The last step of proper interpretation is application. With whatever we are attempting to learn, practical usage will always be the key to true understanding. Theories and suppositions may provide interesting discussion as they should but until they are proven or disproven in the field they aren’t likely to be of much benefit. Those advocating Christianity must view the Bible as something more than a good philosophy if it is to be viewed as something that can change lives in the most practical of ways.
The “word” mentioned throughout the Bible was a reference to something that could be intelligently expressed. Intelligent expression refers to that which can be discussed beyond the point of views and opinions. In advocating the “word,” Jesus was suggesting that intelligent people would be able to engage in a search for the truth and if they were honest in their efforts they would find it. Jesus referred to Himself as the “truth” (John 14:6). By this He meant that His Life was an unveiled reality that agreed with the way He lived. Putting these concepts together, Jesus was saying that He came to intelligently discuss real situations in the lives of real people and to offer real solutions. However, He not only came to discuss them, He came to demonstrate them so that they could be seen as more than just a philosophy. The truth, if it is the truth, will be proven to be so if it is presented intelligently and objectively. William James in his work, The Varieties of Religious Experience, put it this way regarding religion in general: “The uses of religion, its uses to the individual who has it, and the uses of the individual himself to the world, are the best arguments that the truth is in it.”
Belief systems are discredited when what they espouse doesn’t seem to have application and when they cannot be defended through reasonable discussion. It serves no legitimate purpose for someone to be certain about what they believe while at the same time being unconcerned about what they believe could be adequately, that is to say intelligently, represented before a skeptical audience. In an essay entitled, The Suicide of Thought, G. K. Chesterton said, “Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubting about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.” To paraphrase another statement by Chesterton in the essay, The Five Deaths of the Faith, it is not those that oppose Christianity that do it harm, it is those Christians themselves that have a belief system that they do not have a desire or ability to defend. Some might feel Chesterton’s words are hard but they make the point that if something is worth believing, it is worth defending through well thought out explanations of why it should be believed.
Christ did not advocate any type of blind belief system. He certainly did not espouse a system based on His testimony and Life alone. In the Gospel of John, chapter 5, verses 32 through 39, He said that if all He had was what He felt to be true as a personal witness, His witness would in fact not be true. He gave four other substantiating factors that would validate a person’s system of belief. Those points relate to associations with individuals or organizations that have the same beliefs, the efficient and demonstrative activities that result from one’s belief system, an intelligent understanding of the function of the Godhead and the Bible itself as a type of certification for the type of life that is chosen. If those five points of objective evidence are in agreement, then what a person says they believe is in fact, believable. It is a simple yet profound formula that anyone can understand and apply. The goal of any belief system should not be conversion; it should be in assisting someone to give birth to their own understanding. If this does take place through an intelligent, honest consideration, conversion to the truth is much more likely.
Dr. M. Hildon Guy is the President of the University of Christian Studies and Seminary in Eagle River, Alaska. He has doctorates in theology, education, counseling and apologetics. (www.universityofcss.org)