I find it impossible to interpret the Bible without once in a while having to deal with theological presuppositions. Malachi 1:2c-3 is one of those passages where theological presuppositions matter. I generally try not to pick fights or disparage other points of views, but specific passages sometimes present viewpoints or raise issues that force us to step back and try to take a comprehensive view.
I have used “flat-Bible” to describe the theological supposition that every letter, word, verse, chapter, and book of the Bible is equally valid, accurate, true, and authoritative. In this view no room is allowed for human perspectives, misunderstandings, or short-sightedness on the part of the biblical writers. No room is made for unfolding truth, progression in revelation, or correction of earlier viewpoints by later writers. A flat Bible is all God’s. Human authors were prevented by God from interjecting any personal words, ideas, views, prejudices, or perspectives into their works.
The theological idea of a “flat Bible” is inconsistent with the Bible we now possess. If the initial writings were perfect, the perfection has been lost in the transmission of the biblical text by human hands through the generations. Thousands of textual variations exist from centuries of copying and re-copying biblical manuscripts and from translation of the original concepts into the expressions of multiple languages.
With a flat Bible some method must be found to give equal validity to every idea, concept, statement, or viewpoint found in the Bible. I’ve used “John 3:16 Christians” to heighten the tension between the concept articulated in Malachi that God “hated Esau . . . and his inheritance” with what I think is a more complete, comprehensive, and Christian view that “God so loved the world”—which would include Esau and his descendents.
I have used “Calvinists” to describe those whose reading of the Bible has led them to conclude that Malachi’s views must be harmonized with John 3:16 since both are equally valid. The Calvinist’s views (often summarized by TULIP—Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints) presuppose a flat Bible where Malachi’s words must be given equal weight to Jesus’ words. Somehow they are able to rejoice over Malachi 1:2c-3 without finding any tension in John 3:16. For me the tension is too great to construct dogma from a flat Bible.
In today’s “Thinking Aloud,” I have tried to honor the spirit of Malachi’s words and the elements of truth found in them without absolutizing them. As always, your comments and feedback are welcomed.
[Originally posted on Facebook on November 23, 2009.]