Does the Bible contradict itself? How can a good God continue to allow pain and suffering? Why does God choose some people and seem to reject others?
Most Christians would agree the Bible is our source of truth. But how can there be so many different interpretations of the truth? Which one is right?
To interpret the Bible correctly requires keeping in mind two ideas. First: God authored it, so only He can correctly communicate His intentions. God’s Spirit within the believer guides the believer into truth. Second: Your presuppositions can make or break your interpretation. If your foundation is faulty, so will be the rest of the building.
I’m assuming you are a believer and want to know God’s opinion about the truth. So, I’m going to focus on the second idea: how to form a solid foundation. Because we read top to bottom, I’m going to flip my analogy upside-down.
Instead of a building, I want you to imagine a pyramid. There’s only room for one block at the top. The next layer has a few more blocks, and the third layer even more. To understand the Bible, you must know the one truth that is higher than all others. This truth helps interpret all the levels below it.
A hierarchy is needed to know what is most important. You have a pyramid of values that determines how you will interpret the Bible.
Putting this truth at the top establishes your basic worldview. God created you. When you are trying to understand what the Bible has to say about your life, you first realize that God is real. See Hebrews 11:6.
God is Good
One level down you can establish that God is perfect. In all that God does, He is working for good. He can’t commit an evil act. This prevents you from questioning God’s motives. See Mark 10:18.
God is Love
Around the same level as good, we can say that God is love. He cares about you personally and wants an intimate connection. He wants to know you, and He wants you to know Him. See 1 John 4:8.
God is Higher
God always understands us, but we can’t always understand Him. See Isaiah 55:8-9 and Proverbs 3:5-6.
God is in Control
God is all-powerful. God has the power to change the outcome of history. When it unfolds the way it does, God is allowing it that way for His purposes. This allows us to trust God even when life is confusing and difficult. See Psalm 31:13-14.
God Allows Suffering
God continues to allow evil to exist. God allows bad things to happen. God allows suffering to continue.
How can these statements about God help strengthen your doubt? You might not have a full answer to why God allows suffering. Certainly, when He knows the time is right, the world as we know it will be gone and we’ll be in heaven. Until then, it’s important that we don’t lose our way.
When you’re in pain and suffering, look up farther in the pyramid. God is in control. God’s ways are higher. God is love. God is good. God exists. These are true whether your life is going well or not-so-well. These are true whether someone else’s life is going well or not-so-well.
If you start doubting the top of the pyramid, where will that lead you? How would your life be different if “God doesn’t exist” sat at the top?
Next time you read something in the Bible that confuses you or causes doubt, refer to your hierarchy of truth. It should save you from having to rebuild a pyramid every time you encounter a difficult life event.
Occasionally, you might find your pyramid has a weak point which needs to be strengthened. For example, you might need to know God’s forgiveness and therefore, “God is love” fits closer to the top. This isn’t to say that truth can change but only recognizes that as you grow, your understanding of what belongs at the top can shift some.
What struggles cause you to doubt? What helps you remain faithful (full of faith) despite circumstances?