A bent is a not simply a viewpoint, but it is also a lens that colors the viewpoint. I remember in Seminary the professors wanted us to do extensive research because they were not interested so much in our voice but in whether we understood the information. This in a backward way did also communicate that we as students did not yet have a worthy voice to be listened to. I get it, makes sense as we were still learning, this is the educational process.
At some point however a Pastor is supposed to gain a voice of his own so he can go out and actually minister. I would argue that a true Pastor however truly does not merely gain his own voice but hopefully comes to recognize the voice of God. In other words a good pastor does not discover his voice but he discovers how to hear God.
This is not some ethereal/subjective process that comes about in the ether. Discovering the voice of God is learning how to find God in his revelation. It is learning the hermeneutical process, allowing the writers to speak as they intended, as they were moved by the Spirit, and then allowing the Spirit to inform our understanding as we seek the truth in God’s scriptures. (1 Cor 2:13-15) It is letting his revelation speak and mold us as listeners. If we do not let God’s voice be the driving force of ministry it might just be our own kingdoms we are working on. This is a challenge that all Pastors must wrestle with, else we might just be a man who has discovered his own voice and thus speaks on his own authority. So what he has discovered however might just be his ability to be a speaker but not necessarily the requirement to pastor.
I say this because our bents matter. A pastor must make his bent the Word of God, as I have tried to do so with this blog, because God provides his own authority. This has absolutely nothing to do with an audience. An audience also must recognize the authority of God as they also submit to his voice, but an audience can simply be impressed by a man’s development of his ability to use his voice, whether in writing or speaking. I have no delusions about my abilities, so you are all fine. In other words the listening audience does not a successful ministry make. A truly successful pastor may also have ability with his voice along with God’s but not necessarily. Paul admitted this was true in his own life when he spoke in person. He could write masterfully but in person he was less impressive apparently. (2 Corinthians 10:10)
I say all this because some may want to argue that the objective truth of scripture can’t be known, well objectively, because we are people and not God. Therefore our truth is subjective. I understand the idea of filters and that we are a created order separate from God. But to say we cannot know God’s truth objectively, and thus we must use our own voice and not God’s takes this a bit far. This undermines the efficacy of God’s revelation.
God created us, God condescended to us in his incarnation to absolutely communicate to us. (Philippians 2:5-7) This is why revelation is so important. The beginning of John’s Gospel tells us that the Word of God became flesh in Jesus. The Word of God which has been successfully speaking, now clothed himself in flesh to even better communicate with his creation. Hebrews 1 confirms this by beginning with telling us that God spoke to us through the prophets but in these last days he spoke to us through his Son, and then Jesus leaves additional information with the apostles telling them to teach all that he commanded. (Matt 28:19) Which is what we get when the apostles write. Without revelation, is it absolutely true that we could never understand God, and we would be subjectively just giving opinions. But God gave us his truth not so we could walk away piously saying it can’t be known, or understood or it is not clear enough. Instead we humbly submit to the Word of God employing all our God-given faculties to understand it while humbling seeking help. Jesus obviously believed that his truth could be heard and accepted and obeyed, so much so that he left most of the New Testament to be written by his disciples.
Being a pastor is not about my voice but about God’s voice. The only thing my voice does is draw from my personality and affect my delivery, which is that impressiveness factor that Paul admitted he didn’t have, I admit I may also not have it either. But Paul’s writings are so compelling because he was speaking with God’s voice. He was submitted to the Spirit making the point that the Gospel he shared was not his own. (Gal 1:11-12)
Paul continually reminds his readers to not be deceived by vain talking and words and philosophies but hold to the truths passed on by him being rooted in Christ. This is largely what Colossians 2 is about. Paul says:
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
Words can be empty, but we are called to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. We do this by scripture not by our ability or wits or even experiences. God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. If God’s words were not clear enough then Paul wouldn’t tell us that all scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training. (2 Tim 3:16) It has to be objectively clear to do those things or else we are simply people exchanging ideas which have no eternal consequent and we simply are impressed with out own voices.
David similarly teaches that mankind can keep his way pure by ordering it according to the scriptures. The scriptures must be knowable then. Go and read Psalm 119 and then decide if the Word of God is supposed to be subjectively interpreted or not. The Word of God acknowledges that wandering from his truth is possible but that is on us and not his given revelation. This is why Paul commends the Bereans (Acts 17:11) because he was happy for people to go and search out truth for themselves. It is there to be found! Paul does not speak of his own accord and neither should we as ministers of the Word of God or whenever anyone speaks for God. God can be known and he expects us to interact with the knowledge given. When we do not do this, God calls this suppressing the truth from Romans 1. Yes we can bend views, but a Pastor must bend his own to the scriptures. Does the Bible contain objective truth or not? I suppose this is another faith issue, but one a Pastor must choose.
So, suppress the truth or humbly search it out? We are to allow the scripture by the Spirit to bend us not the other way around. Call me arrogant if you wish but I will continue to diligently seek him and try to help others by appealing to his disclosed will: the Bible.