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There is a need for interpretation, in order to explain seeming contradictions

July 22, 2014 1 comment

Arthur PinkTurning from the general to the particular let us evince there is a real need for interpretation. First, in order to explain seeming contradictions. Thus,

“God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him… Take now thy son… and offer him there for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:1, 2).

Now place by the side of that statement the testimony of James 1:13,

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man.”

Those verses appear to conflict openly with each other, yet the believer knows that such is not the case, though he may be at a loss to demonstrate that there is no inconsistency in them. It is therefore the meaning of those verses which has to be ascertained. Nor is that very difficult. Manifestly the word “tempt” is not used in the same sense in those sentences. The word “tempt” has both a primary and a secondary meaning. Primarily, it signifies to make trial of, to prove, to test. Secondarily, it signifies to allure, seduce, or solicit to evil. Without a shadow of doubt the term is used in Genesis 22:1, in its primary sense, for even though there had been no Divine intervention at the eleventh hour, Abraham had committed no sin in slaying Isaac, since God had bidden him do so.

By the Lord’s tempting Abraham on this occasion we are to understand not that He would entice unto evil as Satan does but rather that He made trial of the patriarch’s loyalty, affording him an opportunity to display his fear of Him, his faith in Him, his love to Him. When Satan tempts he places an allurement before us with the object of encompassing our downfall; but when God tempts or tests us, He has our welfare at heart. Every trial is thus a temptation, for it serves to make manifest the prevailing disposition of the heart—whether it be holy or unholy. Christ was “in all points tempted like as we are, sin (indwelling) excepted” (Hebrews 4:15). His temptation was real, yet there was no conflict within Him (as in us) between good and evil—His inherent holiness repelled Satan’s impious suggestions as water does fire. We are to “count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations” or “manifold trials,” since they are means of mortifying our lusts, tests of our obedience, opportunities to prove the sufficiency of God’s grace. Obviously we should not be called on to rejoice over inducements to sin!

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Some believe that the only Interpreter they need is the Holy Spirit

July 15, 2014 1 comment

Arthur PinkOthers take the position that the only Interpreter they need, the only One adequate for the task, is the Holy Spirit. They quote:

“But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things… but the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you” (1 John 2:20, 27).

To declare that I need none but the Holy Spirit to teach me may sound very honoring to Him, but is it true? Like all human assertions that one requires to be tested, for nothing must be taken for granted where spiritual things are concerned. We answer that it is not, otherwise Christ makes superfluous provision by giving

“pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:11, 12).

We must ever bear in mind that it is a very short step from trusting God to tempting Him, from faith to presumption (Matthew 4:6, 7). Neither should we forget what is God’s common and usual method in supplying the wants of His creatures—mediately and not immediately, by secondary causes and human agent. That pertains as much to the spiritual realm as to the natural. It has pleased God to furnish His people with gifted instructors, and instead of haughtily ignoring them we ought (while testing their teaching— Acts 17:11) to accept thankfully whatever help they can afford us.

Far be it from us to write anything which would discourage the young believer from recognizing and realizing his dependence upon God, and his need of constantly turning to Him for wisdom from above, particularly so when engaged in reading or meditating upon His Holy Word. Yet he must bear in mind that the Most High does not tie Himself to answer our prayers in any particular manner or way. In some instances He is pleased to illumine our understandings directly and immediately, but more often than not He does so through the instrumentality of others. Thereby He not only hides pride from us individually, but places honor on His own institution, for He has appointed and qualified men to “feed the flock” (1 Peter 5:2), “guides over us” whose faith we are bidden to follow (Hebrews 13:7). It is true that, on the one hand, God has so written His Word that the wayfaring man, though a fool, should not err therein (Isaiah 35:8); yet, on the other hand, there are “mysteries” and “deep things” (1 Corinthians 2:10); and while there is “milk” suited to babes there is also “strong meat,” which belongs only to those who are of full age (Hebrews 5:13, 14).

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Some believe that the scriptures do not need any interpreting

Arthur PinkOn the other hand, there are some misguided souls who have suffered the pendulum to swing to the opposite extreme, denying that the Scriptures need any interpreting. They aver they have been written for simple souls, saying what they mean and meaning what they say. They insist that the Bible requires to be believed and not explained. But it is wrong to pit those two things against each other: both are necessary. God does not ask for blind credence from us, but an intelligent faith, and for that three things are indispensable: that His Word should be read (or heard), understood, and personally appropriated. None other than Christ Himself gave exhortation, “Whoso readeth, let him understand” (Matthew 24:15)—the mind must be exercised upon what is read. That a certain amount of understanding is imperative appears further from our Lord’s parable of the Sower and the Seed:

 

“When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart.., but he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it” (Matthew 13:19, 23).

 

Then let us spare no pains to arrive at the meaning of what we read, for what use can we make of what is unintelligible to us?

 

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Romanists claim that the Bible should not be in the hands of the common people

Arthur PinkThe principal passage appealed to by Romanists in an attempt to bolster up their pernicious contention that the Bible is a dangerous book—because of its alleged obscurity—to place in the hands of the common people is 2 Peter 3:15, 16. Therein the Holy Spirit has told us that the apostle Paul, according to the wisdom given him, spoke in his epistles of “some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.” But as Calvin long ago pointed out, “We are not forbidden to read Paul’s epistles because they contain some things difficult to be understood, but that, on the contrary, they are commended to us, providing we have a calm and teachable mind.” It is also to be noted that this verse says “some things” and not “many,” and that they are “hard” and not “incapable of being understood”! Moreover, the obscurity is not in them, but in the depravity of our nature which resists the holy requirements of God, and the pride of our hearts which disdains seeking enlightenment from Him. The “unlearned” here refers not to illiteracy, but to being untaught of God; and the “unstable” are those with no settled convictions, who, like weathervanes, turn according to whatever wind of doctrine blows upon them.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Most do not study, but only believe what they hear from the pulpit

Arthur PinkMAN is notoriously a creature of extremes, and nowhere is that fact more evident than in the attitude taken by different ones to this subject. Whereas some have affirmed the Bible is written in such simple language that it calls for no explaining, a far greater number have suffered the papists to persuade them that its contents are so far above the grasp of the natural intellect, its subjects so profound and exalted, its language so abstruse and ambiguous that the common man is quite incapable of understanding it by his own efforts, and therefore that it is the part of wisdom for him to submit his judgment to “holy mother church,” who brazenly claims to be the only Divinely authorized and qualified interpreter of God’s oracles. Thus does the Papacy withhold God’s Word from the laity, and impose her own dogmas and superstitions upon them. For the most part the laity are quite content to have it so, for thereby they are relieved of searching the Scriptures for themselves. Nor is it much better with many Protestants, for in most cases they are too indolent to study the Bible for themselves, and believe only what they hear from the pulpits.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

What is Your Reading Level?

Here is an interesting article found over at Reformation 21:

 

Did you know that the average adult reads between a 7th and 9th grade level? And studies show that we like to read two grades below our reading level for entertainment. Well I have a daughter going into the 7th grade, and one going into the 10th this fall. They are intelligent girls and all, but my 38-year-old self would be insulted if I had to stop at their reading level.

And yet there are plenty of intelligent people who do not have the stamina to read a popular level book on the basics of theology. As a writer in this genre, I often wonder at the irony of writing a book that is technically supposed to be at a lower reading level than the Bible. I mean, the Bible is for everyone, right? What reading level is the Bible?…

Read the entire article here.

Brief survey of the history of hermeneutics – 12. Post-Reformation Reformed Orthodoxy (I)

February 18, 2014 Leave a comment

The theological methodology of the post-Reformation Reformed orthodox: The theological methodology of the post-Reformation Reformed orthodox was, in the first place, exegetical. In order to get a firmer grip on their methodology, we will examine it from the vantage point of what it is not – 1. a hyper-syllogistic method; 2. an Aristotelian, rationalistic method; and 3. a universal method – and what it is – 4. a pre-critical method; 5. an exegetically-based method; 6. a redemptive-historically sensitive method; and 7. a multi-sourced method. The last four mentioned methodological characteristics are especially visible in the writings of John Owen, one of the premiere post-Reformation Reformed scholastics.[1]

1. Not a Hyper-Syllogistic Method: Their method was not reduced to syllogistic argumentation ad nauseam. In fact, Muller claims that “[f]ew of the orthodox or scholastic Protestants lapsed into constant or exclusive recourse to syllogism as a method of exposition.”[2] Syllogistic argumentation was utilized, but mostly in polemic contexts and not as an exegetical tool. Logic–the science of necessary inference–was utilized by the Reformed orthodox in the drawing out of good and necessary conclusions from the text of Scripture,[3] but it was a servant and not lord of the interpreter. Muller says that “the drawing of logical conclusions appears as one of the final hermeneutical steps in the [Reformed orthodox exegetical] method…”[4]

2. Not an Aristotelian, Rationalistic Method: The Protestant scholasticism of the post-Reformation era must be distinguished from rationalism. The Reformed orthodox did not place human reason above, or even equal to, divine revelation.[5] The place and function of reason was subordinate to the authority of Scripture. Reason was an instrument not an axiomatic principle.[6] The Protestant scholastics utilized a modified (or Christian) Aristotelianism “that had its beginnings in the thirteenth century.”[7] Muller explains:……

 

Read the entire article here.

Brief survey of the history of hermeneutics – 11. Renaissance and Reformation

February 11, 2014 2 comments

The Renaissance: The Renaissance was a very complex humanist movement within Europe during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Two of the most important contributions it gave to the Reformation were a return to critical scholarship and philology. What the Renaissance gave to the Reformation, then, was an academic climate of questioning the status quo and seeking to arrive at conclusions based on primary documents. Pelikan comments:

The insistence of humanistic scholars on an understanding of the biblical text based on a fresh reading of the Hebrew and Greek originals …acted as a catalyst in the reconsideration of the doctrine of authority during the age of the Reformation.[1]

This insistence led to the study of Hebrew and Greek grammar, the study of Augustine, and most importantly, the study of Paul and the Bible.

The Reformation: The Reformation was both a break with the negative elements of the past (especially the late medieval doctrine of ecclesiastical authority and the system of human merit theology) and a continuation of the discussion that had been taking place from the beginning. The Bible took center stage at the Reformation due, in part, to the influence of the Renaissance. With this came a renewed interest in Bible interpretation and historical theology, both from primary sources. The maxim ad fontes[2] produced intensified study in the original sources of the Christian tradition – the Bible first and foremost and, secondarily, the Apostolic Fathers, Patristics, and Augustine.

 

Read the entire article here.

The Bible and hermeneutics

February 10, 2014 Leave a comment

by Andrew S. Kulikovsky

Hermeneutics is the formal process by which the interpreter employs certain principles and methods in order to derive the author’s intended meaning. Naturally, this is foundational to all theological studies, and before a biblical theology of creation can be built, it is necessary to discuss the hermeneutical approach that should be utilized and how it should be applied to the text of Scripture, and in particular, the creation account of Genesis

The biblical account of creation simply assumes that God had endowed man with the faculties to communicate with his Creator.

 

Biblical inerrancy

Presuppositions and prior understandings have always played a significant role in the hermeneutical process, and one such presupposition is biblical inerrancy. Inerrancy is a complex doctrine, but it is internally coherent, and consistent with a perfect and righteous God who has revealed Himself. Broadly speaking, the doctrine of inerrancy identifies Scripture as true and without error in all that it affirms, including its affirmations regarding history and the physical universe.1 Article IX of The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy states:

WE AFFIRM that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write.

WE DENY that the finitude or fallenness of these writers, by necessity or otherwise, introduced distortion or falsehood into God’s Word.’

Concerning the role of history and science in the interpretation of Scripture relating to creation and the Flood, Article XII states:

WE AFFIRM that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.

WE DENY that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.’

Indeed, as Herman Bavinck noted, when Scripture touches on science it does not suddenly cease to be the Word of God.2

Of course, a high view of Scripture is ‘of little value to us if we do not enthusiastically embrace the Scripture’s authority.’3 Indeed, many scholars who claim to be evangelical have either rejected this doctrine outright, or have redefined it to allow for errors in historical and scientific references. Francis Schaeffer described the denial of biblical inerrancy as ‘The great evangelical disaster’. He noted that accommodating Scripture to the current scientific consensus has led many evangelicals to a weakened view of the Bible and to no longer affirm the truth of all that it teaches—not only in regard to theology and morality but also regarding science and history.4 Why, then, have many so-called evangelical historians and theologians denied inerrancy and infallibility in relation to history and science? John D. Woodbridge suggests they believe that if the Bible is only infallible for faith and practice, then it cannot be negatively affected by evolutionary hypotheses.5 The irony of this position is that in trying to defend inerrancy, they have essentially given it up!

Read the entire article here.

Brief survey of the history of hermeneutics – 10. Middle Ages (III)

February 4, 2014 2 comments

Scholasticism. One of the ways that Medieval Scholasticism influenced the Reformation was through the universities attended by the Reformers. Our modern university system evolved during the late Middle Ages. Luther was well-schooled in the scholastic method and philosophy. His utter contempt for Aristotle was no doubt an over-reaction to his university training and the element of superstition in much of late medieval scholasticism.[1] McGrath comments:

Scholasticism is probably one of the most despised intellectual movements in human history. Thus the English word ‘dunce’ derives from the name of one of the greatest scholastic writers, Duns Scotus. Scholasticism is best regarded as the medieval movement, flourishing in the period 1200-1500, which placed great emphasis upon the rational justification of religious beliefs. It is the demonstration of the inherent rationality of Christian theology by an appeal to philosophy, and the demonstration of the complete harmony of that theology by the minute examination of the relationship of its various elements. Scholastic writings tended to be long and argumentative, frequently relying upon closely argued distinctions.[2]

 

Read the entire article here.

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