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Different Interpretations


By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries



One of the most frequent complaints we receive at GotQuestions.org is in regards to why we do not present alternative viewpoints in our answers. If there is more than one biblically plausible understanding of a passage or issue, we should present the different viewpoints in an answer — so the argument goes.

First, let it be said, we sometimes do present multiple interpretations in our articles. We do this when understanding the alternate viewpoints is helpful in understanding how we arrive at what we believe to be the correct interpretation. Sometimes seeing the different possibilities and the flaws therein is valuable in arriving at what is most likely the biblically correct viewpoint.

On the other hand, there are other times when presenting multiple viewpoints does nothing but create confusion. In our extensive experience, when people ask us questions, they almost always want brief, to-the-point, succinct, and easy-to-understand answers. They do not want a "here are the seven possible interpretations of this passage, and here is the one we prefer" dissertation.

I recently had a dialogue with a very respectful and well-intentioned individual who wanted the Arminian interpretation of an issue to be presented alongside the Calvinist interpretation. When I asked him if he wrote an article on the issue if he would present the Calvinist viewpoint alongside his Arminian viewpoint, he never responded. That, to me, seems to be the core issue. It is not that people truly think we need to present alternative viewpoints on every issue. All they really want is for us to give alternative viewpoints when they disagree with the viewpoint we present.

The problem is, once you start giving alternative viewpoints, where do you draw the line? Do we only have to present the Calvinist and Arminian viewpoints? What about the Molinist viewpoint? What about the Open Theist viewpoint? Further, which versions of Calvinism and Arminianism do we present? Full Calvinism and full Arminianism? What about moderate Calvinism and moderate Arminianism? You get the point.

When people ask us questions, they are, inherently, asking us what we think is the correct answer. As a result, that is how we answer questions. We strive to give the answer that is biblically correct. In doing so, we are not claiming the answer we give is the only biblically plausible answer. No, again, we are simply giving the answer that we think is the right answer. Nothing more, nothing less.
There's a time to give different interpretations of Scripture, and times to just say what you believe to be true.tweet
If someone asks us, "What are the different views on the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of humanity?" we will respond with an answer that presents the viewpoints. If someone asks us, "What does John 3:16 mean?" or "Is baptism necessary for salvation?" we are going to give the answer we believe to be correct.

We take our responsibility as teachers of God's Word very seriously (James 3:1). Are we perfect? Of course not. Do we make mistakes? Yes. Are we going to run the risk of potentially compounding our mistakes by stirring up confusion through unnecessarily presenting multiple viewpoints? Nope.



Image Credit: Frank Müller; "Red Doors/Rote Türen"; Creative Commons



TagsBiblical-Truth  | Got-Questions?  | Theological-Beliefs



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Published 2-9-16