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Why don't Christians do what the Bible says?

A little while ago, Tony responded to my call for the "hardest Bible question" by asking:

Why don't Christians do what it says?

I started writing a response sometime in 2014 and now I am finally getting around to finishing that response. Obviously, I take all questions seriously!

I had a think, and here's what I came up with.

Is the Bible actually important?

Let me ask you a question: do you think that the bible is important? I figure most Christians would immediately give some sort of positive answer to such a question - "of course it's important!". Nonetheless, I think it's possible, and maybe even likely for many Christians to say that the Bible is important, but to behave differently. Often, a person's actions give away their true beliefs. I think that a substantial number of Christians consider the Bible unimportant for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Perhaps they think for some reason that the importance of the Bible is on par with the importance of other religious texts, such as the Qur'an or Tao-te-Ching.
  • Perhaps they think that importance diminishes with age and therefore since the Bible is very old and historical, it shouldn't be treated as such important book today.
  • Perhaps they've already read it once and don't fancy reading it again.
  • Perhaps they struggle with the idea that it is an authoritative book.
  • A matter of understanding

    In order to successfully obey an instruction, it is necessary to understand the instruction. Therefore, in order to do what the Bible says, it is necessary to actually understand what it says. I think some Christians struggle to understand exactly what the Bible is asking them to do, for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Should we pay attention to the parts of the Bible that some consider to be deprecated? For example, what about all of those bits in the Old Testament?
  • What about those passages in the Bible that have multiple possible interpretations?
  • Should we only obey Jesus, or should we also obey Paul?
  • Is there a hierarchy of importance regarding the things that the Bible says?
  • Psychological reasons

    People so often underestimate the weight that psychological factors affect our reasoning. Even when we really understand something, we can still miss the essence of that thing. When it comes to the Bible, what sort of psychological reasons might come into play in regards to obeying it?

  • Some people may think that the Bible is generally boring or difficult to approach and engage with.
  • Perhaps the sort of language used in the most commonly adopted Bible translations are not as engaging today as they were intended to be when they were first written.
  • Perhaps the Bible asks too much of us and therefore, because we find it too difficult to obey, we drop the whole matter.
  • We see that other people around us don't do what it says, therefore we shouldn't need to put that sort of pressure on ourselves.
  • Cultural reasons

    Let's not forget important cultural considerations:

  • Cultural Christianity leads to people identifying as Christian by name only.
  • Many Christians are happy to get their knowledge from regular sermons rather than reading the Bible for themselves.
  • It has become an eccentric action to read and obey the Bible. For example, atheists seem to want to claim ultimate knowledge and to evangelise a world in which we shouldn't be referring to an "ancient book" such as the Bible.
  • We live in an era of Information Overload, and facilities like the Internet are keeping us too occupied to focus on things like the Bible.
  • How can we do what the Bible says?

    First of all, it is vital to read what the Bible says so that we can know what it says and therefore do what it says. Does this sound a bit obvious to you? Certainly, but Christians don't read the Bible.

    Then, we can try to better understand what the Bible says. There are commentaries all over the internet. There are also apologetics websites all over the internet to help you understand the tricky bits. Just do some searches.

    But it all comes down to this

    Others have contributed to this question, as it is a common question.

    Nonetheless, I think the question that is actually being asked here is not the same as the question that has been phrased.

    We see people all around us claiming to be Christians of some sort, but not acting kindly towards others. To love other people well is the essence of "doing what the Bible says", regardless of their personal attributes or social standing.

    Let's not understate the necessity of a close, personal relationship with God as the basis for everything else that follows in the Christian life. You'll be surprised at how everything else seems to come naturally, and this includes a natural tendency to pick up and read and understand and obey the Bible. And it wouldn't be an obligation.

    More questions?

    The original article asking for questions is still open, so feel free to ask me anything you like! Hopefully, I won't appear to obsess over each question as much as I appeared to do so for this one...

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