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'God Is Not a Genie in a Bottle': Ways We Misuse the Bible
'God Is Not a Genie in a Bottle': Ways We Misuse the Bible

What does the text mean to me?

This question, asked in Bible studies and sermons around the world, can lead believers to spiritual renewal. When it is the only question Christians ask of the Bible, warns Eric J. Bargerhuff, faith in Christ can become disconnected from the meaning of given passages. In The Most Misused Verses in the Bible: Surprising Ways God's Word Is Misunderstood (Bethany House), Bargerhuff, until recently a Florida pastor, advocates careful interpretation of Scripture based on attention to context. Owen Strachan, Christian theology and church history professor at Boyce College, spoke with Bargerhuff about how the Bible becomes a mere handbook, and its verses a talisman, when our desires crowd out sound interpretive practices.

Are there specific categories of verses that evangelicals tend to misinterpret?

Our temptation is to interpret the promises of God materially and temporally instead of spiritually and eternally. We Americans have bought into a materialistic, right-now mindset, and so we're tempted to pull verses out of context to fit that mindset. We need to understand that God's greatest desire is to glorify his name. Too often, we interpret God's promises in a way that is appealing to our sinful side. We often grab things out of Scripture and try to use them for our own benefit, instead of taking the necessary steps to submit to Scripture, to be humbled by it.

You critique prayers that uncritically expect God to grant us, well, anything. Like John 14:13: "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son."

God is not a genie in a bottle. Yes, he has a good, pleasing, and perfect will. But this doesn't mean we should pray for whatever we want. We are sinful people ...

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'God Is Not a Genie in a Bottle': Ways We Misuse the Bible
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April 2012

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