New Glasses: How Fundamental Assumptions Influence EVERYTHING

Are you holding on to an assumption or a set of assumptions that you’ve blindly accepted and haven’t thought all the way through?

Recently, there’ve been a string of videos on social media that I love to watch every time they float through my stream. The videos show the experience of a colorblind person being given a pair of glasses that, when worn, allow them to see colors for the very first time. Even though I’ve seen about a half-dozen of these videos, it never gets old for me to see how the newly color-sighted person reacts as they put the glasses on. First, it’s a slow realization of what’s happening. They often take the glasses on and off, and compare the differences in what they see. Then, as the reality of their new sight really sinks in, many of them shed tears of joy.

What a mind-blowing experience to see your everyday, ordinary surroundings in a new and beautiful way.

If you’ll hang with me for a bit, I want to tell you about an experience that I’ve had. An experience where I “put on glasses” that I’d looked at, but put aside as worthless, years ago. The results has been life changing — an amazing change of view — and it’s still blowing my mind.

About five years ago, I was really trying to understand Jesus’ teachings more fully while reading through the book of Matthew. I felt like I just wasn’t getting all that Jesus was teaching. The parables, in particular, seemed to contain so much that I had no way to grasp. Did I need special spiritual insight to fully understand? Where there cultural nuances that I couldn’t perceive with my 21st century mind? What exactly was he describing with terms like “the kingdom of heaven”?

And so I began to look for ways to gain more insight.

I was raised within the Christian Missionary Alliance and later Conservative Baptist traditions of Christianity. Included in each of these traditions is the foundational belief in the inerrancy of scripture, meaning that God had inspired each and every word and therefore, it was without error. “God said it, and I believe it, and that settles it for me…” is how the children’s song goes.

With this assumption always guiding my spiritual walk, I sought to discover the “original intent” of the words of Jesus. Since Jesus was a Jewish rabbi, I began to study Jewish thought as it was during his lifetime. There were amazing details that I hadn’t seen before. I also began to look at the individual words. If each word was divinely inspired, then I needed to know what the words meant in Aramaic as well as Greek since the text was originally written in one of these languages. I even purchased a Hebrew translation of the four gospel accounts — hoping to gain more insight into the Jewish-ness of the text.

It was weird, though. Logically, it seemed to me that I was getting closer and closer to the truth of Jesus’ message. I was studying every detail and striving for an unbiased exegesis of the text. But my spiritual life had begun to run dry. There was no fruit from these labors. When I approached the text, I was “all up in my head” trying to make discernments about what was right and what was wrong. I was also learning enough about the text to realize that some of the doctrines that I’d parroted all of my life weren’t as bullet-proof as I had once believed. But…I’d also been taught my whole life that there was always a right answer.

So I started making my own judgments.

Using this fervent determination of mine to come to the absolute truth of the Bible , I began to attempt to discern what the correct doctrine should be. My big questions were…

  • Have the laws of the old testament really been “done away with”? (Matthew 5:18) We can’t pick and choose what part of the Bible to obey… right?
  • Who can be called “Israel” today? Do I really believe in replacement theology? If not, then what?
  • Why do we celebrate holidays like Easter and Christmas which have pagan origins and not the Biblical feast days like Passover, Shavuot, Yom Kippur, and the like?

My head was spinning. But, suffice it to say… after the dust and fury of discernment had settled, I found myself all alone in a little, tiny, box of one. I had no room to breathe — no room for mystery, no room for questions, and no room for other viewpoints.

I began to wonder if something might be wrong with my approach. No matter how I processed the information, the destination was still one of exclusivity determined by interpretation. And… who’s to say which interpretation is correct? There’s certainly merit in trying to make informed conclusions. But when we’re dealing with a subject matter, like the spiritual, that exists in a space that’s not physical and measurable — but instead is invisible and mysterious — how do we observe “what exists”? Then this idea bubbled to the top of my consciousness: Maybe the only window into what exists in the spiritual world is found in our human experience.

In light of this thought, I began to wonder if my literal approach to the Bible was at the heart of many inconsistencies I was experiencing. These occurred between what I was holding to as a belief because the Bible said so, and what I experienced in life. What if the Bible — instead of being God’s direct, indisputable truth — was a wonderful tapestry of fallible human “windows” of experiences with him? This vantage point would allow room for growth and alignment for the incongruence I was feeling.

As I began to consider this new outlook to approaching the Bible, I felt like I was putting on “new glasses”. My “old glasses” of Biblical inerrancy had made these glasses seem not worthy of consideration. But now that I had begun to take off my old glasses — I began to see the new glasses in a different light. So I gave them a try. This is what I’ve seen so far…

With them, I can read the accounts written in the Old Testament like in 1 Samuel 15:3 where Samuel tells Saul that God has commanded the Israelites to kill “both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” with the understanding that — this was the way of the ancient world. That what Samuel determined as God’s will was highly influenced by the world he lived in and just because it was written down that way doesn’t mean that God dictates who is right and then gives them the permission to destroy and kill. Don’t we all struggle each day to do what God would have us to do? Many times it’s not clear and we do the best we can with the information we have. This seems to be a much more logical reason for Samuels interpretation of God’s instruction. It also releases me from the need to try and weave together theories on “why” a loving God would command such a horrible slaughter of the people he created.

With these new glasses, I can openly rejoice with my friends who can finally marry the person they love. This dissonance was one of the most difficult for me to process over the years. With my old glasses on, my love of God was wrapped up in my unquestioning obedience to his “Word” as stated in the 66 canonized books of the Bible. With my new glasses on, I can view the Biblical prohibition on same-sex relationships as existing in a particular culture in a specific time in human history. This gives me space to observe this type of relationship and admit that love can exist here as so many dear friends have demonstrated to me through their relationships.

With these new glasses, I’m no longer tied to using the Bible alone as a measuring stick for what’s right and what’s wrong. I can freely consider that spiritual truths might be told through vehicles other than the Bible. The ability to do this gives me many viewports through which to view spiritual truth. I can gain greater clarity into their qualities and fresh perspectives into truths that have needed further clarification.

I’m at peace with the cohesiveness of what I see with these glasses. My belief and my experience aren’t in conflict. There’s room for mystery. Room for questions. Room for other viewpoints. And I can breathe for the first time in years.

Fundamental assumptions can influence everything in life. Is there an assumption or a set of assumptions that you’ve accepted, but haven’t thought all the way through? Maybe if you really look at them — you’ll realize that you’d be better off letting them go. And if you let them go, maybe you’ll see colors for the first time — in all their splendid beauty — making the old places new, with vibrance and clarity.

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Writing through faith and doubt.

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Faithe Anne

Faithe Anne

Writing through faith and doubt.

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