One thing that Christians ask often is why different churches can offer different teachings based on the same exact text. If you’ve been a member of different churches throughout your life, you’ve likely found that not all pastors teach exactly the same thing, as each one tends to have their own interpretation of the Bible.
Today, we’ll be talking about why this is the case, and what it means for you as a Christian. After all, we understand that by joining a church, you wish to hear the proper word of God, uninfluenced by human interpretation in any way.
#1: Different Schools of Thought
One reason why different pastors can interpret the Bible differently is because they don’t all train under the same theological scholars. Pastors who have gone to Bible school work closely with their teachers as they go through the Bible, and it’s hard not to be influenced by the person who taught you what the Bible is actually saying.
#2: Much of the Bible is Left to Interpretation
As much as we often like to deny it, a lot of the Bible is left to interpretation, and one thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t necessarily an accident. The Bible is full of metaphors and symbolism, and it’s likely that God has done this on purpose, as we have the free will to decide how we would like to digest that which God is saying to us.
Let’s start with Genesis. Even on the first page of text in the Bible, pastors disagree. The creation of the world, as explained through Genesis, can be extremely literal, a condensed account or a complete metaphor, depending on which pastor you ask.
#3: Different Translations Can Complicate Matters
Another thing that can make things tricky is that the Bible has been translated many, many times throughout history. Subtle differences in translations can lead pastors to believe totally opposing things about what the text is saying. And, of course, many Christians believe that their translation and only their translation is completely accurate.
Does it Really Matter in the End?
So, what does this mean for a person of faith who is in search of the truth? Well, maybe differences in interpretation aren’t as serious as you think. What matters is that your pastor refers to the Bible rather than corrupting God’s word with their own personal views. This is the real issue that we hear about in churches.
A pastor’s responsibility is to speak on God’s word in a way that a large congregation can follow, digest, internalize and draw inspiration from. Some differences in interpretations are divisive than others, of course, but as long as you feel that the pastor is speaking from the Bible and not his or her own voice, you should feel good about being a member of their church.
And, as you read the Bible throughout your life, you could very well find that you interpret a passage in a way that’s different from your pastor. That’s okay too. Speak to God yourself and ask Him for guidance as you process His word, and you’ll understand the Bible in the way that He meant for it to be understood.
The Overall Message Can Still Be the Same
Due to the nature of the Bible, it’s all but inevitable that different pastors will interpret certain aspects of it differently. After all, this is partly why there are so many different sects of Christianity in our country. The key is finding a pastor who references the Bible as much as possible and doesn’t distort the word of God with his own personal opinions and biases.