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Home » CHFWeb Forum » BibleIssues » How do *you* interpret scripture?
How do *you* interpret scripture? [message #790601] Wed, 20 November 2013 04:47 Go to next message
Lisa R.  is currently offline Lisa R.
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I was reading an article about a pastor who was brought up for discipline in his church's denominational "court" or whatever it was called. In the article I read this sentence (with the actual sin, which IMHO is a very clear sin, left out. I don't want to discuss the sin,, but the interpretational issues):

Quote:

he, too, had once believed that "_______is incompatible with Christian teaching,” but decided as a seminarian that there were many possible ways to understand the Christian scriptures.


I completely agree that there are issues in scripture that, well, that theologians have debated for centuries.

There's probably not an answer to my question.

But...is it possible to *know* what God meant by what He said?

Is His Word absolute, or can we take an "I'm okay; you're okay" approach to scriptural interpretation?

Hypothetical (because we'll never see perfection this side of heaven): If every Christian, filled with the Spirit, allowed the Spirit to teach, and each Christian listened completely, unhindered by sin, and we interpreted exactly what the Spirit taught....would the Spirit teach the same meaning of scripture to each one of us? Or is it fluid?

I'm not talking about application, necessarily. "Honor your father and mother" might mean caring for them in ill-health for one family and showing up for dinner once a week in another. But while we might honor our parents differently, in this "perfect teaching" scenario, would we all come to the conclusion that we must honor our parents?

We're told there is no private interpretation. (2 Pet 1:20)

Probably the answer lies in application. But I just feel in my own heart that a God of such perfection as the God of the Bible would surely say what He means, and if He cared enough to send His Son, "The Word," to dwell among us, that communication must be important...so, wouldn't it ultimately be understandable?

Probably, this is a pointless conversation...but it's something I periodically find myself trying to wrap my brain around.


Blessings,
Lisa R.
Re: How do *you* interpret scripture? [message #790602 is a reply to message #790601 ] Wed, 20 November 2013 05:00 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Teri in AZ  is currently offline Teri in AZ
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I'm studying this right now in my Inductive Bible Study class, so I'll give you the "book answer" Smile

First look at the intention of the author - meaning both the human author as well as God. God worked through human authors to convey his meaning through the conventions of scripture. (quoted from my text, Grasping God's Word The meaning is determined by the intention of the author. We aren't to go looking what the passage means "to me" but what did the author intend? Of course, context defines the meaning as well.

Some specific guidelines the textbook gives with regards to Biblical interpretation:

Guidelines:
§ Identify where this passage fits within the large, overarching story of the Bible
§ Identify the purpose of the passage - context-specific
§ Move from context-specific meaning to the less context-specific and more general theological truths
□ Basic characteristics of God
□ Implication of that truth for God's people in general
□ Then look at the specific form for specific people in specific contexts
§ Select theological principle that is as specific as possible while still general enough to apply to us as NT believers.

You are absolutely right that application will look differently to everyone, but the basic spiritual, theological truths are not different. However, those are the ones that are often ignored, because we just don't like to hear about sin and God's holiness and how we should live our lives in relation to that.

As I'm sure you know, there is a LOT more - I'm loving this class, learning far more in this one class than I think I have in any other class I've taken so far. I kind of wish it went on for longer than eight weeks. Actually, I'd love to do an inductive Bible study on my own with some others using the principles I'm learning, but not sure how/when/with whom....


Teri in AZ

God is still on the Throne.
Re: How do *you* interpret scripture? [message #790607 is a reply to message #790602 ] Wed, 20 November 2013 05:15 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Lisa R.  is currently offline Lisa R.
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yep...and actually, the "book answer" is the one I follow. I don't believe God contradicts Himself, so where there appears to be contradiction, it is because of a lack of understanding on my part, not a lack of clarity, or worse a lack of perfection on His part.


Blessings,
Lisa R.
Re: How do *you* interpret scripture? [message #790619 is a reply to message #790601 ] Wed, 20 November 2013 05:58 Go to previous messageGo to next message
william
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Most people like to view things in a black or white sort of way and this presents a problem if what we are talking about is a passage that requires "interpretation". Doctrine is different from interpretation, but oftentimes people confuse the two.

Someone might ask whether or not this or that statement about scripture is true or false, well that is going to depend on whether or not the passage is one that needs interpretation, or one that presents a clear doctrinal statement.

An "interpretation" may contain both truth and error at the same time, but doctrine shouldn't be placed on the same plane as interpretation.

You interpret the sky as having a reddish hue and I say it has a pinkish hue. Who is in error and who has the truth? Maybe 99% of the population see it as a red and only a handful see pink... does this make the pinkos in error?

For instance, some people see the iron/clay of Daniel 2 as a fifth worldly kingdom, while I see it as an extension of the fourth, so who is in error here? It depends on a number of factors, but it boils down to my interpretation verses your interpretation. I can can give reasons to support my view, and you can do the same, but what we have at the end are two "interpretations", not one "interpretation" and the other a "truth".

Referring to an interpretation in terms of error and truth forces us out of the realm of interpretation and into the realm of doctrine. Interpretation is always going to have an element of subjectivity no matter how much we want to place it into the realm of doctrine.

Of course, once we get into the realm of doctrine we can talk "truth" and "error" because a doctrinal truth should not have the elements of subjectivity that apply to the interpretive realm.

Well then, you might say, isn't all doctrine a matter of interpretation? And then I'd be stumped and need to label myself an agnostic! Hopefully it won't come to that and you can see the distinction that I'm trying to make!

Doctrine shows us that Jesus is the Son of God. He is the sacrifice for our sins. There is no element of subjectivity to those statements... they are absolute truths.

We move quickly from doctrine into interpretation when we look at other things, like the rapture, or the millennial reign of Christ. These subjects require interpretation. I may think that the empirical evidence is on my side, but in the final analysis I shouldn't attempt to present my position as "I'm-right-and-you-are-wrong" because of the interpretive element involved.

Have I confused you enough here? <grin>

Blessings,
William


There's never enough time to do Satan's bidding...
Re: How do *you* interpret scripture? [message #790620 is a reply to message #790619 ] Wed, 20 November 2013 06:05 Go to previous messageGo to next message
william
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I should add that my post assumes an absolute trust in the truth of the revelation we have been given --the Bible. (KJV <grin>)

Blessings,
William


There's never enough time to do Satan's bidding...
Re: How do *you* interpret scripture? [message #790623 is a reply to message #790620 ] Wed, 20 November 2013 06:39 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Tamara Eaton
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william wrote on Wed, 20 November 2013 05:05

I should add that my post assumes an absolute trust in the truth of the revelation we have been given --the Bible. (KJV <grin>)

Blessings,
William



Someone should clarify he's joking about only the KJV. (For those who don't know William like I do. Wink )


Blessings,
Tamara

"There is always enough time to do the will of God. Don't Waste Your Life!"
Re: How do *you* interpret scripture? [message #790624 is a reply to message #790623 ] Wed, 20 November 2013 07:00 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Barbara K (NC)
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Tamara Eaton wrote on Wed, 20 November 2013 06:39

william wrote on Wed, 20 November 2013 05:05

I should add that my post assumes an absolute trust in the truth of the revelation we have been given --the Bible. (KJV <grin>)

Blessings,
William



Someone should clarify he's joking about only the KJV. (For those who don't know William like I do. Wink )


Thanks for clarifying, Tamara! I almost posted that he had me in agreement all the way up until that acronym!


Barbara K (NC)

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." 2 Cor 9:8


Re: How do *you* interpret scripture? [message #790640 is a reply to message #790624 ] Wed, 20 November 2013 09:53 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Hyzenthlay
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[quote title=Lisa R. wrote on Wed, 20 November 2013 04:47]
Quote:

he, too, had once believed that "_______is incompatible with Christian teaching,” but decided as a seminarian that there were many possible ways to understand the Christian scriptures.

Is His Word absolute, or can we take an "I'm okay; you're okay" approach to scriptural interpretation?quote]

I’ll start with , I don’t have a method for interpreting scripture. I have read about several ways of interpreting scripture, and am open to listening to the conversations about it. There are many verses and stories in the Bible I struggle to understand.
I don’t think saying , there are many ways to understand scripture, and finding yourself no longer agreeing with the way you were brought up to understand it, is the same as saying, “I’m Ok you’re OK”.
I had a difficult time with words like inerrant, infallible, or absolute to describe scripture ,I ask the question, what does inspired mean?
Re: How do *you* interpret scripture? [message #790708 is a reply to message #790601 ] Thu, 21 November 2013 05:33 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Lisa R.  is currently offline Lisa R.
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Thanks for our replies...I am aware that there is not some simple, "This is it" sort of answer...I just like to sharpen my thinking skills. Cool

William, I get your distinction between doctrine/interpretation.

I like the way our SS teacher puts it. He says, "This is what I believe and why...you may not agree with me, but I encourage you to study and make sure that what you DO believe comes from scripture and not just from 'this is what I've always been taught.'"

If you can't clearly support a position from scripture, it's probably time to re-think (IMHO).

Some things really cannot be supported from scripture. Sometimes two conflicting things CAN be supported from scripture...and in that case, I think ultimately we need to study to learn as much as we can and come to the best understanding we can, and recognize that we may not know for sure till we're in glory.


Blessings,
Lisa R.
Re: How do *you* interpret scripture? [message #790715 is a reply to message #790708 ] Thu, 21 November 2013 06:49 Go to previous messageGo to next message
~Janice  is currently offline ~Janice
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Lisa R. wrote on Thu, 21 November 2013 03:33


... Sometimes two conflicting things CAN be supported from scripture...and in that case, I think ultimately we need to study to learn as much as we can and come to the best understanding we can, and recognize that we may not know for sure till we're in glory.


Yes.

After studying a few major doctrinal positions that I happen to disagree with, and following their "logical" connect-the-dots arguments, I have concluded what you say above. What's conclusive to one may not be conclusive to another. ?? What does that say about clarity of scripture? Not sure but I'm with you on your last sentence.

[Updated on: Thu, 21 November 2013 06:50]


TAKE TIME FOR FRIENDS!

Janice T. ~ CHF member since 09/97 ~
Mom to four - ds 28, dd 26, dd 24 and ds 21 - and wife to my sweet husband Richard.
Re: How do *you* interpret scripture? [message #790869 is a reply to message #790715 ] Sun, 24 November 2013 17:41 Go to previous messageGo to next message
LauraBeth  is currently offline LauraBeth
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I sometimes think that God has included some hard-to-figure-out things in Scripture to give us a chance to grow in our exercise of charity towards each other. The whole human will/election discussion, which nobody is ever going to successfully be able to delineate exactly how the two function together, is an area where people get really hot under the collar, and start telling each other that they CAN'T hold position A or B, because they are ignoring key Scripture.

I think there are things that are CLEARLY truths we need to stand on, as William said: the authority of Scripture, the fact that Jesus is fully God/fully man, the fact that there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved--those are all non-negotiables. But other stuff, the interpretive things that have been fought over for centuries...we need to take the approach that there IS only one truth, but that in this life, WE might not be able to discern for sure that we have it right. Take a position, yes, and be able to defend from Scripture why you think that is the correct interpretation. But also have the humility to say, "I could be wrong about this."
Re: How do *you* interpret scripture? [message #791244 is a reply to message #790601 ] Sun, 01 December 2013 04:34 Go to previous messageGo to next message
janetR  is currently offline janetR
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I have been mulling this over for awhile now, keep coming back to it. I've come back to it again, and again it is mostly this statement that bothers me.
Lisa R. wrote on Wed, 20 November 2013 03:47



But I just feel in my own heart that a God of such perfection as the God of the Bible would surely say what He means, and if He cared enough to send His Son, "The Word," to dwell among us, that communication must be important...so, wouldn't it ultimately be understandable?



There are two things wrong with this as an argument: First, whenever you start an argument with "I just feel in my own heart..." , you are on shaky ground. Even if what you feel is true, it is not our feelings that determine reality. When I am looking for truth, for reality, I try to ignore my feelings. You probably weren't using this as an actual argument, but you are asking a question. If you want the answer you find to be truth, IMO you need to set aside your feelings.

Second, you make two if-then statements (implied) here (which means that you are using this as an argument) which are not necessarily valid: If He sent The Word, then communication must be important. If communication is important, then the Bible is understandable (in the way you describe elsewhere). I have little quibble with the first one, but I have large quibbles with the second. If the Bible is describing the character and teachings of an infinite God, then I would expect it to contain things not able to be understood by finite creatures. You might agree that the character of God would be beyond us and argue that the teachings of God should be able to be understood. But the teachings of God are wrapped up in His character; they flow from it.

One time I decided to read Romans all in one sitting (long car trip). The first few chapters were easy. Then it got more difficult, and I slowed down. I was still following him, but I kept going more and slowly, trying to understand. Finally, after 11:32, I looked up from my reading, blinked my eyes, shook my head, and asked myself "What in the world is he talking about?" I sat there for a moment, turning it all over in my mind, then gave up and turned back to the text. The very next verses were these:
33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and[i] knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”[j]
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”[k]
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

It was almost like Paul got in over his own head as he was speaking (dictating) and sat there shaking his head and blinking over it all.

So no, I definitely do not agree that we should all, led by the Spirit, be able to come to all the same conclusions about the Bible. I absolutely believe that, whenever it is the Spirit actually leading, He will lead to truth. But I also believe that we have all been in situations where we thought the Spirit was leading us when it wasn't the Spirit of God at all. It is not my feeling of being led that determines whether the teaching I find is truth; it is the truth of the teaching that determines whether or not I was led. And in some cases, we may not be sure till we see Him face to face which of those it was.


JanetR
daughter of the King since 1980
wife to dh since 1981
mom to five of the most incredible adults on the planet, one wonderful 18yo, and grandma to two bouncy grandsons
Re: How do *you* interpret scripture? [message #791246 is a reply to message #791244 ] Sun, 01 December 2013 05:06 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Lisa R.  is currently offline Lisa R.
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Great thoughts, Janet. I just lost a long reply, which I'll try to recreate at a later time.


Blessings,
Lisa R.
Re: How do *you* interpret scripture? [message #791248 is a reply to message #790601 ] Sun, 01 December 2013 06:53 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Teri in AZ  is currently offline Teri in AZ
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Wow Janet, this is exactly what I'm struggling to write an answer for my Inductive Bible class paper that is due tomorrow.

"Why is the issue of communication important to the discussion of authorial intent? Please identify all the reasons and explain each one. You need to explain the difference not just identify and state the difference. Keep in mind that the essence of knowing what God said in the past through the writings of inspired authors is to determine the meaning God communicated. Readers must be careful not to impose meaning on the text. Translators do their best to make the text clear while the Holy Spirit makes the message of the text clear. "

As you can imagine, I'm really struggling with it. I've been pondering it for a week now. Ugh.


Teri in AZ

God is still on the Throne.
Re: How do *you* interpret scripture? [message #791256 is a reply to message #790601 ] Sun, 01 December 2013 08:05 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Teri in AZ  is currently offline Teri in AZ
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Ok, expanding a little. Understanding the role of communication IS important. Is communication a one-way street or is it two ways? I think it's two ways - what the author intended, and our response to that communication. A lot comes down to do you view interpretation as finding out what the passages mean to "me", or are you looking to find out what God says in the passage. It is a matter of authorial intention verses reader response. If you read it for what it means to you, as opposed to understanding what the Author's intended meaning is, then interpretation will necessarily be completely different. We can make it say whatever we want, and people often do. We can justify all manner of sin by denying basic, fundamental, clear truths. The difficult areas will still be difficult, but there are truths that are plain, simple and clear - clouded often because the reader is spiritually dead or doesn't want to acknowledge that there is a God out there who is sovereign.

Does that make any sense?


Teri in AZ

God is still on the Throne.
Re: How do *you* interpret scripture? [message #791267 is a reply to message #790601 ] Sun, 01 December 2013 12:21 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Lisa R.  is currently offline Lisa R.
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Quote:

then the Bible is understandable (in the way you describe elsewhere)


I still don't have time for the more in-depth response I lost earlier, but partly I'm pondering the difference between our human failures and inabilities to get it right when it come to interpreting scripture and the absolute truth of God's word, and how that plays out in contradictory issues. (It can't be true that we have eternal security and can also lose our salvation--unless God saves some securely and some not; it can't be true that we must be baptized in order to be saved and that baptism is only symbolic, unless one is true for some and one is true for others. Unless, God in His infinite wisdom gave us logic for our own use, but not His.--which is possible, of course. Smile)

But I'll say that one of my weaknesses in debate is to make a statement that in my mind applies accurately to the narrow point I have in my head, but which doesn't hold when carried to its logical conclusion. Janet, your post is helpful for me to ponder with that in mind.

In my initial post I was thinking of very concrete things.Things that really are stated in a black and white manner. But, even with some less clear issues, it seems that ultimately there really is a right and a wrong. (And we may not be in either position). I'm just thinking that we will all rather surprised when we get to heaven and find out that God actually did have a position of truth, and it was not my way or your way or whatever.

Still clear as mud, I'm sure. I often talk myself in circles trying to think through this issue.


Blessings,
Lisa R.
Re: How do *you* interpret scripture? [message #791298 is a reply to message #790601 ] Mon, 02 December 2013 02:48 Go to previous message
Lisa R.  is currently offline Lisa R.
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In thinking about some of my statements in this and another thread, I want to clarify something...

I'm learning, and trying to wrap my mind around some concepts. One is the idea of the understandability of scripture. I've been taught in the past that scripture is too deep for mere mortals to understand. With that in mind, I've often looked at difficult passages and essentially skipped over them, dismissing them as "too difficult."

I've also been in churches where the deepest the sermon gets is the basic message of salvation every week.

In the last decade or so, I've run across teachers who believe (as I do now) that scripture was truly written as God's message to us, and just as we do not deliberately speak to our own children in words to big for them to understand and sentences too obscure for them to grasp, neither does our heavenly Father intend for His own children to miss the message of His Word.

God is infinite, and there ARE mysteries too deep for our finite minds to grasp...I'm not saying the whole thing is easily accessible if we just glance over it....but I'm seeing that things really are in there, things that you can put together with study, and actually understand rather than just glossing over.

And I think good doctrine is important; it's important to understand what God is actually saying to us. That is important because what we believe impacts how we act.

BUT, BUT, BUT...I do NOT believe that having accurate understanding of scripture trumps kindness and love. Jesus says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind...and love your neighbor as yourself."

IMHO, if you don't grasp that part, doctrine won't matter.

Just so we're clear. Smile


Blessings,
Lisa R.
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