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Our Hermeneutcs

Author's Bias: Interpretation: conservative
Inclination: dispensational
Seminary: none

How do you read the Bible?

Biblical hermeneutics is the science of biblical interpretation. It sets out principles and organizes how one approaches the interpretation of the Bible. Biblical hermeneutics does not provide any special insights or superiority in biblical knowledge.

Sometimes, biblical interpretation can be quite variable and at times endorse diametrically opposing practices. Many controversial issues such as evolution, divorce, feminism, homosexuality, Jesus isn't God, etc are based on actual particular hermeneutic theories. Your position on these issues may reveal how you read and interpret the Bible. This, of course, assumes that you read the Bible. If not, then at this level, you'll need to reconcile your cultural values with what the Bible says.

The Human Factor

Hermeneutic theories are based on a discipline of study called biblical criticism. Biblical criticism is a method of subjectively evaluating the inspired human authors of the Bible for the purpose of making discriminating judgments about their work and method. It is not negative judgment but an organized, systematic, and theoretical method to better understand the Bible.

Each method is not without the scholar’s bias and subjective speculation; hence, there are sharp differences of opinion on every scholarly judgment. Some scholars consider the possibility of a supernatural presence; others totally deny the possibility of a supernatural presence. Some scholars presume that the Word of God was authentic and treated with care by the inspired author, others presume that the Word of God was a fraud and manipulated for the inspired author’s personal purposes.

In seeking a better understanding of the Bible, biblical criticism is necessary, but Christians should not willingly accept the opinions of academia because of the scholar’s stature or faculty appointment at a renowned college, university, or institution. Secular media and publications lack such discernment and instead rely on the perceived reputation of the scholar or institution as the means to determine trustworthiness. It would behoove Christians to test anyone’s comment about the Bible before accepting it as trustworthy.

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 said was true. (Acts 17:11)

Biblical criticism arises out of the basic question of "inspiration;" namely, how did the Word of God come to man? Specifically how much did man change God's Word? The discipline is divided into two groups: 1) Lower Criticism analyzes the text, and 2) Higher Criticism analyzes the source of the text. Most controversy involves the group higher criticism namely Source, Form, Tradition, and Redaction methods (and their combinations). While these theories offer a useful perspective for study, they allow the highest degree of subjective speculation and skeptical bias in the name of academic objectivity.

Reliance on the higher forms of criticism depends on how much you presume man has added to what God really said. The more one disagrees with the actual text of the Bible, the greater one depends on the higher forms of criticism to arrive at their interpretation. From this perspective, the Bible is fallible; the Holy Spirit failed to convey the Truth with fidelity and accuracy through man. In essence, the higher forms of criticism disregard much of the biblical text on the assumption that man has altered what God really said. The critic essentially rewrites what he believes what God truly said. If this is true, then no one can read the Bible in its present state; it must be read and interpreted by one who knew the higher criticism and could discern what God really said.

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Pet 1:20-21)

Did God intend the Bible to be understood by only those who know these higher forms of hermeneutic theories?

The real problem: Faith

How do you know if the Holy Spirit infallibly inspired the Bible? Hermeneutic theories essentially grapple with this one issue. And the basic answer is either It does (infallible) or It does not (fallible). We know that the Bible is the Word of God because the Bible tells us so. But to use this answer is fruitless in a debate; this is a circular argument. Christians cannot use biblical evidence that they have accepted as true as an argument to prove the biblical evidence. If the Bible is the Word of God, in a debate, the evidence must come from another source other than the Bible.

This is in itself another problem. By "proving" this with any method of human rationale, it denies the infallible inspiration of the Holy Spirit. How do you prove Divine inspiration with human derived evidence or reason?

The fact is that there is no human way to prove that the Bible is the infallible inspiration of the Holy Spirit. No human rationale can devise a hermeneutic theory to prove or disprove this. Hermeneutic theories generate questions that can never be answered and force the theorist to make more and more assumptions. It comes down to faith: a belief in something that is historical and objectively true and the subjective response of trust in that belief. It is faith alone that reconciles man with God. It is faith alone that believes that the Bible is the Word of God.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. (Heb 11:1-3)

The Good News points back to the historical event of the Crucifixion as the basis of faith. With a belief that the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ actually took place, genuine faith includes a trust in Jesus' promise of salvation and eternal life.

The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are, by any objective measure, reliable historical documents. Their historical veracity is superior to that of virtually any other literature of antiquity. From the Gospels, one can confidently conclude that:

a) Jesus lived in time and space as an historical figure.

b) He claimed to be God in the flesh.

c) He asserted that the proof of his claim of divinity was his miracles and in particular His coming death and resurrection from the dead.

d) The historical evidence, from both Biblical and non-biblical sources, overwhelmingly supports the claim that he did in fact rise from the dead.

e) The only reasonable deduction is that his claim of divinity is adequately supported if not proven.

The Bible is the Word of God, because no evidence has been found to deny Its claim. Skeptics have made the charge that the Bible is not a historical document, but cannot refute the textual evidence contemporary with its time. Philosophers have attempted to use logic, but cannot: 1) explain the origin of morality or 2) hold to a relative moral standard when the logical conclusion means an absence of moral standards. Other religious books have claimed to be a book of god; but, the evidence to the contrary has been compelling and insurmountable.

These diverse hermeneutic theories explain why biblical interpretation can be seemingly diametrically opposed among various "Christians." Rather than help the reader ascertain the proper interpretation, some hermeneutic theories actually bring the reader to the wrong interpretation and thus the wrong application.

The most basic and only question for all of us to consider is: "If we truly believe that Christ died for our sins and rose in bodily form three days later to reveal His power over death, what is holding us back from grateful submission to the authority of the Word of God?" For those who chose to use various theories of hermeneutics to justify their incongruent interpretations, the significant question is, "In consideration of the biblical evidence and in light of your presuppositions, do you really believe in the validity of your method, or do you believe in hopes of avoiding your submission to the authority of the Word of God?"

About this ministry's hermeneutics

This ministry believes that the Bible was written by people, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, in their common language within their historical, geographical, religious, and cultural context. This ministry believes that God, through the Holy Spirit, intended His Word to be understood by all Christians without any knowledge of hermeneutic methods. For these reasons, this ministry believes that the literal, grammatical, and historical approach, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is the best way to read and understand the Word of God. This ministry agrees with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and Hermeneutics.

For a more thorough discussion about biblical criticism and their controversies, read:

The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?

Author: F. F. Bruce

Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics

Author: Norman L. Geisler

Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology?

Author: Eta Linnemann Translator: Robert W. Yarbrough

A General Introduction to the Bible

Authors: Norman L. Geisler, William E. Nix


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