Bible Arithmetic: Subtraction

During the early years of the nineteenth century, Thomas Jefferson set out to create a historically accurate version of the gospels. He spent several years dissecting Christ’s life, cutting out the miracles first, and then his teaching on the afterlife, then his self-asserted divinity, until he finally refined the gospel to it’s most worthwhile form: the Jeffersonian Bible. All of the moral teachings of Christ, without all of the useless supernatural nonsense. Jefferson was an expert biblical arithmetician. Every since then, it’s been an American tradition to subtract the less palatable teachings in the Bible. 

It shouldn’t surprise you to know that Thomas Jefferson was not the first to subtract from God’s word. Satan did it first, when he deceptively told Eve, “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). Eve chose to believe Satan’s lie, because she thought that by subtracting from God’s word, she might become like God. She thought she might become more free by throwing off the chains of God’s law. But Satan’s lie did not pan out. Subtraction chained Eve to death and sin.

Where do we struggle with subtraction?

Do we cut out God’s judgement? His wrath? His hatred of sin? Do we ignore God’s intentions for sexuality? Gender roles? Personally, I’ve struggled with all of these. I want a God who’s more palatable to my liberal sensibilities, so I snip out what grinds against my personal preferences.

The problem is that my personal preferences are rarely the best thing for me. Not only are they selfish, but they’re also misinformed. When I just follow my heart, I never feel more satisfied; I never feel like I’m living for something meaningful. I’m just living for myself, one measly human amongst six billions others.

Psalm 107:10-11 describes the true condition of anyone who subtracts from God’s Word:

Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons,  for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High.

We become prisoners when we subtract, because we live out of line with God’s design for the world. If you take a train off it’s tracks is it more free? Of course not. When we subtract from God’s Word we’re just spinning our wheels. Where are you subtracting and derailing your life?

More in this series:


About Patrick K. Miller

Currently I am living in Columbia serving at the University of Missouri with Veritas, The Crossing's campus ministry. In December 2010 I graduated from Mizzou with a degree in English Literature. My beautiful wife, Emily, works is an Interior Designer with a local firm. I like espresso, 30 Rock, and books. My favorite old dead guys are John Owen, Augustine and Francis Schaeffer. You should read something by them.
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