According to the clock of life, I am living in the last minute of mine. This sobering thought has caused me to approach this new year with a different perspective than heretofore. The following are some of the things I have determined to consider. I will not let other people determine who my friends are. I will not be afraid to speak the truth, hopefully in love, no matter what doing so may cost me. I will not be intimidated by pseudo-intellectuals and prideful scholars. I will use plain speech so you will not have to wonder what I mean. I will not be silent when truth is falling in the streets. I will not attack another person’s character, and my discussions will be about ideas and not about people.

With these things in mind, I will spend massive amounts of time in reading and research. I will do those things that others may not be able or willing to do. I will focus on those areas that God has highlighted in my life through these fifty-three years of ministry and academic pursuit. In my reading already this year, something has become very clear to me: it is a waste of time to read and write much of what is found in most of the blogs. Even the scholars are disappointing in that they run in endless circles with little help for what really matters in life. They remind me of the philosophers at Mars Hill, …which spend their time in nothing else, but either to tell or hear some new thing. (Acts 17:21)

In my reading, I have noted a common thread among these “minglers” of the mind. There is a lot of talk about interpretation and the use of literal interpretation, but there is very little evidence that the one biblical hermeneutic found in the body of scripture is used. It appears that many of these commentators have copied the liberal pattern, where they “complicate to confuse”. There is very little evidence that the normal hermeneutic is understood or used. This is one of the reasons my focus will emphasize the “normal, plain, consistent, literal” interpretation; this is the “sine qua non” of hermeneutics.

JUST A SIDELIGHT

For the last thirteen years, God has involved us in a ministry in the Arabic world. Upon arriving there, we found a zeal and passion that is seldom found among American Christians. On the other hand, there was almost no possession of a theology that is biblical. There was a lot of admixture, but little that represented the solid core of dogmatic theology. What we quickly learned was that there was little biblical understanding of how truth got into the scripture and how it is taken from the scripture. The first step was to deal with inspiration and revelation, resulting in a text that was without error or the possibility of causing error. With that part of the training settled, the most difficult task was to teach the one system that God has given for extracting that truth from scripture. The bad habit of “personal interpretation” was hard to erase from even the best of our friends. In due time, the one biblical system – normal, plain, consistent, literal – became clear to some of them. It was as if the light suddenly went on! In the words of leaders in that country, “the whole of scripture suddenly became consistent and clear”. We taught them to ask, “What does the text say?”

These servants of God have learned to let the text speak for itself. Prior to this time, they had inserted or assumed anything they wanted the text to say. Many of them wept as they saw that the one biblical hermeneutic was mathematical, scientific in nature, and reliable. Students who were used to coming up with a dozen different ideas were finally able to find a unanimous interpretation for texts that had only confused them in the past. Their confidence in the scripture was settled, and they will never be the same. Admittedly, some went away using the word “literal”, but they were still rewriting their own Bibles out of habit.

BACK HOME ON THE FARM

Here at home, listening to and reading the works of our peers, I discovered the same thing. Many of our friends give lip service to the normal use of language, but they often change the rules. The result is theological confusion. I often refer to the “theological error of the month”. Moderate evangelicals have taken the lead on this dark trail. The “emerging church” at least tries to hide its mismanagement of the biblical text, but the “emergent church” is proud of their heresy. Why would they teach that there is no hell? Might it be because they are going there?

At the same time, my real concern is more nearby, in the circles in which we travel. A caller to our radio broadcast some years ago asked, “Why are there so many denominations?” “After all’, she said, “don’t we all use the same Bible?” “Use” is the operative word here. That is exactly why there are so many different denominations and beliefs. It is rank disobedience to use the Bible to get our own way and to make the text say what one wants it to say.

Even though it rises from the same problem, my concern is not broad denominational disagreement. The real issue is why, in our narrower fellowships, we have so many divergent interpretations of the same text. A fellow professor told me that it was because we have all brought “presuppositions” to the text, making it impossible for each of us to get the same answer. He was right, in that we do bring presuppositions to the text; all of us do. He is wrong, however, about the trusted, mathematical system that God has given us. That system – the “sine qua non” of hermeneutics – will, if we allow it, erase our presuppositions and open our hearts and minds to the truth in the text.

SIMPLIFY TO CLARIFY

The liberal mind deliberately “complicates to confuse”. A sickening reality of modern education is that it pretends to be “fair and balanced” about truth. The biblical Christian, on the other hand, strives to “simplify to clarify”. This is at the heart of the teachings of the greatest Teacher that ever walked the face of this earth. Our Lord’s effectiveness is clearly shown in the way that He taught as well as what He taught. Christ passed these great truths on to us so that we will remember that what is important is obedience to the scripture, not the shrewdness of the human instrument. We need add nothing to the foundation of hermeneutics; the system of interpretation God gave us is the “normal, plain, consistent, literal” use of language. Obeying the grammar, the context, and the historical setting of the text will give us truth in place of presupposition. It will also tell us when someone is pulling our theological leg.