The reader will want to go back over the previous article, since this issue builds on that premise. There is only one biblical hermeneutic, and it produces a theology that is biblical. That one system is simply the normal, plain, clear, consistent, literal use of language. All other systems fall into one category and will allow the interpreter to insert into the text whatever he may choose. The one biblical system is scientific, and it is mathematical. If you use the system and its clearly defined rules, you will always come up with the same answer.
It is extremely frustrating to go to five different commentaries, written by experts, and find five different interpretations of a single passage. These scholars are supposed to be the authority, but it seems they cannot find a common answer. Since each text can have only one interpretation, one of those scholars may possibly be right, but…they could all be wrong, too. It makes one wonder if any of them is right and how many other things they may be wrong about. How can we ever be sure?
The answer is simple. It isn’t that they have different interpretations, but rather that they use different systems of interpretation. Since all those systems allow the reader to insert his own sincerely held views, the text becomes corrupted. The one biblical system, however, will deliver a correct message if its rules are obeyed.
WHERE WE BEGIN
One of the major problems in this discipline is where to begin. You have to begin and end with the Bible text. If you begin with a denominational creed, or a theological confession, you will end up with error because you began with error. If you begin with a covenant or reformed hermeneutic, it is impossible to end up with a theology that is biblical. This may shock you, but there is no such thing as a dispensational hermeneutic, so you cannot begin there if you want to know what the text says for itself. It is true that the use of the one biblical system will lead to a dispensational theology, but that theology rises from the text and not from a preconceived hermeneutic. For some, eschatology is not important; and they would say it doesn’t matter. If you begin with the text, use the biblical system, and obey the rules, it does matter. Foundational truth is not like a cafeteria or a dart board. The biblical hermeneutic is clear and plain, until such time as it is corrupted by a humanly devised system. It does matter that there is a Millennium, and it does matter where and when Christ is coming for His church. These are clearly stated with the normal hermeneutic.
THE WORD “LITERAL”
This is demonstrated in the accidental, or deliberate, misuse of the word “literal”. It is dishonest to say that those who hold a literal interpretation see everything as literal, meaning that even pictures are the real thing. There are some fine works on this subject, and the serious reader should consider reading them. The normal, plain, clear, consistent, literal use of language is just that. It is the text that tells us the answer, not some twisted grammatical pretzel. We take everything in the text as the normal, literal use of language unless the text clearly tells us it is some other form. Literal interpretation simply means that we accept what the Bible states, including language forms.
An illustration of this is Revelation, chapter 20. Five times at the beginning of this chapter you see the term “one thousand years”. What is the normal, plain, clear, consistent, literal use of this term in language? Even a first grader could answer that one! So why would anyone choose to corrupt the answer, as some scholars have done? The answer is that they use the wrong hermeneutical system – one that is humanly devised – and they begin with the wrong system. These intellectuals say that when it comes to eschatology, you have to use an allegorical system. Who gave them the authority to make such a conclusion? Are they smarter than a first grader? This reminds me of the Lucifer syndrome: “I will know as much as the most high God”.
Someone will very likely write and tell me that I am not being very charitable in this discussion. There are lots of things we do not know and about which God has not given us an answer. Those are the areas of charity. When the normal, plain, clear, consistent use of language that God has chosen to use is being trampled underfoot, I am not obligated to be silent.
We don’t seem to have any trouble shining a light on other people’s foibles, but we are not keen on our own being looked at. That is why we don’t use the same rule and rhetoric on our own crowd; but let me do that now. We complain about the misuse of interpretation and systems on the part of those who “sovereignly” decided that eschatology is allegory, while at the same time we do the very same thing in our own circles when the subject is church polity. We use literal interpretation until it comes to the doctrine of the church, and then we turn left. Of course, we are more “respectable” than they are. We “complicate to confuse” in order to get our own way when we really know that our practice in polity is nothing more than an adoption of cultural politics.
I am thankful for our forefathers in the faith. They have been a wonderful blessing to us, but they are not God and they are not perfect. Historical theology has great value, but those tenets are not the same as the Bible itself; and we should not be afraid to challenge things that jettison the plain teaching of scripture. A strongly held view that is wrong is still wrong, no matter how many years it may have been taught.