they have found the Truth when actually they haven't. Why is the Bible so confusing? Here surely we have an answer.
Occasionally one meets the attitude amongst us that although other religions do not have all the doctrinal truths which we have, they are still sincere believers and we should treat them as such. The impression is given that we should count ourselves as lucky that we have greater doctrinal truths than them, but not think that such differences affect their standing before God. But the fact is, if you agree with the thesis presented above, the members of these religions have been deceived by God into the doctrinal positions they are in, and their deception is a sign of His displeasure with their 'hobbyist' approach to Him.
It isn't only the apostate members of the world's false religions who are deceived by God. Such deception can be frequently seen operating in the weak Christian. Daily Bible reading is skipped, the breaking of bread forgotten about (for those in isolation), prayer pushed into the background, meals gulped down with no further thought for the Father who provides, self-examination never tackled... and yet the brother or sister feels they have come to a higher spiritual level, whereby as they understand it even from the Bible (e.g.) God quite understands if we marry out of the faith, or (e.g.) they come to the 'realization' that actually friendship with the world, or total commitment to our careers, is really serving God, or that really, doctrine doesn't matter... And so their real fellowship with God slips away, but they are convinced that actually they are spiritually growing into a higher relationship with God. God, working through their deceitful natures, has deceived them. For this reason the Truth is in one sense the most dangerous thing in the world. It can destroy us, blow us apart; God can terribly, terribly deceive us, until at judgment day we gnash our teeth in white hot rage against Him and ourselves (Is. 45:24). God has written the Bible in such a way, whereby the majority of readers are deceived by His way of writing into thinking that they have the Truth when they don't. Once we appreciate this, the wonder of the fact that we do have, in basic terms " the truth of the Gospel" should really touch our hearts. The Truth is precious, very precious, we must hold it like diamonds, study it, meditate upon it, make it our life. For it will gloriously save us, or miserably destroy us if we neglect it, and the Bible will become confusing to us.