@Kelvin77 I think there are 2 simple principles to apply here:
- most of what the Bible says is not hard to understand if our goal is to understand its meaning to the original audience
- the parts that are hard to understand are not central to Christian orthodoxy (such as the end times) and it is okay to disagree
In terms of belts and braces, I would say the following:
- our goal in interpreting the Bible is to understand what the text meant to its original audience - we can figure that out by understanding the language and the culture - this is called the historical grammatical method of Bible interpretation. Some of these modern distortions of Scripture you mentioned use other methods of Bible interpretation that are not concerned with what the text actually says, but rather what they want it to say.
- we should compare our teaching against the historical Churches teaching - if we are departing from orthodoxy (such as Nicene Creed) or views agreed upon for the last 2 thousand years, we should ask “why?” and express a fair degree of skepticism
- we should let Scripture interpret Scripture - if Jesus interpreted the OT in a certain way, we follow His interpretation
I really like Fee’s book on interpreting the Bible. It’s a layman’s guide to properly interpreting the Bible.
Below are some additional resources. Hope that was helpful
One last thought. We’ll admit that some passages in the Bible are difficult to understand. What’s more, we realize that, down through the centuries, these sections have spawned a lot of controversy and disagreement. We don’t, however, believe that this negates anything we’ve been saying here. We may not be able to understand everything about the Bible; that doesn’t mean that we can’t understand anything about it.
We must also point out that it is simply false to claim that no one can know the correct interpretation of a passage of the Bible. If in principle such accurate understanding cannot be achieved, then there would be no basis upon which to conclude that any given interpretation was not correct. In the study of logic, this is called the fallacy of a lost distinction : if there is no correct interpretation, then there is no standard by which to distinguish any given interpretation from the “correct” one. If it is true that “it’s not possible to have a correct interpretation,” then what does that statement itself mean? If someone makes that statement to you, just ask him, “What do you mean by that?” He certainly expects you to correctly interpret his objection. The simple fact of the matter is, it is possible to have a correct interpretation, and anyone who says it is not possible is making a self-defeating claim.
Knowing how to interpret Scripture correctly, therefore, is as important as knowing that the Bible is true. And since the Bible was written by authors with specific intents, the way to determine a text’s meaning is to discern the original author’s intent for it. To do this, we employ the grammatical-historical method, which examines the writer’s historical context and the text’s grammatical structure. We treat verbs as verbs and nouns and nouns, for while the Bible is God’s Word, it is written according to normal grammatical conventions, not in some esoteric tongue. Moreover, we look at the historical setting of a text so that we can discern the issues the author is addressing. Such things help us get into the mind of the author so that we can know what he means.