The main difference between the two opinions of how to interpret Christian teachings in the bible is simple. Augustine believes that it is futile for people to develop their own unique understanding of the Bible as human arrogance and the disease of human will as the signs (words) in the bible are stepping stones on a stairway to heaven. Billings believes the contrary as he belongs to a modernistic school of thought that interprets everyone as individuals with their own opinions: “With both the blueprint and smorgasbord approaches, we end up using Scripture for our own purposes. We are in control. The Bible may be viewed as authoritative, but it provides either confirmation of our preconceived ideas or divine advice for felt needs.” Augustine argues that the Bible would be misconstrued through “knowledge of things instituted by Men.”
Both writers agree that understanding of the Bible is essential in terms of staying on the right course with God but Augustine’s views are definitely old fashioned. He views the most important part of interpreting the scriptures is “fearing God” which is the first step to wisdom as we can only achieve what God has set out for us if we fear that God will end our lives.
In terms of fully interpreting the Bible Augustine and Billings both believe a good historical background is needed to facilitate the readings and fully understand the actions of the people depicted in the Bible and of God. Billings puts more of an emphasis on interpreting the stories of Jesus Christ whereas Augustine views interpretation of the Old and New Testament of equal importance. Augustine also pioneers acceptance of other cultures, although in his opinion they are heathens, he points out that God does function in their lives and advances as much as in Christian lives.
Overall both authors view reading the Bible as a positive and important ritual of religion. Scripture holds signals of how to live in God’s world and be an important part of it.