Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Test Everything...

"All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (II Timothy 3:16-17)

Such was the attitude of the Apostle Paul. Yet today, many who claim to revere the Bible as the inspired Word of God seem to trust the word of a friend, colleague, Pastor, Priest or even a favourite author as being 'Gospel', so that the need for confirmation from Scripture is considered marginal at best. Indeed, many Christians seem to be ready to believe any book rather than the Book that they claim to hold most dear!

Local churches are commanded to appoint Elders able to pass judgement on what those who claim to speak in the name of God teach (I Corinthians 14:29). Luke, the writer of the New Testament book, 'Acts of the Apostles' praised the Bereans for testing what the Apostle Paul taught them:

"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and EXAMINED THE SCRIPTURES EVERYDAY, TO SEE IF WHAT PAUL TAUGHT WAS TRUE." - Acts 17:11

The risen Christ commended the Church at Ephesus for testing those who claimed to have Divine Authority: "I know that you have tested those who claim to be Apostles, but are not, and have found them false... " (Revelation 2:2)

If one truly believes the Bible to be the Word of God, then it is obvious how vital it is to use it to judge every doctrine and experience. Each Christian is responsible to search the Scriptures themselves and to test what is being taught (I John 2:26-27).

One can not abdicate responsibility in this area by claiming that, "those who teach will be judged more strictly." (James 3:1) For each Christian is commanded to "test EVERYTHING, and hold onto the good."(I Thessalonians 5:21) and to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once and for all delivered to the saints." - Jude 3

How then, are the faithful to "test everything" with Scripture? First one. must know how to interpret, and thereby understand, the Bible.

Christian Fundamentalists of all denominations agree that one must first find the meaning of a passage before applying it, not start with your conclusion and then find a 'proof text' to support it...

The two basic methods used for finding the meaning of any given passage of Scripture are:

EXEGESIS - This method draws the meaning from the text itself. Its goal is to let the normal meaning of the words, grammar and context speak for itself.

EISEGESIS - This is to read a meaning into the text that is foreign to the normal sense of the words, grammar and context. In other words, reading an allegorical or symbolic meaning into the text that is different from the natural reading of the passage.

For the Christian, the single most important principle in determining the truth of any doctrine or alleged 'New Revelation' is that one must start with the clear statements in Scripture that apply to it then use those to interpret the parables, allegories and more obscure verses. In this way Scripture is used to interpret Scripture. Many quite strange beliefs have been bullt upon the exact opposite! By this I mean that, obscure verses, parables and allegories are used to reinterpret what would otherwise be clearly understood passages.

The Second most important principle in interpretating Scripture is to consistently use the 'literal, grammatical, contextual' method. This means:
  • Each word should be understood in its normal, ordinary usage that was accepted at the time of writing.
  • Each sentence should be understood according to the rules of grammar normally accepted at the time of writing.
  • Each passage should be understood in the light of its immediate context and that of related passages.

Dr Henry M. Morris puts this in a nutshell, "The Bible is written to be understood...it should normally be TAKEN LITERALLY - unless the context both indicates a non-literal meaning AND makes it clear what the true meaning is." - Dr Henry M Morris, 'The Genesis Record', [Baker Book House, 1981] p 109

The issue is to let the text dictate when to interpret allegorically instead of one's own theological presuppositions. Biblical Fundamentalism contends that one can not allegorize a portion of Scripture that is intended by the Divine Author to be taken literally simply because it does fit one's already established doctrinal system and/or personal beliefs.

Further, when the Bible uses an allegory or a figure of speech it is usually fairly obvious, but, when one arbitrarily takes a passage that is intended to be taken literally, and treats it allegorically they are twisting Scripture and perverting the Word of God and risks falling into heresy!

I hope this helps/is of interest

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings from Montreal, Canada. My name is Wren and I came across your blog today.
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8:24 AM  

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