Have you ever seen the scrambled words test?
You are presented with a paragraph of text, and even though the words are scrambled, you can still read it without too much effort. Even though the letters are in the wrong order, your mind can still figure out what each word is, and make connections based on context, allowing you to read the text without too much trouble.
Here is an example: http://www.brainhq.com/brain-resources/brain-teasers/scrambled-text
It seems like our minds are capable of reading meaning into a text that isn’t literally there.
That’s bad news when it comes to Bible study!
I’ve been trying to keep my theological language Biblical, to avoid extra-Biblical terms that might have theological baggage that obscures the meaning of Scripture for me.
Several factors have inspired this, one of which is all the people who kindly write, email, or call up the ministry to tell us that we’re wrong.
Sometimes I stand corrected.
Oftentimes, I’m left perplexed.
People often quote proof-texts against Free Grace Theology that have nothing to do with the point they are trying to make.
Here’s an example. I can’t tell you how many people have told us that simply believing in Jesus’ promise of life is not enough to be saved by quoting James 2:19:
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder (James 2:19).
“So what?” I usually ask. And they usually answer: “Well, that means you can’t just believe with your head and be saved. That’s what the demons do. If you’re going to be born-again, you need a living faith, one that works!”
Well, call me simple, but so far as I can tell, James 2:19 doesn’t say any of those things! I mean, it literally does not mention head faith vs heart faith, the promise of life, or that it’s not enough to simply believe in Jesus’ promise to be born again. And it certainly doesn’t say the demons believe in Jesus’ promise of eternal life!
And yet, people quote this verse to me all the time to prove the grace message is wrong!
The plain words of the verse says that the people in question, as well as the demons, believe “that God is one,” i.e., they’re monotheists.
Do you see that? Monotheism is the only belief being spoken about here.
So how does the idea the people and demons are monotheists prove it’s not enough to believe in Jesus’ promise of life to be eternally saved? How does it prove there’s such a thing as head faith vs heart faith?
I have no idea.
But if you’re going to get a handle on what James 2 means, you might start by recognizing the monotheism detail and start rethinking it from the ground up.
What’s the lesson here? Before you quote a verse to support your position—and I’m preaching to myself now— ask yourself the question, “Does this verse literally say what I think it says?”
You’ll be amazed at how many times you’ve read details into the text that were not actually there.
Your mind is an amazing tool. It can make sense out of scrambled letters. Just be sure it doesn’t also make nonsense by scrambling Scripture.