How do you handle things in the Bible that you don’t like? Do you try to “improve” what the Bible teaches with your own ideas? Do you apologize for its moral stance? In this article, we will see why I call that approach to the Bible the “look-imagine-see” dragon. It is intellectually dishonest and always leads to spiritual infection. This is post #2 in our Healthy Living series from Colossians. Let’s pursue healthy living in Christ and stay spiritually healthy in an unhealthy world.
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The warning of dangerous infection
In the first article in our Healthy Living series, I shared with you that spiritual infections are as real and dangerous as physical infections. The only way to fight or avoid a spiritual infection is to be satisfied by the truth of God that has been given to us in the Bible. Like a prescribed medication or proper nutrition, holding onto God’s truth gives you a strong immune system to fight and prevent infection in your heart and mind. Truth is the prescription for healthy living. The key to spiritual health is to dwell in truth you can know, humbly accept what you can’t know or understand, and discern all teaching through the complete revelation of God’s word. This will help you to stay spiritually healthy in an unhealthy world.
To discern all teaching through the complete revelation of God’s Word means that you must evaluate what you read and hear by comparing it with the whole Bible. None of us can take pieces of the Bible, like a verse or group of verses, and build our thinking on that. Nor should we build our faith on experiences and feelings.
Dangerous infection comes from picking and choosing what you consider to be “truth.” All false teachers through the centuries have taken advantage of people who were not dwelling in the truth portrayed in the whole Bible. Instead, they use what I call a “look-imagine-see” approach to the Bible to get across their viewpoint of what is right or not. I have been so saddened in recent years as I have seen prominent respected Christians pronounce their interpretation of certain scriptures based on this “look-imagine-see” approach to the Bible.
The “Look-Imagine-See” approach to the Bible
What do I mean by the “look-imagine-see” approach to the Bible?
Someone looks at a verse or passage, imagines what they want it to say, and then sees in their mind what they have imagined through twisting word meanings and interpretations. The result of their teaching feels a lot more comfortable with the prevailing cultural views. But it is not intellectually honest. And it really boils down to basing truth on someone’s opinion. Once it starts, it’s like a fiery dragon burning truth in its path. That’s why I call it the “look-imagine-see” dragon.
Cultural influence on Bible study feeds this dragon. The culture entices you to look at a verse and imagine a way for it to fit whatever the culture wants. Then, your imagination sees what you want to see. Many types of false teaching through the years have started this way. The “look-imagine-see dragon” leads to error in any discipline based on truth—science and history as well as the Bible. The brave thing to do is to tame the dragon, at least as far as your own approach to Scripture is concerned.
Although this “look-imagine-see” approach to Scripture has been around for centuries, giving rise to heresies left and right, Darwin introduced the “look-imagine-see” methodology into scientific thinking as he invoked imagination into evolutionary scenarios. He visualized a bear evolving into a whale and human embryos reenacting their reptilian past. When looking at the lower portion of the axial skeleton and seeing this as the place where the embryo is yet to grow during spinal development, those who followed the “look-imagine-see” methodology would “see” a transient “tail” in their imaginations to reinforce their evolutionary bias. But there never is a tail. The embryo grows down to its coccyx, which begins anchoring developing muscles of the pelvic floor.1 (Doing a solid study of Genesis from a creation science perspective will give you more good information like this.)
But evolutionary science is not the only modern user of the “look-imagine-see” method. Bible teaching Christians are using this as well to fit in with culture, to please academics who want to “improve” what the Bible teaches with their own ideas, or to apologize for Christians’ bad behavior and make it better by making Christians wrong in their moral stance. Using the “look-imagine-see” method of Bible interpretation can quickly become a fire-breathing dragon.
So how do you tame the dragon?
Tame the dragon by following the inductive process for Bible study.
The best way is to avoid the “look-imagine-see” way of looking at any verse in the first place. You do that by following the inductive process for Bible study. That’s the process we use in all of our Joyful Walk Bible Studies.
- The inductive process starts with OBSERVATION, looking carefully at what the text actually says.
- The next step is INTERPRETATION, which is trying to understand the author’s intended meaning—to him and to the audience who would read or hear it.
- Once you know what the Bible says and what it means, then you are ready for APPLICATION, which is learning how to live this out in your life.
That is the best way to study the Bible. Look at what’s there. Learn what it means and teaches you. Then, you live it out in your life. When you follow the inductive process for Bible Study, you will be able to confidently dwell in that truth.
Actually, a long-time friend of ours who is now with Jesus used to say there were five steps to the inductive process: observation, observation, observation, then interpretation and application. We can get very lazy in the observation part. We begin to read into the Scriptures what we want to see there instead of making sure we see what IS there.
For example, in all of our Bible Studies of books in the Bible, we start with the ABC’s—Author, Background, and Context. For the book of Colossians, Paul identifies himself as the author of this letter written to the church at Colosse while he was in prison in Rome. Like a doctor, Paul listened to what he heard from the Colossians and about them. He diagnosed that there was an infection in their city, a very serious one. It had to be identified and removed for healing to occur. False teachers were teaching that Jesus was not the Lord, just a lord. They were teaching that faith in Jesus was not enough for them to be spiritual. They needed to add other “experiences” to the mix. To contradict this infection, we find in Colossians the greatest declaration of Christ’s deity and sufficiency found in Scripture.
Tame the dragon by approaching the Bible as sufficient, not needing our “improvement.”
The second way to tame the dragon is to approach the Bible as the breathed-out Word of God as God intended it to be and not subject to human “improvement.” In it, we find what our God considers right and wrong across all nationalities, time periods, cultures, and levels of civilization.
If you study 2 Timothy, you will see how much Paul stressed the importance of sticking to the truth. This is what he wrote in 2 Timothy chapter 3,
All Scripture is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Not liking what it says about any particular issue does not give us license change it to make it easier for everyone to accept.
I don’t know about you, but I want to make sure I am basing my faith on what IS in God’s Word, not something I have heard before and not something I am imagining to be there. So approach the Bible as sufficient, not needing your “improvement.”
Tame the dragon by discerning truth from error using the whole Bible, not just pieces.
The third way to tame the dragon is discern what we read and hear by comparing it with the complete revelation of God’s Word (the whole Bible). I covered that in the first article. We can’t extract pieces of it (that is, a verse or group of verses) and build our foundation on that. Nor should we build our faith on experiences and feelings.
There’s junk out there about God and “what He thinks” so it’s important to really get to know the God of the Bible and how to live our life in Christ truthfully. The Holy Spirit uses the Scripture we read and study to teach us about our God so we can know truth and dwell in that truth.
Dangerous teaching comes from picking and choosing what you consider to be “truth.” All false teachers through the centuries have taken advantage of people who were not dwelling in the truth portrayed in the whole Bible.
I read an article in recent years that emphasized how false teaching comes from picking and choosing what you consider to be “truth.” In “7 False Teachers in the Church Today” by Tim Challies, the author showed how dangerous teaching through the centuries have taken advantage of people who were not dwelling in the truth portrayed in the whole Bible. You may not agree with all his conclusions. But the bottom-line is this: DISCERN TEACHING through the whole lens of God’s Word.
The book of Colossians is all about what believers can know about Christ that is true. The book of Romans and Ephesians clearly teaches what we can know about our relationship with God as believers that is true.
- Dwell in truth you can know.
- Humbly accept the “I don’t know or understand.”
- Discern teaching through the whole lens of God’s Word
Tame the “look-imagine-see” dragon.
Tame the “look-imagine-see” dragon. Don’t let yourself approach the Bible with that mindset. Stop listening to others who do. Consider the Bible as sufficient on its own. Let Jesus satisfy your heart needs with His truth and His love so you can get well and stay well.
As Paul instructed the Colossians,
“See to it that no one…” (Colossians 2:8) and “Do not let anyone…” (Colossians 2: 16)
Just say, “NO!”
Learn more about staying spiritually healthy in an unhealthy world through our Healthy Living Bible Study of Colossians and Philemon (11 lessons). The book of Colossians is all about what believers can know about Christ that is true. It also shows you what God does for you whenever you choose to put your faith in His Son. Colossians shows you how to approach many practical areas of life living God’s way rather than the world’s way. And it helps you build godly relationships with those around you. The Healthy Living Bible Study will help you to get firmly entrenched in truth you can know so that you can dwell there and stay spiritually healthy. We’ll never know all there is to know about God. There will always be some mystery about Him. But there’s plenty enough revealed in the Bible to satisfy your desire to know Him truthfully and to know how to live your life in Christ truthfully. Colossians will also teach you how to live out your faith at work.
Learn how to study the Bible correctly through all of our Joyful Walk Bible Studies.
1 Randy J. Guliuzza, P.E., M.D. 2016. Major Evolutionary Blunders: Haeckel’s Embryos Born of Evolutionary Imagination. Acts & Facts. 45 (11). This is the source of the “look-imagine-see” phrase.
- Healthy Living Bible Study on Amazon
- Graceful Living Bible Study on Amazon
- Satisfied Series 3 Podcasts (Colossians series)
- TRUTH Is the Prescription for Healthy Living
- Tame the “Look-Imagine-See” Dragon
- Escape the Cultural Captivity Infection
- Resist the “Tyranny of the Urgent” Infection
- Stop the “Jesus Is Not Lord over All” Infection
- Conquer the “Manipulation by Guilt” Infection
- Flee the Spiritual Substitutes Infection
- Delete the Karma Infection
- Wipe Out the Narcissism Infection
- Counter the “Work Is Secular” Infection
- Overcome the “Holy Huddle” Infection
- Defeat the Victim Infection
- Angels, feathers, and needing comfort for grief
- Four Steps to Inductive Bible Study on Bible.org
Image credit: open source (fire_dragon_by_paladinpainter-da0tr8p.jpg)