It's been said in the Bible, “If you are blind, you will have no sin but now that you claim that you see, your sins remain. ” We claim to be the children of God, doing His will and driven by the Holy Spirit, but then why should our teachings be different? No one has ever seen God, and it's said, “through the Spirit we will know Him. ” If we know Him by the Spirit, should we by the same Spirit be in agreement? If not so, I believe someone's teaching is false and misleading.
Some years ago I was reading a book and the author asked the same question. He made the point that many men go to seminary to learn about the Bible. They might attend Dallas Theological Seminary, Western Seminary, Grace Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, some other seminary. Yet when they graduate, they tend to believe what they were taught at the seminary they attended. They usually disagree with students from other seminaries in key areas of theology. Supposedly these students are being taught by highly educated, spiritually mature believers. If so, why does this occur since 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 and 1 John 2:27 say that the Holy Spirit is the one who teaches and guides all believers into the truth.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. (NASB) 1 Corinthians 2:12-13
As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. (NASB) 1 John 2:27
Why do men, students and seminary professors, who study the same Bible and are taught by the same Spirit disagree with one another in some key areas of theology? The question is an important one and the answer is found in scripture.
First, there are many people who study the Bible and explain its meaning. Unfortunately, some of them claim to be Christians but are not real Christians. Jesus reminded us of this truth in the Sermon on the Mount when He said this,
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'” (NASB) Matt. 7:21-23
Anyone can read and study the Bible, but 1 Cor. 2:14 reminds us that the non-believer is at a disadvantage. The entire Bible can be understood only by Christians. Christians need the Holy Spirit to understand. Non-Christians do not have the Holy Spirit and cannot understand all of the Bible. As a result, disagreements will occur between Christians and non-Christians.
Second, it is important to realize that the vast majority of Protestants who have remained true to the teachings of Jesus Christ and His apostles almost unanimously agree on all of the major doctrines of the Bible such as: the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, the trinity, the deity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, the virgin birth, salvation, angels, demons, Satan, the Lordship and Kingship of Jesus, heaven, the character of God, man’s fallen nature, man’s need for a Savior, and that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ. These are just a few examples. The message is simple: there is agreement on most of the major doctrines.
Third, disagreement usually occurs on other “less important doctrines” such as, “Does a person have a body, soul, and spirit or just a body and spirit?” Another one is “Does God give believers one or multiple spiritual gifts?” These are examples. But our question still exists: “Why are there disagreements?” The Apostle Peter gives us several clues to why disagreements occur in 2 Peter 3:15-16.
. . . our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. (NASB) 2 Peter 3:15-16
Peter’s first clue is that even the Apostle Peter had difficulty understanding some of the things that the Apostle Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, had written. Some parts of scripture are hard to understand even when the Holy Spirit is guiding us, due to our finite minds. God’s mind is infinitely greater. That is the message of Peter. But how does that apply to our question? The answer is that some of us will not understand some parts of scripture and consequently disagreements will occur.
Second, the Apostle Peter reveals that some people were teaching scripture who had little or no training in the Bible, no knowledge of the history and culture of Jesus’ time, or knowledge of the Hebrew and Greek language of the Bible. They read a passage of scripture and assumed that all one needs to know are the written words in the verse they were reading. They lacked some basic principles of biblical interpretation. The document “How To Study The Bible” is a great first step toward understanding how to interpret the Bible.
Third, it is easy for a teachers or preachers to get trapped in the culture of “their time” or to be greatly influenced by it. When they seek to interpret the passage they are studying, they change its meaning in order to make it fit into the culture in which they live. This changes the meaning of the writer. Everyone struggles with this issue. One way to minimize this problem is to review the interpretation of various authors covering a span of many hundreds of years. Then the teacher and preacher must compare their understanding and decide who is correct.
Some teachers and preachers become preoccupied with trivia and speculations about the meaning of scriptural passages.
As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. (NASB) 1 Timothy 1:3-4
They may be untaught or have a passion for the “interesting” and “exciting.” Some become preoccupied with seeking truth for the sake of seeking truth. The pursuit of knowledge can become a god for some. As a result, some stray from the truth.
For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. (NASB) 1 Timothy 1:6-7
A common technique among debaters is to raise the volume of one’s voice and make bold gestures when one makes a statement that cannot be proven. Most people will blindly accept the statement as true because of the dynamic presentation.
One of the major reasons that people believe the Bible has different interpretations is that they hear teachers or preachers provide different applications, even though they might agree about the meaning of the passage. For example, two teachers and/or preachers might agree that Hebrews 13:3 teaches us to help those in prison, but they might disagree on how we should respond.
Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. (NASB) Heb. 13:3
Many teachers and preachers today do not actually teach the meaning of the biblical passage. They may read the passage and then spend the majority of their time on applying it – the “so-what” – or telling us how to live. Even though they might agree on the meaning or interpretation of a passage with others, their applications are usually different. If most of the teaching or preaching is spent on application, the impression is left that teachers and preachers disagree about the meaning of scripture. They did not disagree about the meaning of the Bible. They just had different applications. Unfortunately, this not Bible teaching but Bible application.
Finally, God has given some teachers and preachers the spiritual gift of knowledge and some are Spirit filled. Such teachers and preachers will discover the truth of scripture because of God’s supernatural enablement. These men are jewels among Christian teachers and preachers. They are to be valued. God has given them an exceptional ability to understand the meaning of scripture.
There are various reasons why teachers and preachers disagree about the meaning of a passage of scripture. But those who faithfully teach the Bible as the inspired, inerrant Word of God actually agree on the major doctrines of the Bible. Their applications are different, but the basic meaning of the Bible is usually the same. There are some areas of disagreement, but the disagreements come in areas that are hard to understand because of the human nature. Some have great understanding because of the spiritual gift of knowledge.
Suggested Links:Peace With God
Why is the Bible at times difficult to understand?
How To Study The Bible
False Teachers & Their Followers