Don’t Be a “Red-Letter” Christian

page-of-bible

I was reading a book recently that left me very disappointed. I did not realize it ahead of time, but the author is one whom could be identified as a so-called “Red Letter Christian”, which is a semi-organized group of Christians who believe that the whole Bible is true but intentionally place particular emphasis on words of Jesus. In focusing on the “red letters” of the Bible (the words of Christ), these Christians aim to funnel the rest of the Bible through the lens of Jesus in order to get at the most pure interpretation of Scripture. In particular, the author I was reading was trying to understand how God relates to human suffering, and was doing so by looking exclusively at the words of Christ and intentionally overlooking the numerous other portions of Scripture that touch on that same subject.

I saw this same viewpoint slip out during the popular Christian movie God’s Not Dead. In a scene that included an interview with Willie Robertson, he of the famous Duck Dynasty TV show, Willie casually said the following which left me screaming “No! Don’t say that!” inside my head:

‘Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will acknowledge before the Father in heaven. Whoever disowns me, I’ll disown him to the Father.’ Those words are written in red, so they’re important.

Wether he meant to or not, Willie Robertson was advocating – or at least demonstrating – the same approach to the Bible that was being used by the author I was recently reading: the one that sees the words of Jesus as more pure than the rest of the Bible. It’s as if, if one wanted to hear from God,  you would do fine to read 1 Thessalonians, but what you really should do if you mean business is read the gospel of John. After all, the “red letters” are where it’s really at.

This “red letter” approach to the Bible is a dangerous one I believe, and for several reasons, though I’ll share only one.

It undermines the rest of Scripture. 

Most “red letter” Christians that I have read say that they believe that the whole Bible is the Word of God. Yet if that is the case, why the emphasis on the words of Jesus? I mean, if the Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture, then why are his words less important than those of Jesus?

The Bible is pretty clear that the Holy Spirit was writing through human authors in the creation of the Bible. Without getting into all the details, one example of this would be 2 Peter 1:20-21…

knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. [21] For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

In other words, when the Old Testament prophets were speaking and writing, and when the New Testaments authors like Paul, James, John, Peter, and others were writing, it was the Holy Spirit using them to write the very words of God. That’s why we call the Bible, which was written by humans, the “Word of God”. Therefore, I find it very perplexing when a “red letter Christian” tries to argue against Paul with the words of Jesus. Don’t you realize you are pitting the Holy Spirit against Christ? I’m fairly certain that they agree on everything. Or I find it strange when a “red letter Christian” goes only to the words of Christ for revelation and ignores the minor prophets or the book of Jude. Didn’t the Holy Spirit write those books? Isn’t the Holy Spirit God too?

To elevate the “red letters” above the rest is to view the Bible wrongly. That’s why the book I was alluding to at the beginning of this post left me disappointed. The author was trying to tackle a major subject with only part of the Biblical revelation. That is odd at best and damaging at worst. Instead, we ought to consider the whole Bible when seeking to understand God and the message of Scripture, doing our best as flawed human interpreters to keep an unbiased and balanced use of the whole Bible. After all, if God has revealed himself in Scripture, it only makes sense to pay attention to all of it.

The way I see it, you might as well read the Bible as if the whole thing was printed in red.

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