Friday, September 30, 2011

It's Safe to Assume - Is it?

I mentioned a while back that the first casualty of biblical interpretation is objectivity. As I reflect on that, I realize how much I have been driven over the last few years by the desire to do just that - understand God's Word free from the baggage of pre-taught and predetermined conclusions. Like many things in life, it's easier said than done. I had many years of being taught what the Bible said, long before I was filled with a passion to truly know what God was saying. So for many years, passages of scripture that "I knew," because they were regularly used to prove a doctrinal position I'd been taught, became sections of scripture to skim, sometimes ignore, and often never study in the larger context of what the Holy Spirit was saying. Some of those same passages, now don't say what I'd always "known" they said. Some of them are NOW far more exciting, challenging, and full of grace then they were when I used them as proof-texts to support my positions.
I am also discovering how many conclusions I have be taught, and taught to others, are conclusions I/we infer from passages that support what we have already concluded. If you study the New Testament with the predetermined mindset that there is a formal time, place, and way that Christians worship God - I'm talking about a Temple worship mindset - you will find passages that support that belief, even if you have to infer that was what the Holy Spirit was talking about and there are zero commands to base it on.
We read the Old Testament because it tells us about God, how He works, and how He tells His people what He wants. The one thing that is absolutely clear from any study of the OT is that God is very clear about what He wants. When did He ever expect His followers to do anything with eternal consequences based solely on figuring it out from and example or from an inference? What God wants, God commands. An example or an inference is only valid if it supports a direct command from God. And yet, we have no problem developing major doctrinal positions based totally on what we infer from examples or biblical witnessing. It doesn't mean they don't count, but it does mean they are not a primary source of determining obedience.
Does it matter? Yes is does. Do we really think that God's will is a jigsaw puzzle to be pieced together? Does it make sense that God's plan for redeeming man, which was in place pre-Creation, and cost His only Son's death on a Cross, and is totally built on love, is dependent on our ability to infer what He wants us to do?
Commands are always a primary source. It's how God works. Whatever your personal passion is as far as your journey to know God, or whatever you believe the church should have a passion about - does it come from a command or did you start with a conclusion and then find verses that infer that your conclusion is correct? Again, it's not always about something being wrong, but about honestly interpreting, and being a person "who correctly handles the word of truth."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for making us think and study for ourselves. SH