LECTURE FOUR – HERMENEUTICS

 

Hermeneutical Errors, Conclusions, and Theological Signposts

 

In obeying the rule of simplifying rather than complicating things, we need to consider another example.  From my point of view, there are only two religions on this earth.  The first is Biblical Christianity.  Its authority is divine revelation, the very Word of God, and its God is the sovereign Creator.  The second religion is what I like to call “Humianity” – a play, obviously, on the word “Christianity.”  The authority of this religion is human reason, and its god is man.  At a later point, I will make available to you my article entitled Humianity, the Religion of Man.

 

As in our previous discussions, we recognize that there is no perfect example of Biblical Christianity on this earth.  It is all tainted with human reason, as any member of a local church should be able to see.  The failure of man in his effort to defend subjectivity is no excuse for disobedience.  Though there are no perfect local churches, our goal should still be to obey the Bible to the best of our ability.  Being satisfied with mediocrity is not acceptable to God.  We may not be able to attain pure objectivity, but it remains our goal nonetheless.  Finding excuses to do it our own way does not set well with a holy God. 

Biblical Christianity is dependent upon Biblical truth, which in turn is dependent upon a Biblical hermeneutic.  We must not waste time trying to discover theories to mask our sin.  People often argue that the temptation of Christ was not real, or fair, because He was God and could not have sinned anyway.  That might give you a hint as to where the theory came from that Christ was capable of sinning.  What Christ really demonstrated for us in His temptation is that we, also, can have victory in Him through the power of the Spirit.  The illustration is not meant as an excuse to sin; rather, it is a positive encouragement to resist temptation.

 

The Spirit of Fear

 

If God is at the center of our hermeneutic, and our foremost goal is to show forth His glory, then there is another subject with which we must deal.  Each month, I write an electronically published journal called The Shepherd’s Staff.  The title of the September 2005 issue is “The Silent Pulpits,” and it is subtitled “Silence Is Not Always Golden – Sometimes It Is Yellow.”  The article deals with today’s fearful shepherds who have grown silent about the wickedness and doctrinal error sweeping our land.  In it, I point out the pressure put on them by well-known evangelicals – the ridicule and badgering of anyone who dares to step into the arena of ideas and discuss the possibility of mushrooming liberalism in evangelical, and even fundamental, churches.  Thankfully, there are some brave souls willing to stand in thoughtful and forceful opposition to those who are leading the charge with their “pop theology.”

 

Every interpreter needs to be considerate of others, kind in spirit, and constantly learning.  All study has a purpose.  If we interpret the Bible solely to entertain ourselves and others, we are wasting our time.  If we interpret the text to prop up our own subjective theology, we are disobeying God.  If we rightly divide and study the Word of God to see our lives changed, as well as the lives of those to whom we minister, we do well.  In my book, The Weeping Church, I quote Harry Blamires:

 

“The scholar evades decisiveness; he hesitates to praise or condemn; he balances conclusion against competing conclusion so as to cancel out conclusiveness; he is tentative, skeptical, uncommitted.  The thinker hates indecision and confusion; he firmly distinguishes right from wrong, good for evil; he is at home in a world of clearly demarcated categories and proven conclusion; he is dogmatic and committed; he works toward decisive action.

 

To typify the extremes in this way is useful, but must not be taken too literally.  For the scholar, as thus characterized, is not the only man who studies: and the thinker, as thus characterized, is not the only man who thinks.  Obviously there is no scholar who does not think; and there is no thinker who is quite devoid of scholarship.”[i]

 

This is exactly what we have been describing in the foregoing material. Of all the things a teacher might pray for in a student, the most important would be a proper balance between the scholar and the thinker.  The thinker does not just parrot what others produce; he grinds it to powder to see what it is really made of.  If he finds it flawed, he not only rejects it, but also reports the flaw to all who will listen.  He is factual, but not cowardly.  His search does not end with the discovery of error and the manifesting of it; he puts all his energy into discovering the true meaning to put in the place of error.

 

The thinker must be a scholar, but he cannot be afraid; he must be bold, but not brazen; he must be open, but honest; and he must be ready to endure the onslaught of those who are comfortable with mediocrity.  This kind of interpreter will not be at all welcome in any denomination or institution that is committed to the status quo.  He will be in the minority, for the simple reason that’s the way it has always been.  He is the enemy of error and the foe of all who are comfortable with it.  This person is ready and willing to deal openly with error and its companions.

 

Not Just Difference of Opinion

 

There would be no love or kindness in the decision to let sleeping people perish in their burning home because you hesitated to disturb them.  Similarly, there is no compassion or Christ-likeness in remaining silent when an objective Biblical hermeneutic is being left behind.  There is no faithfulness in silence when a faulty system continues to turn out faulty theological theory that will be devoured by many.  It’s not just a difference of opinion.  Everyone does have a right to his own opinions, but our concern must be with allowing the text to speak for itself.

 

For the better part of eighteen years, I hosted a radio program called “Pastor’s Perspective.”  The program was aired live at noon each Wednesday.  It was a 30-minute question-and-answer format and was always the highlight of my week.  On one particular occasion, the last caller of the day was a woman asking a question about sign gifts.  From my perspective, this was one of those softballs we had already fielded many times.

 

Her response to the Bible references I gave was one of flat-out dismissal.  She said, “I guess we just have two different interpretations.”  “No”, I replied, “we don’t have two different interpretations; we have two different systems of interpretation.”  That was, and still is, the real issue when it comes to hermeneutics, the science and system of interpreting Scripture.


[i] Blamires, Harry. The Christian Mind. Ann Arbor: Servant Books, 1963. 51.

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