Someone points at a verse in a Bible as another person holds out their hand in disagreement

Don’t Be a “That’s Just Your Interpretation” Christian 

  • By: Scott Stein
  • Jan 10, 2023

There’s a kind of mental relativism impacting Christians today, especially those among Generation ‘Z’ (i.e. those born between 1997 and 2012). It’s the result of being raised in a culture where feelings and experience are believed to determine what’s real and true, especially concerning moral or spiritual beliefs. The result is a general state of confusion and uncertainty when it comes to affirming even the most basic moral beliefs, such as the belief that it’s wrong to lie.1 

One of the effects of this generational trend is the erosion of confidence in young believers who want to positively influence their Christian peers and witness to their non-Christian friends. Even among committed Christians there’s a growing tendency to say “Christianity is true, but that’s just my own belief.”2 But even when believers do faithfully defend their firm belief in biblical truth, they’re often met with the response, “That’s just your interpretation of the Bible”. 

“That’s Just Your Interpretation” 

“That’s just your interpretation” appears as an instant defeater against any declarations of sure beliefs about religion or morality. And, it’s causing many Christians to surrender long-held biblical convictions about things like sin, judgment, and salvation. But rather than see it as a conversation stopper, we should see it as an opportunity to open conversations even further. 

In his helpful book, That’s Just Your Interpretation, Paul Copan gives some excellent principles for responding when confronted by “that’s just your interpretation”. Before looking at those, however, it’s important to remember how critical attitude and tone are when responding in witness. Copan rightly reminds us of this:

“…we must be able to articulate our position and give reasons as to why we believe it – even if we can readily agree that we as humans are not always as clearheaded as we would like to be and that we can and do misinterpret passages. Also, we must keep in mind that we may have a perspective that another does not share.”3 

What follows isn’t a tactic for winning arguments or gaining the upper hand. Rather, it’s meant to help both you and the person you’re interacting with to move beyond any relativistic stalemate born out of the belief that everything is interpretation, and therefore nothing is true. 

Turning “That’s Just Your Interpretation” Into a Conversation Opener 

First, when someone tells you, “that’s just your interpretation”, gently point out this means they’re implying, at least on surface, that they have a different and more preferrable interpretation. You could gently respond in this way: 

“Fair enough. But does that mean you have an interpretation you feel is preferable? If so, I’d be interested to know what it is and your reasons for preferring it.” 

This response is useful for two reasons. First, it avoids the mistake of coming off like you’ve got all the answers. And rightly so since there’s always the possibility that you could be wrong. Also, you just might learn something. Second, it serves to help those who haven’t really thought through their own position. After all, an important part of witness is helping others thoughtfully question their own beliefs and why they believe them. It could be they’ve never thought through their reasons for believing as they do.  

Second, offer to give your own reasons for holding to your interpretation, assuming of course that you have reasons. You could say something like, “You’re right, that is my interpretation. But I do have some very good reasons for holding to it. Can I share some of them with you?” 

But What If I Don’t Have Any Good Reasons? 

It could be, however, that you find yourself unable to explain your reasons well. Maybe you’re just repeating what you’ve always been taught, but never really thought through. Rather than being discouraged by this, see it as an opportunity to honour the Lord by deepening your own understanding of his truth. God commands us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15) But preparedness isn’t automatic. It grows with both time and effort. So, if you find yourself unprepared, just be honest. You could say something like: “You know, that is my interpretation, and to be honest I’m not sure I can give you any good reasons for why I hold to it other than that it just seems to make sense to me. Would you let me think about it and then maybe we could talk some more about it sometime?” 

Responding this way when you don’t have a good answer shows that you’re not out to just score points and win arguments, but that you have a genuine desire to discover truth and help others do the same. It also keeps the door for future conversation open by establishing an expectation of picking up the discussion later at another time. In addition, it commits you to the task of learning, which is an exercise in faithful obedience in and of itself. As Peter instructs us, “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge.” (2 Peter 1:5) 

Being an Ambassador for Jesus 

There’s one last possibility to consider. “That’s just your interpretation” may simply be code for “I don’t like what you’re saying.” If so, it’s important to remember that the gospel is offensive to the world. Never did Jesus make this clearer than in his prayer to the Father in John 17:6-14.

[Father], I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world…For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them… I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.”

There is a clear “us vs. them” mindset growing in society that we see portrayed in the media, social media, and the political sphere. It’s eroding our capacity for civil discussion and disagreement, and for many justifies vilifying and deriding any ideological opponents. Christians can be guilty of this too, and I confess at times finding myself sucked into such a mindset. But Jesus’ followers need to resist these impulses. Instead, kindness, respect, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and love should be our posture towards others, even those who oppose us. 

But these virtues notwithstanding, we should not expect the world to like it if we continue bearing witness to and clearly professing the deep truths of the gospel concerning sin, God’s holiness, coming judgment, and the need for forgiveness in Christ alone. It will never be popular, nor can it be spun in a way that makes it attractive to the world. As Jesus clearly said, “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:14) 

As Paul Copan points out, since people often use the “that’s just your interpretation” objection because they don’t like what you’ve said,4 then perhaps you need to accept the call of being Christ’s ambassador by being the one to present them with hard truth. There may come a point where you’ll need to say, “If that’s just your way of saying that you don’t like what the Bible says, then that isn’t a good reason. I admit there are things God says that I don’t necessarily like, like the fact that I’m a sinner. But not liking what God says doesn’t mean we can reject it. If he’s really said it, then we must accept his word to be true.” 

Some Final Thoughts 

Hopefully this has been of some help. There’s lots more to be said, and I’d highly recommend Paul Copan’s book to you for further study. In closing, I’ll just include some final summary thoughts from Copan:

“Although there are many perspectives about many things, this doesn’t mean we can’t draw true conclusions about certain matters; we are not merely stuck in the mire of interpretations. Even if we see things from different perspectives, this doesn’t mean we can’t agree to the truth of many things. 

When confronted with “that’s just your interpretation,” ask the person: 

  • Is there ever a wrong perspective? 
  • Can one’s perspective ever be correct? 
  • Why would you ever disagree with another interpretation? What does it matter if everything is interpretation and there’s no truth? 
  • Is it universally true that everything is a matter of interpretation? 

Asking such questions can help draw out some of the implausibilities and inconsistencies of this position.”5 


1 Jonathan Morrow, director of Cultural Engagement and Immersion at Impact 360 Institute, notes how his work with the Barna institute revealed “I don’t know” as the highest response rate among Generation ‘Z’ when questioned about moral and spiritual beliefs. 

2 Ibid. 

3 Paul Copan, That’s Just Your Interpretation: Responding to Skeptics Who Challenge Your Faith, (Grand Rapits, Baker Books, 2001), p. 31. 

4 Copan, p. 32. 

5 Copan, p. 33.