A filter, such as the air filter in your car, is used to block unwanted debris yet allow air to continue through. A theological filter filters out words and concepts in much the same way. It is a mental filter that is used to block unwanted information, but allows for desired information to continue through. Most scholars and individuals use these "theological filter” when reading the Bible. Certain ideas are caught within this filter and prevented from continuing through the interpretation process. If you want to see a theological filter at work, ask a Christian, “Who did God make the New Covenant with?” Their response will be, “with Christians” or, “with Gentiles.” Now have them read Jeremiah 31:31.
"Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. (NASB)
Now, ask your question a second time, “Who did God make the New Covenant with?” Their response will be the same, “with Christians.” Even though the text is very clear on this issue, they will NEVER, I repeat NEVER, say that God made the New Covenant with Israel and I have performed this exercise numerous times with the same results.
Theological filters will also cause an individual or group to read a passage and interpret it according to their predetermined Biblical view. A classic example is Genesis 1:26 which states, “Let us make man.” When a Christian reads this they will automatically, without any investigation, simply say, “The ‘us’ is the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” However, there is nothing in the text to support this view.
Here are a few other common examples of "theological filters."
Verse - And they saw the God of Israel; and there was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone (Exodus 24:10, RSV)
Filter - God is Spirit, he does not have a physical form.
Desired information - under God was pavement of sapphire
Rejected information - they saw the feet of God
Verse - There is none like you among the gods, O Lord. (Psalms 86:8, NRS)
Filter - There is only one God
Desired information - There is none like you
Rejected information - among the gods
Even translators of the Bible will employ filters for you. A good example of this is Exodus 33:9 which literally reads from the Hebrew, "and it came to pass as Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tent and spoke with Moses." According to this verse, the cloud spoke with Moses, but the translators did not like what the verse was implying, so they added "the LORD" into this verse so that it now reads, "and it came to pass as Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tent and the LORD spoke with Moses."
If you want to experience the Bible from a whole new perspective, remove your filters; don’t come to the text with any preconceived ideas. Challenge your beliefs by reading the text for what it says. If you find yourself reading a passage of the Bible, and your interpretation is very different from mainstream theology, just remember that only a dead fish flows with the current.
So, from this point on, remove your theological filters and let's read the text for what it says, not what the theologians or the translators or you yourself want to believe it says.