Q. My friend told me he does not read reference books in Bible study, saying there are so many different interpretations and opinions that it’s confusing. All he needs is “me and my Bible”. He said, “If you believe everything the books say, you might as well do without books (盡信書不如無書).” He also does not trust leaders in his church, nor well-known pastors. How can I steer him back?
A. While there are many opinions, there are sound rules of hermeneutics by which you can evaluate whether a particular interpretation is valid or not. It is not free for all and everything and anything goes. Your friend has a very high view of himself and a very low view of learning from others. But the fact of the matter is that most things we know we learned from others, our parents, elementary and high school teachers, bosses, books, media etc., even though your friend does not acknowledge them. We always stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, and passed on the lessons they learned through their words and writings.
The Christian life is never meant to be lived in isolation, but in community. To say that one does not need the wisdom of the church in history, the exhortation of fellow believers, the edification of leaders is to be very arrogant and naive about one’s dependence on the body of Christ.
• 1 Co 12:21-26 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
• Eph 4:11-16 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
• Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
There are dozens of “one another” verses in the epistles about how we should relate to each other. For you friend to say “just me and my Bible” sounds pious, but in fact goes against what the Bible taught. There is no place for playing “lone ranger”.