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Warped Values and Standing for Truth: Bring Context Back to the Bible

As I read this week’s Adult Bible Study Guide, I was reminded how different people like John Wycliffe played a part in sharing God, with a ripple effect we can still feel today. The lesson also focused on several elements of the great controversy such as the 1260 year prophecy, the history of Smyrna, and the Waldenses. Friday’s reading had a thought-provoking quote I’d like to share.

“God permitted great light to shine upon the minds of these chosen men, . . .but they did not receive all the light that was to be given to the world. . . .He revealed it to the leaders little by little, as it could be received by the people. From century to century, other faithful workers were to follow, to lead the people on still further in the path of reform.”—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, (103).

These words can bring hope to those feeling like they haven’t “arrived” yet in full understanding of the different pieces that each of the reformers built upon. This results in a journey of increased truth for the ages to come. The quote also coincides with a reflection question from Friday, acknowledging how different cultures and environments shape our worldviews. “Your culture is going to promote values, ideas, and moral codes that in some way conflict with what the Bible teaches. After identifying these areas of conflict, how do you see yourself and us, as a church, dealing with these challenges? How do we remain good citizens while at the same time not succumbing to whatever warped values our culture proclaims?” This question assumes a few things. 

  1. Culture will inevitably conflict with the Bible
  2. The reader will identify areas of conflict
  3. We must deal with these challenges 
  4. It may be hard to remain a good citizen when we follow the Bible
  5. Our culture will have warped values

These assumptions raise a few problems. For example, what specifically about our culture conflicts with the Bible? Why is there an assumption that culture will conflict? The undertone within the question says conflict will be experienced by the reader, but what if the reader sees things differently and interprets conflict to be an invitation for understanding God’s love for others? Another problem arises. Why can’t we remain good citizens when we follow the Bible? In fact, if we are following a God of love, can we also expect to be excellent citizens? Lastly, a problem comes up with the concept of warped values. If values are based on biblical truth, and that truth isn’t revealed all at once as the quote mentioned, aren’t values simply values without change? Could personal bias contribute to warped values? I would have loved to have seen a question asking, “what are ways, if any, that we tweak the Bible to fit and align with our worldview?” Or, “what, if any, are some ways we misinterpret the Bible that can result in harming people and cultures around us?” 

In all honesty, some terrible things have been done using scripture in the name of “truth.” The Bible has been used as means to “kill the savage and save the man” in early Native American boarding schools. In an article published by Christianity Today, the author notes that “initial investigation results show that approximately 50 percent of federal Indian boarding schools may have received support or involvement from religious institutions or organizations, including funding, infrastructure, and personnel.”

During the 1800s, the Bible was used to defend slavery, with verses taken out of context to support people’s biases. Even now, the scripture is being used in Christian Nationalism. The excuses used to defend these horrible acts are often based on the person’s inner biases. However, overuse of proof-texting can lead to lazy Bible readers. My academy religion teacher used to say, “The three most important rules for Bible study are: context, context, context.”

The Bible gives us so much light. Understanding that light is a gift from God. May we take up the baton reformers passed on to us, and may we continue to seek God’s light beyond mere proof-texting. Let us not use the Word of God to destroy other people, but rather use its principles to propel us further into extending the love of God to all. May we allow God’s word to continually challenge our own biases, breaking down the boxes we’ve created. 

About the author

Krystalynn Westbrook-Martin is the former vice principal for spiritual life at Auburn Adventist Academy. She has served as a minister, teacher, and administrator in the Seventh-day Adventist Church for over two decades. She is currently completing a PhD in Transformative Social Change, with an emphasis in Peace and Justice Studies. More from Krystalynn Westbrook-Martin.
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