If we are to live a vibrant and confident Christian life, theological thinking cannot be a mere option. Rather, we are instructed to continually meditate on Scripture:
* “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:2-3)
When we meditate on the Word, we try to understand it, but we are faced with numerous apparent contradictions that we need to resolve.
Some of these "contradictions" are being thrust upon us by our post-Christian society. For example, in his zeal to flaunt Bible "contradictions," New Testament critic, Bart Ehrman, claims that the Pastoral Epistles present a different means of salvation than Paul's other Epistles:
* For Paul himself, only through the death and resurrection of Jesus can a person be saved. And for the Pastorals? [Ehrman regards the Pastorals as forgeries]. For women, at least, we're told in 1 Timothy 2 that they will "be saved" by bearing children. (Forged, 100)
This is a contradiction, right? Not exactly! Ehrman fails to tell us that "saved" can be used in at least two different ways:
1. Saved from eternal damnation, or
2. Saved from death!
The verse that Ehrman cites as a proof of a contradiction, actually means that a woman bearing a child will be saved from the threat of death, not damnation:
* “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”(1 Timothy 2:13-15)
Her life will be physically "saved" through the ordeal of childbearing. This verse has nothing to do with eternal salvation. How can we be sure that Paul is using definition #2? The context takes us back to Eve's original sin and the curse:
* To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” (Genesis 3:16)
In light of this, 1 Timothy promises that the woman "will be saved [from death] through childbearing." Contradiction resolved!
If we fail to reconcile these apparent contradictions, they will whittle away at our growth, confidence, clarity, and our willingness to be a light. If you have not had a child, this verse might have destroyed your confidence that you indeed belong to Christ. This uncertainty might either give rise to doubts about your salvation or even doubts that the Christian Faith makes any sense at all.
When we do theological thinking, we attempt to resolve the paradoxes in order in understand Scripture in a consistent and harmonious way. Only after we do this, can we live consistently and confidently. We have no other reasonable choice.
Here is another confusion-making verse:
* “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” (I John 3:6 ; NKJV)
This verse is also particularly disturbing. We all sin, and John even admits this (1 John 1:8-10), but here, John warns us that if we do sin, we are not saved!
How do we react to this? Most of the time, we just shelve our doubts, thinking that they will no longer bother us. However, it doesn't work that way. If we fail to resolve this matter, our doubts will inevitably resurface in other areas. Instead, we have to confront them.
Often, we lack the knowledge and training to do so. This is why God has given the church teachers and pastors:
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:11-14)
To resolve this problem, we will need a pastor, teacher, or at least a good commentary to inform us that "to sin" in 1 John can also be translated, "to keep on sinning" as the ESV translates it:
* “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:6 ESV)
Consequently, it is not sins that damn us, but an unrepentant lifestyle of purposeful sinning.
This brings our understanding into harmony. What a relief! However, this relief is purchased at the price of seriously meditating on the Word - theology - to resolve these problems. And this brings rest and peace.