Michael Boling – Thoughts from the Theocratic Kingdom (Vol. 2): Proposition 150

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In Proposition 150, George Peters states:

“The establishment of this Kingdom is not affected by the extent of Peter’s conflagration.”

In this proposition, Peters is referencing the previous proposition which discussed 2 Peter 3:10-13. For anyone who might have missed that discussion, here is the passage in question:

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”

Apparently, some have tried to make the case that 2 Peter 3:10-13 is a nail in the coffin for the doctrine of the Kingdom as being outlined by Peters. Essentially, opponents are attempting to use a single proof-text as a means to suggest the entire doctrine must fall apart due to their interpretation of what the fire (i.e. conflagration) must represent in 2 Peter 3:10-13. It seems opponents question how a kingdom can be established in a place that has been “destroyed” by fire and completely laid bare. Peters explains in the below observation why this nail in the coffin claim falls way short of being sound biblical exegesis.

The most notable observation Peters presents in Proposition 150 is the following:

“If there is a passage which should be examined and explained according to “the analogy of faith,” it certainly out to be this one of Peter’s. The reason is apparent; it is the only passage of Scripture which our opponents allege as conveying an irreconcilable difficulty in the way of accepting what (as we have shown) is taught in the naked grammatical sense in Covenant and Prophecy, and what was unmistakably believed in by the primitive Church. To make a single passage overthrow the Jewish faith, the early Christian faith, and, above all, that constant harmony of Scriptural statement down to that point, and to make it the necessity for introducing a spiritualistic interpretation of preceding Scripture, is imposing too much upon one text and is violating the proportion due to the doctrine of the Bible. The rules given by Horne (Introd. vol. 1, p. 342, etc.), are worth of attention, and if applied will inevitably relieve our doctrine of the Kingdom from any alleged incubus said to be imposed by Peter. Surely when our doctrine of the Kingdom is founded in the oath-bound covenant given to David, is reiterated by prophets, is preached, etc., as Proposition after Proposition has proven, then it ought not to be set aside, or weakened, or condemned by one passage; then the passage assumed to be contradictory out to be explained in the light of the vast amount of testimony preceding it; then the lesser out to be interpreted by the greater, the more brief by the more extended, the doubtful by the plainly revealed.”

Until just recently, I had not been aware of “the analogy of faith” element of biblical hermeneutics. I came across this aspect while listening to a debate about hell between Chris Date (Rethinking Hell) and Len Pettis (Bible Thumping Wingnut). I believe it was Chris Date who mentioned “the analogy of faith.” To put it simply, “the analogy of faith” is the principle of biblical interpretation that all Scripture is in agreement with itself and thus there are no contradictions within the biblical corpus.

As Peters notes regarding the doctrine of the Kingdom, when one applies “the analogy of faith” hermeneutic to 2 Peter 3:10-13, any supposed problems for the doctrine of the Kingdom are easily addressed by noting the plethora of evidence found in Scripture that help us understand what the Apostle Peter is saying. It is vital when exegeting difficult passages to interpret those harder to understand passages in light of the more easily understood passages. This does not of course give us license to simply ignore difficult passages nor to avoid grappling with their meaning. What is being stated is 2 Peter 3:10-13 presents no problems for the doctrine of the Kingdom when this verse is understand within the greater context of Scripture. Peters does an excellent job in this observation of using the analogy of faith to demonstrate the consistency of Scripture and how that internal consistency reveals the 2 Peter 3 passage to be just another wonderful set of support for the doctrine of the Kingdom.

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D. A. Carson – The Tabula Rasa Fallacy

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Carl Henry has long been fond of saying that there are two kinds of presuppositionalists: those who admit it and those who don’t. We might adapt his analysis to our topic: There are two kinds of practitioners of hermeneutics: those who admit it and those who don’t. For every time we find something in the Bible (whether it is actually there or not!), we have interpreted the Bible.

There is good interpretation and there is bad interpretation, but there is no escape from interpretation. Consequently, we should be self-conscious about our hermeneutical task. Yet it is ironic that in our day some people seem altogether too interested, and other people too disinterested, in hermeneutics. Some seem far more interested in challenges of the discipline of hermeneutics than in the Bible itself, while others think they can bypass hermeneutics altogether. Without being crass enough to say so, they secretly harbor the opinion that what others offer are interpretations, but what they offer is just what the Bible says.

In this article, I want to reflect on interpretive decisions by focusing on one relatively “simple” hermeneutical challenge: how to tell what parts of the Bible are binding mandates for us, and what parts are not. This will not be an attempt to deal comprehensively with the subject, but it should nonetheless provide some preliminary principles for sorting such matters out.

Translating the Word “Bread”

Principle: Determine not only how symbols, customs, metaphors, and models function in Scripture, but also to what else they are tied.

We may be able to agree with the widely accepted conclusion that biblical language about sackcloth and ashes is a “placeholder” for repentance, and holy kissing for committed fellowship among church members. But is it then acceptable to lead a group of young people in a California church in a celebration of the Lord’s Table using Coke and chips? And how about yams and goat’s milk in Papua New Guinea? If in the latter case we use bread and wine, are we not subtly insisting that only the food of white foreigners is acceptable to God?

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R. Scott Clark – What The Bible Is All About

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The hit TV show Seinfeld has been called a show about nothing. One of the most pernicious falsehoods about the Bible is that it, too, is a book about nothing, that it is a random collection of ancient myths and moral aphorisms. Strangely, some Christians seem to regard Scripture this way. Others find unity in Scripture around God’s plan for national Israel and/or a time of millennial glory. Still others treat the Bible as if it is about the reader, as if there is no such thing as a “text” or authorial intent but only the reader’s experience of the text. Even more crassly, the Bible is read as if the reader (and his or her prosperity and happiness) is at the center of the story.

Reading the Bible the New Testament Way

These errant approaches to the Scriptures are borne from the misapprehension that the biblical writers themselves did not understand themselves to be contributing to a larger unified story and that they did not have a way of reading the Scriptures. There are writers who admit that such a unity and way of reading Scripture exists, but they contend Scripture is inspired and therefore it is beyond our ability to imitate the biblical hermeneutic. This view is mistaken. Scripture is inspired, but the biblical hermeneutic is not-at least not so that we cannot observe and imitate it. That is precisely what we shall begin to do in this essay.

The Scriptures are organized around God the Son who was “manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16; ESV).

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Dr. D. A. Carson – Must I Learn How To Interpret the Bible?

Hermeneutics is the art and science of interpretation; biblical hermeneutics is the art and science of interpreting the Bible. At the time of the Reformation, debates over interpretation played an enormously important role. These were debates over ―interpretation, not just over interpretations. In other words, the Reformers disagreed with their opponents not only over what this or that passage meant, but over the nature of interpretation, the locus of authority in interpretation, the role of the church and of the Spirit in interpretation, and much more.

During the last half century, so many developments have taken place in the realm of hermeneutics that it would take a very long article even to sketch them in lightly. Sad to say, nowadays many scholars are more interested in the challenges of the discipline of hermeneutics than in the interpretation of the Bible—the very Bible that hermeneutics should help us handle more responsibly. On the other hand, rather ironically there are still some people who think that there is something slightly sleazy about interpretation. Without being crass enough to say so, they secretly harbor the opinion that what others offer are interpretations, but what they themselves offer is just what the Bible says.

Carl F. H. Henry is fond of saying that there are two kinds of presuppositionalists: those who admit it and those who don‘t. We might adapt his analysis to our topic: There are two kinds of practitioners of hermeneutics: those who admit it and those who don‘t. For the fact of the matter is that every time we find something in the Bible (whether it is there or not!), we have interpreted the Bible. There are good interpretations and there are bad interpretations; there are faithful interpretations and there are unfaithful interpretations. But there is no escape from interpretation.

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Justin Taylor – The Loss of Historical Adam and the Death of Exegesis

Steven Wedgeworth, commenting on the revisionist work of Peter Enns and J. R. Daniel Kirk and the agnosticism of Tremper Longman on the historical Adam:

What we are seeing in theological circles is a new refusal to exegete at all. Instead of demonstrating the ways in which the rest of the Bible supports a figurative or mythical reading of Genesis, we are told that it doesn’t matter if even the Old and New Testament writers were mistaken. Dr. Kirk asks, “Is it possible to affirm the point Paul wishes to make—that God’s grace, righteousness, and life abound to the many because of Christ—without simultaneously affirming the assumptions with which he illustrated these things to be true?” His answer is typical of the new hermeneutical shift:

To accompany Paul on the task of telling the story of the beginning in light of Christ, while parting ways with his first-century understanding of science and history, is not to abandon the Christian faith in favor of science. Instead, it demands a fresh act of faith in which we continue to hold fast to the truth that has always defined Christianity: the crucified Messiah is the resurrected Lord over all. Belief in Christ’s resurrection was a stumbling block for the ancients, and it is a stumbling block for us moderns as well—and increasingly so as we learn more about our human story and the biological processes entailed in life on this Earth. We do not give up on the central article of Christian faith when we use it to tell a renewed story of where we came from. On the contrary, we thereby give it the honor which is its due.

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Tim Chaffey – How Should We Interpret the Bible, Part 2: Is Genesis 1–11 Historical Narrative?

In the previous chapter, the term “hermeneutics” was defined, and it was shown why it is so important to accurately interpret the Word of God. The best method of interpretation is known as the historical-grammatical approach. Not only did the people in the New Testament utilize this method when interpreting the Old Testament, but also it is the only system that provides a series of checks and balances to keep us on track as we interpret.

We looked at the following six key principles to follow when interpreting the Bible:

  • Carefully observe the text
  • Context is key
  • Clarity of Scripture
  • Compare Scripture with Scripture
  • Classification of the text
  • Church’s historical view

While by no means an exhaustive list, these are some of the major principles to keep in mind while studying and interpreting God’s Word.

The remainder of this chapter will be dedicated to examining the statement made by Dr. Dembski cited at the outset of the previous chapter and to determining the literary style of Genesis 1–11.

Continue reading “Tim Chaffey – How Should We Interpret the Bible, Part 2: Is Genesis 1–11 Historical Narrative?”

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R. C. Sproul – Hermeneutical Principles

sproul2_4 The Analogy of Faith – (Sacra Scriptura sui interpres) – Scripture is to interpret Scripture. This simply means that no part of Scripture can be interpreted in such a way to render it in conflict with what is clearly taught elsewhere in Scripture. For example, if a given verse is capable of two renditions or variant interpretations and one of those interpretations goes against the rest of Scripture while the other is in harmony with it, then the latter interpretation must be used.

Since it is assumed that God would never contradict Himself, it is thought slanderous to the Holy Spirit to choose an alternate interpretation that would unnecessarily bring the Bible in conflict with itself. The analogy of faith keeps the whole Bible in view lest we suffer from the effects of exaggerating one part of Scripture to the exclusion of others.

Interpreting the Bible Literally – The literal sense offers restraint from letting our imagination run away in fanciful interpretation and invites us to examine closely the literary forms of Scripture. The term literal comes from the Latin litera meaning “letter.” To interpret something literally is to pay attention to the litera or to the letters or words being used. To interpret the Bible literally is to interpret it as literature. That is, the natural meaning of a passage is to be interpreted according to the normal rules of grammar, speech, syntax and context.

The Bible may be a very special book, being uniquely inspired by the Holy Spirit, but that inspiration does not transform the letters of the words or the sentences of the passages into magical phrases. Under inspiration a noun remains a noun and a verb remains a verb. Questions do not become exclamations, and historical narratives do not become allegories.

Literal Interpretation and Genre Analysis – The term genre simply means “kind,” “sort” or “species.” Genre analysis involves the study of such things as literary forms, figures of speech and style. (E.g. Miracles – Jonah; Hyperbole “a statement exaggerated fancifully, for effect” [see Mt. 9:35]; Personification “a poetic device by which inanimate objects or animals are given human characteristics” [see Isaiah 55:12]).

The Problem of Metaphor – A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or a phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (e.g., Jesus saying: “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved.”).

The Medieval Quadriga – The “fourfold” method of interpretation examined each text for four meanings: literal, moral, allegorical, and analogical meanings. The literal sense of Scripture was defined as the plain and evident meaning. The moral sense was that which instructed humans how to behave. The allegorical sense revealed the content of faith, and the analogical expressed future hope. Thus passages, for example, that mentioned Jerusalem were capable of four different meanings. The literal sense referred to the capital of Judea and the central sanctuary of the nation. The moral sense of Jerusalem is the human soul (the “central sanctuary” of a person). The allegorical meaning of Jerusalem is the church (the center of Christian community). The analogical meaning of Jerusalem is heaven (the final hope of future residence for the people of God). Thus a single reference to Jerusalem could mean four things at the same time. If the Bible mentioned that people went up to Jerusalem, it meant that they went to a real earthly city, or that their souls “went up” to a place of moral excellence, or that we should someday go to heaven. During the reformation there was a firm reaction to this type of allegorizing. The Martin Luther rejected multiple meanings to biblical passages, he did not thereby restrict the application of Scripture to a single sense. Though a scriptural passage has one meaning, it may have a host of applications to the wide variety of nuances to our lives.

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Andrew Wilson – Hermeneutical Humility

One of the reasons I talk about hermeneutics so much, both here and elsewhere, is that it undergirds almost everything else. If we don’t know how God’s word exercises authority over us, and how to take what it says and apply it today, then we end up fudging the whole kit and caboodle. In the old days, people used to come right out and say that they didn’t submit to the Bible. Thomas Jefferson had the good manners to cut out all of the bits that he didn’t believe. But these days, the opposition to the authority of Christ is more creative. “Ah, but there’s lots of ways of interpreting the Bible”, for all its apparent innocence (and self-evident accuracy), is the contemporary equivalent of “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”

Figuring out whether you’re interpreting the Bible properly, of course, is of immense importance. There are texts which we find genuinely confusing, the meanings of which have been disputed for centuries by those who love God and his word. But you know what? There aren’t that many. If you compare the sermons of Chrysostom, Luther, Calvin, Wesley and your favourite preacher today, you will be struck by the extraordinary agreement between them on the meanings of almost all biblical texts, rather than by their disagreements. If you read a cross-section of ten commentaries on a controversial New Testament book – say, on 1 Corinthians, you read Barrett, Conzelmann, Fee, Witherington, Schrage, Thiselton, Garland, Wright, Fitzmyer, and Ciampa & Rosner – you will encounter remarkable consensus on what specific texts and passages mean, and where there is disagreement, it will almost always be of such a minor nature that the essential meaning of the passage is largely unaffected. When we consider experts like this from widely different backgrounds (Roman Catholic, Calvinist, Wesleyan, Anglican, Lutheran, Neo-liberal), we find people disagreeing about the rhetorical form of the text, possible ancient parallels and various grammatical and syntactical questions – but we don’t find anyone saying that Paul thinks division in the church is good, that sexual immorality is fine, that participating in idol feasts is no problem, or that the resurrection won’t happen. Such scholars may disagree with Paul, but they don’t disagree that much over what he thought was sinful and what wasn’t.

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Dr. D. A. Carson – Must I Learn How to Interpret the Bible?

Hermeneutics is the art and science of interpretation; biblical hermeneutics is the art and science of interpreting the Bible. At the time of the Reformation, debates over interpretation played an enormously important role. These were debates over ―interpretation, not just over ―interpretations. In other words, the Reformers disagreed with their opponents not only over what this or that passage meant, but over the nature of interpretation, the locus of authority in interpretation, the role of the church and of the Spirit in interpretation, and much more.

During the last half century, so many developments have taken place in the realm of hermeneutics that it would take a very long article even to sketch them in lightly. Sad to say, nowadays many scholars are more interested in the challenges of the discipline of hermeneutics than in the interpretation of the Bible—the very Bible that hermeneutics should help us handle more responsibly. On the other hand, rather ironically there are still some people who think that there is something slightly sleazy about interpretation. Without being crass enough to say so, they secretly harbor the opinion that what others offer are interpretations, but what they themselves offer is just what the Bible says.

Carl F. H. Henry is fond of saying that there are two kinds of presuppositionalists: those who admit it and those who don‘t. We might adapt his analysis to our topic: There are two kinds of practitioners of hermeneutics: those who admit it and those who don‘t. For the fact of the matter is that every time we find something in the Bible (whether it is there or not!), we have interpreted the Bible. There are good interpretations and there are bad interpretations; there are faithful interpretations and there are unfaithful interpretations. But there is no escape from interpretation.

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Dr. John MacArthur – The Pitfalls of Biblical (Mis)Interpretation (Part 3)

If you believe the Bible is God’s Word—that it’s His revelation of Himself and His plan for redeeming sinners, and that it supplies all the instruction and encouragement believers need for life, spiritual growth, and godliness—then getting the message right is of the highest importance.

However, the emphasis in many churches has shifted away from careful, disciplined Bible study to more intuitive and internal methods of spiritual formation. People who profess to love the Lord treat His truth carelessly, or disregard it altogether. Others simply lack the training and wisdom to get beyond the most basic, surface understanding of God’s Word.

Over the past few days, we’ve been looking at some key mistakes people make when it comes to interpreting and understanding God’s truth, and today we want to look at one more. In order to get the message of Scripture right, don’t spiritualize or allegorize unless the text itself calls for it. Some people use the Bible as a flexible fable to back up some point or platform they want to put across. Instead of seeking the true meaning of Scripture, they make it an allegory to support whatever they want to teach.

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