So I’ve started a class studying Evangelical and Pentecostal hermeneutics. Super enjoyable subject for me because I love the field of biblical interpretation. It’s one that is overlooked by quite a few people, so I’m always excited to learn more about it in the hopes of being able to help people.
Recently I’ve come face to face with what I’d call a perfect example of someone confusing the authority of Scripture, which I completely affirm, and the authority of their own personal interpretation and application of Scripture, which I reject. It’s funny how people can so quickly confuse those two and I think we need to be cautious in pulling out the “you are disobeying the Bible” trump card because more often than not, that card is totally empty.
So what is a foundational reason as to why one person thinks it’s okay to, for example, have women serve as a pastor and others believe that women shouldn’t serve as a pastor? A foundational reason is simple: reader prejudice. In one of the most helpful summaries of this issue, John Bartowski writes:
“… readers approach the text with biases or “prejudices” which are often conditioned by their social, historical, and cultural location. Such prejudice may include broad ontological assumptions (e.g., beliefs about human nature) or more specific presuppositions about the nature and creative source of the text itself (i.e., fact or fiction, scientific treatise or romantic literature, divine revelation or human creation). Therefore, any interpretation is “biased” in that it accepts certain assumptions while excluding others; and, competing interpretations can often be traced to divergent presuppositions, because “in opening up a work in a particular way, [reader prejudices] close off other potential modes of access. Every interpretive approach reveals something only by disguisng something else, which a competing method with different assumptions might disclose.” Prejudices, then, serve as “conditions of understanding” because the reader’s taken-for-granted assumptions often are revealed in the act of reading.” (John Bartowski, “Beyond Biblical Literalism and Inerrancy: Conservative Protestants and the Hermeneutic Interpretation of Scripture,” Sociology of Religion, 1996, 57:3, 262; note that Bartowski quotes Armstrong’s Conflicting Readings: Variety and Validity in Interpretation)
Understanding that we all have biases does not mean coming to definitive interpretations is impossible. That’s hogwash. What it does mean is that we should do our best to have informed biases and approach issues with far more humility and care than is often expressed. I don’t agree with all of Bartowski’s observations, but most of them certainly stick in my experience within Evangelicalism.
As a habit, one of my favorite things to do with people who are aware of the hermeneutical spiral is to pretend that biases and presuppositions don’t exist. It’s one of the most joyful things to do because people often can’t adequately provide a summarized explanation of this reader bias issue (just as Able, because I do it to him all of the time!). For now on, you can refer them to this post, unless you are Able. In that case, you have to find your own!
I would love to know your thoughts here!
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.
Luke, I am sure that you are not affirming that we can
simply choose to embrace our bias and interpret the way we like best; that
would be the authorization of personal interpretation that you reject, yes? So,
the question arises, if we are not content with the pluralism of personal
interpretations, how do we go about interrogating these biases in order to come
as close to understanding the Scripture objectively as we can? Even if the
Christian life is a “drama,” wherein we improvise the third act, there is a
script somewhere limiting the improvisation. How do we draw our guidelines so
that we can distinguish the acceptable from the “right out”?
Some things that occur to me are some of the traditional
evangelical ways of guiding interpretation, such as we consult the whole
Scripture, that we interpret the obscure in light of the clearer passages, that
parables generally have one point, etc. I think that I would add a rule of “swallowing
the camel.” Sometimes we wish to deny things that we see in the text
(patriarchy, for example, or the condemnation of sex outside of marriage) in
favor of passages that seem to grant us greater latitude. But, in order to do
so, we must stretch one or two passages to counter a great many passages that
appear to say otherwise. In other words, in order to strain out what we do not
like, we “swallow the camel” by ignoring the weight given by the text to a particular
side of the issue. I hope I am not being obscure. How would you respond?
“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”
Woe unto them who love this “evil world”, for “the WHOLE
world (not just a portion) is under the control of the evil one!”
(John 7:7, Galatians 1:4, I John 5:19; 2:15-17, II Corinthians 4:4,)
“Whoever loves this world is the enemy of Our Father and GOD”!
And discernment clearly reveals ALL nations are of this evil world!
“For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of GOD; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised in the DISCERNMENT of that which is good and that which is evil.” (Hebrews 5:13-14)
Discernment! Now why is discernment needful?
There are those who would testify that discernment is not needful, not realizing that every choice, every “yes” or “no” they voice requires such. Others would accuse those who exercise discernment of ‘judging’ and/or self-righteousness. Truth is that discernment is choice’s partner in life, especially for those who desire to “cleave to that which is good”. (I Corinthians 2:14, Romans 12:9)
As for calling ‘good, evil’ and ‘evil, good’?
Well the “god of this world”, he who is “the father of the lies”, he has made a game of such…… (II Corinthians 4:4, John 8:44)
The “gevid’ game!
The good and evil game!
A deadly game! And there are multitudes who play his game!
Yet all who play are losers!
First you begin with two evils, such as there are in physical warfare among the nations of this world, ALL of which serve “the god of this world”. Now when warfare commences between two nations and they begin to murder each other, most all ‘natural’ humanoids choose sides. They have ‘discerned’ that this side, or that side, is the “righteous (good)” side, so they align themselves with that side (nation[s]). (II Corinthians 4:4, I John 5:19, James 4:4)
Now if it were a case of them believing they had chosen for the lesser ‘evil’, well that would still be a problem, yet not as grave a problem as that which is caused by what usually happens.
For those who have chosen sides (and i speak not of those who believe killing and war is a ‘good’ and necessary thing), the lesser ‘evil’ in their own eyes gets their support and sympathy.
And as the chains of “strong delusion” bind them tighter and tighter, the lesser ‘evil’ becomes their version of ‘good’! So it is they have their portion with all those who played the “gevid” game!
And ALL who played are losers!
Such is the way a lie becomes ‘white’, shadows become light, lust becomes love, and that which is of this “evil world” becomes the desire of someones heart! (I John 2:15-17)
Very sad indeed!!
And The Spirit must flee!!!
WWII was a prime example. One of the nations, declared to be ‘good’ by ‘christian’ and other religious systems, perpetrated the most heinous act of terrorism yet known to mankind, as tens of thousands of civilians were ‘nuked’ in an instant, not once but twice!
That same nation, the u.s. of a., was born in the bloodshed that was rebellion against authority! And now she seeks to put down any rebellion that is not of their liking, for they call such a rebellion the ‘evil’ kind.
Yes! nations play the “gevid” game to the utmost!
And the usa, and other nations born in the bloodshed of rebellion won’t accept The Truth that all physical rebellion is of the flesh and is ‘evil’, for that is their heritage! And that becomes their legacy…….
Using force of any kind, or the use of any thing that would provoke a nation of this “evil world” to use destructive force, is not ‘good’.
Yet religion leads the way in the “gevid” game, for ALL religion (except for James 1:27) are of the ‘god of this world’, and are but systems of “strong delusion” for they have made ‘gray’ there favorite color! (II Corinthians 4:4)
So it is that their version of “good” has become but another form of “evil (gevid)”!
Sadly, because of this world’s religions, “Truth lies dead in the streets”!
There IS only One “Pure Religion and Undefiled”! (James 1:27)
Simply, ALL other religion IS “IMPURE and DEFILED”!
“Come out from among them and be separate!”
(II Corinthians 6:17)
And Hope IS that there would be those who would choose for the ‘good’, those who would rightly declare the ‘lesser evil’ to be just that! ‘EVIL (not Good)’!
That can not happen without ‘discernment’ for many of you read, and read again that “the WHOLE (not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one” and yet you remain steadfast in your love for a certain portion of the ‘WHOLE” “evil world”. (I John 5:19, Galatians 1:4, James 4:4, I John 2:15-17)
And such worldly ‘love’ soon causes one to believe the ‘WHOLE’ does not
apply to their particular ’portion’ of this wicked, “evil world”!
And the chains of “strong delusion” bind them tighter and tighter!
Now if you believe what this world, and some of it’s religion’s call their ‘bible,’
why do you delude your own selves?
Why do you consider the ‘WHOLE’ to be but a ‘portion’?
Is it because you are comfortable?
Those who find their comfort in, and of, this wicked, evil world and/or it’s things, begin to conform themselves unto that which made them comfortable!
Or do you find comfort in “The TRUTH” as revealed in The Testimonies
by “a cloud of witnesses”? (Hebrews 12:1)
Are you one of the witnesses? Or have you chosen to be of those who “wrest the scriptures unto their own destruction” because of your “love for this world and your own life in it”? (II Peter 3:16, John 12:25)
Simply that which is of The One and Only True GOD, Father(Creator) of ALL is GOOD, all else is evil (not Good)! (Matthew 19:17)
“Exercise your senses”, “stand in the gap” and above all receive “a love of The Truth”, without which one can not be saved, and so “The Life” remains but a shadow, as “the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life” cause one to call “good, evil and evil, good”…… (Hebrews 5:14, Ezekiel 22:30, II Thessalonians 2:10, I John 2:15-17, Isaiah 5:20)
Quit playing the game!
Thankfully HOPE IS! For TRUTH IS! Miracles do happen!
And unless one experiences The Miracle that is receiving “a love of The Truth”, The Life can not, and will not be experienced! (II Thessalonians 2:10)
Peace, in spite of the dis-eases (games) that are of this evil world, for “the WHOLE (not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one”! (I John 5:19) indeed and Truth…….
So it is the brethren of The Messiah have taken heed unto
The Call of Our Father and GOD to:
“Come Out of her(babel/dis-order/babylonworldreligion), MY people!”
No longer do we play religion’s game, for we have our portion with The Messiah !NOW! in The Family of Our Father and GOD, “of WHOM the whole Family in Heaven and ON EARTH is named”! (Ephesians 3:15)
And NEW “Jerusalem which IS !NOW! above is free, and is the mother of us all (son’s of Our Father and GOD)”! (Galatians 4:26)
So it is we have REALized that our “citizenship(Life) IS !NOW! in Heaven”, and we choose to remain but “aliens and pilgrims while on the earth”, for soon and very soon, we will be taken Home, Home at last! (Hebrews 11:13, I Peter 2:11, Philippians 3:20, John 14:2-3)
We REALize evermore of how “poor and needy” we truly are, and so we “cry unto Our Father and GOD day and night”…….. (Psalms 70:5; 72:13, Luke 18:7)
Evermore sounding and resounding The Declaration of Dependence:
HE DID! and HE does…….
ALL Thanks and Praise Be Unto Our Father and GOD!
I know what we have of the Bible was written form the word of GOD, but I also believe that man has taken it upon themselves to remove some of the books, that we were meant to have. This has been with me a long time. If I am wrong please help me!