When it comes to having conversations about controversial spiritual and moral matters you can usually count on one thing for sure, namely, that someone will inevitably raise the “that’s just your interpretation” objection. This is especially true if the Bible is involved.
You’ve seen this happen before right? Once someone throws out the “that’s just your interpretation” line, the conversation comes to a screeching halt. Again, this usually happens when a moral or religious topic is brought up like “abortion is wrong” or “Jesus is the only way of salvation.” Perhaps you have found yourself in a conversation like that and thought you were making progress only to be dismissed with a slogan. What do you do?
Two Options For Engaging This Objection
There are a few options on how you can engage here.
The first option is you can get into a passionate (but pointless) yelling match where you go back and forth screaming “no it doesn’t” / “yes it does” for 30 minutes or so (note: I didn’t say this first one was a good option).
Or you can chose option number two where you can try to move the conversation forward by asking a well placed question. This will be much more effective because typically people throw down the “that’s just your interpretation” slogan to dismiss you and your point of view without an argument.
At this point, you can clarify what they mean by asking, “Are you saying you don’t like my interpretation or that you think it’s false?” If they think it’s false, great. You can then ask them the reasons they have for thinking that it’s false and have a productive spiritual conversation. If you need some help in learning how to know “which interpretation of the Bible is correct” then start here.
“I Don’t Like Your Point of View”
However, more often than not it will become obvious that this person simply doesn’t like the implications of your view. Maybe if your view is correct, they might have to alter a behavior they enjoy or change their mind about a controversial social issue.
Philosopher Paul Copan suggests a reasonable response in situations like these: “There are many truths that I myself don’t like or find difficult to accept, but not liking them doesn’t give me the freedom to reject them. I have to accept that they are true.”
Sometimes the most loving thing you can do in a spiritual or moral conversation is help someone discover that reality is indifferent to our preferences. The truth about God and the way we flourish as human begins is too important to discover to allow it to be dismissed by an uncritically examined slogan.
So the next time you feel like yelling when a spiritual and moral disagreement shows up, just take a deep breath and ask a question.
If you found this post helpful, you would enjoy “How to have a conversation about Bible contradictions.”