Did you know there are more Christian denominations than verses in the bible? Over 45,000 denominations. 31,102 verses.
Why so many?
Denominations usually come from disagreements on what the bible says, how the church should be run, or different styles of worship. Although the core beliefs of Christians generally remain the same there can be vast disagreements between denominations, and more so between individuals. The nature of Jesus. Which parts of the bible are metaphorical and which should be taken literally. Is the bible deeply homophobic? All these questions and more, Christians have very different views on. Yet they all seem to be very sure they have the correct interpretation.
The way we come to truth should be through dialogue and argument, by convincing others that your interpretation is the most reasonable. Instead, what we see is when there is a disagreement, the religion will split.
Are they really concerned with truth, or is it merely about power?
But my focus isn’t on which interpretation of the bible is correct. My question is, why do we need to interpret it anyway?
Let’s get a few assumptions out of the way first. If Christianity is true, then the bible is the single most important document to ever come into the hands of mankind. It is a guide. It tells us how to spend the rest of our existence in the best place possible while also avoiding eternal suffering and pain. Getting this right is the most important thing we need to know. We are talking about an eternity of suffering, after all.
Without the bible we would have no knowledge of Jesus Christ and his teachings. Meaning that it would be impossible for anyone to be saved (according to John 3:16). No one would end up in Heaven with the Big Guy. I suppose God could intervene again and give us a bible 2.0, which if he’s real, I would definitely advocate for because this current version seems a bit outdated.
So if the bible is true, it’s the single most important book to us. Ask any Christian, this is what they will tell you.
Secondly, I have been informed that this God is merciful and endlessly loving. It’s the reason he gave us the bible, so that we may have instructions on how to be saved forever. He WANTS us to believe. He wants us to read the bible, be convinced by it, and accept Jesus Christ as the saviour of mankind so that we may be in Heaven with him.
So… why the need for interpretation? The more people that disagree with what the bible says, the less credibility it has. I look around and see that even its truest believers have firm disagreements on certain aspects of the bible. If the bible is the most important book to mankind, and God wants us to correctly interpret it, why do so many people fail at this?
If I was an all powerful deity who wanted people to believe in the veracity of my claims, firstly, a book written in a time of barley literate sheep herders is not the way to do it. Secondly, if I had to do a book, then I would make it so clear that there was no mistaking my words. As clear as 2 + 2 = 4. No need for interpretation or disagreement. But there are many disagreements. So much so that there are over 45,000 denominations.
Why is that?
The answer is free will, ostensibly. We can use this to interpret the bible how we like. Free will! God doesn’t want to make us believe in him. But I have been told, reliably and repeatedly, throughout my whole life, that God is all powerful. There’s nothing he can’t do. He can create everything from nothing, can create a circle with four corners, but… is unable to convince people of the truth without impinging on their right to free will. Really?
If God were real, all powerful, and wanted us to believe in him, then he would find a way to convince every single one of us of his existence without overriding our free will.
To recapitulate, this argument has three assumptions to it:
1) God is all powerful
2) The bible is the most important book to humankind
3) God wants us to believe the truth
If the bible is true, I want to know. I want to be convinced by it. Regardless of how it would make me feel. I would also like to know how an all powerful God is unable convince the majority of the world that the bible is true. Let alone which interpretation is correct.
The fact that God has not done this is evidence of at least one of three things:
He’s not all powerful. He doesn’t care. Or he doesn’t exist.
Take your pick.