Bnonn Tennant (the B is silent)

Where a recovering ex-atheist skewers things with a sharp two-edged sword

About Language & Interpretation Salvation Mechanics

Can unbelievers understand the Bible?

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2 minutes to read A brief response to an important question, in which I answer yes and no.

A Facebook friend asks, of an apostate in a discussion thread:

What do you make of the statement that he is a nonbeliever yet deeply understands the Bible? It seems contradictory to me, because I deeply understand too. What is he really saying? No one can truly understand God’s patience, love, grace, and impartial judgment, a faith based salvation and His son Jesus Christ and still be a nonbeliever, as I understand. No one can deeply understand the bible and think the world is some big banging mistake.


Most people who claim to understand the Bible are simply mistaken or lying. I see that claim nearly every time I interact with an apostate, and yet in precisely the same ratio those apostates also claim that I don’t follow the Bible because I don’t stone gays, or that the Trinity was only “added” to the Bible at Nicea in 325 AD, or that the prophecies of Jesus are taken “out of context” because they aren’t written like a modern newspaper, or whatever. So obviously there are plenty of people who say they understand the Bible and are just absurdly, excruciatingly wrong.


On the other hand, 1 Corinthians 2:14 says the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. That doesn’t seem to mean that he cannot parse the propositional content of the Bible, and recall it, and explain its meaning—rather, he doesn’t “get” it; he doesn’t grok it; it is comprehensible to him, but it is not sensible to him. He can see what it means, but he cannot see that it is true. It is just like any other myth.

And that is because the appreciation and love of its truth is not something a man who hates God can attain. His depravity stands in the way. He cannot love the truth. When he comprehends its meaning, he hates it. Only the Spirit loves the truth, and so only those who have the Spirit and are taught by the Spirit can love it with him (cf John 6:44–45).

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