This week one of my advertising requests was turned down. Of course I was disappointed, but it was the reason given that got my goat. His explanation for his rejection of my ad was “I don’t want to promote the hermeneutic represented in this material.”
Hmm? Such big words! Just what does he mean by “hermeneutic”?
The word “hermeneutic” comes from the ancient Greek god Hermes, the supposed god of wisdom. You can find a definition from the University of Toronto here. Essentially hermeneutics simply means the interpretation of Scripture, through linguistic and grammatical rules and norms. It can be applied to any document, and really states that the meaning can be derived by simply reading what is there. It also means that the original intent can be translated into any language, and any normal literate person can understand, simply by reading what is there.
I was offended, initially, because the person in question is a Baptist pastor and teacher, at a Southern Baptist seminary. I shouldn’t have been. The term “Baptist”, like the term “Christian”, has lost its meaning over the last few hundred years. Today you can practice Yoga, be an Anti-semite, or a pagan and still call yourself a “Baptist”, or a “Christian”. Both terms are essentially meaningless.
So what of my hermeneutic? What am I saying in The Spirit of Prophecy that this man would find so offensive, without even reading my book? He may have read my introduction on my website, or some of the articles on my blog. If so, he would have understood that I am saying that any person of average intelligence can understand the bible, by simply reading it, and applying normal grammatical rules to it. In other words, it is the plain-sense meaning that applies.
This does not mean that I am a hyper-literalist. When Jesus said “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” (John 6:53) he was not speaking literally, as many have claimed. He followed up this statement with the qualification: 63 “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” Very clearly Jesus was stating that we are to eat him and drink his blood in a figurative, or spiritual way, not literally. At the last supper he said “this is my body, which is given for you” (Luke 22:19) as he gave his disciples a broken piece of matzoh, but he was still in his body, standing before them. He obviously meant that the bread represented His body. It was not meant to be taken literally.
That’s my “hermeneutic” in short. We could expand on it to show that sometimes Scriptural passages can be misinterpreted if they are taken out of context. What does context mean? Do I need to get a bunch of books by ancient Middle Eastern scholars to be able to understand what is being said? Does the interpretation of Scripture depend on scholars? The short answer is “No!”
If we are going to understand what God wants us to understand we first need to understand that God Himself is the originator of language. On the day that God created Adam, Adam was able to understand the commands that God gave him immediately! He was also able to name the animals on that day and to remember the names. No, he didn’t have to remember the names of sub-species, like Chihuahua, Great Dane, German Shepherd, Terrier, etc. No he only needed to remember “dog”, or the equivalent in that language.
We can look at the dna that makes up our own bodies, and understand that it is made up of “words”. Not only this, but our dna is immensely more complicated than the words we type into our computers, or even the bible itself. This should tell us that God has a greater understanding of “words” than we ourselves. He gave us the words we need in the bible, and also provided the context we need to interpret them, all within that same document.
This is what so many of our leaders find so offensive. The idea that you, or I, can read the bible on our own, and understand the message God has for us, renders these leaders irrelevant, or even heretical! Its no wonder that such a man would not want to promote this hermeneutic. If he did, he would be working against himself!
There are some other things that the bible itself says that we need to look at, if we are to understand what it is saying to us. There are also some things the bible doesn’t say that are also relevant. For instance, the bible does not say that we need to go to our leaders to interpret Scripture. Rather it says that if we lean on the Holy Spirit, He will lead us to the truth.
John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. 47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?
Acts 17:10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
I Corinthians 2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
To understand Scriture you need to compare Scripture with Scripture, while relying on the Holy Spirit. There is no substitute for this, and no way around it. Notice also that God’s wisdom is often contrary to human wisdom.
I Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
So what is my hermeneutic? You have to accept the plain-sense meaning of the biblical text, but even then you will not understand it unless you ask God, through the Holy Spirit, to reveal His truth to you, in Jesus’ name. Notice here that the word used is “receiveth”. This doesn’t mean that the natural person cannot understand the plain-sense of the words being used, it simply means that he will reject them as foolish.
For instance; how could one man dying on a cross pay for all the sins of the world? The world is full of sin, and one man on a cross seems so small, but if that one man was God, the infinite God who created the world, then His blood could have infinite value! If that one small man was actually the God who measures the universe, as if it were the breadth of one hand, then He is a lot bigger than He seems. (Isaiah 40:12, 45:12, 48:13)
John 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
John 16:23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
John 16:26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:
Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (also Luke 11:9-10)
Jesus is not telling us to ask for wealth or physical things, but to ask God to reveal spiritual truth, through His word.
On a related note; this week I received news that the truth was presented last weekend at the “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference in Bethlehem, Israel, and rejected by the majority there. In fact one speaker said that the literal interpretation of Scripture, which says that God is not done with Israel, is “the theology of fools who delight in their own idiocy”! So, why should I be offended if some don’t like what I am saying, or the way in which I am saying it? I am in good company!
The question is not “Do you believe in God”, but “Do you believe God?” This is the question of the ages, and still applies today. Satan called God a liar in the Garden of Eden, and our scholars are still doing the same today!
Do you believe what God says about you? Do you believe what God says about Himself? Do you believe what God says about this world and its future? Do you believe that God is intelligent enough to write down exactly what He wants us to know? Is God honest enough to write the truth about the creation of this world? If your answer to any of these questions is “no” you are not a (born-again) Christian, and need to repent.
For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Romans 4:3
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Matthew 7:14
Leaders like Rick Warren, and Bill Hybels, tell us that we need to work for the betterment of mankind. “Get involved in community projects.” This is in direct contrast to Jesus Christ who said:
Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. John 6:29
The only legitimate understanding of Scripture is the plain-sense, literal, hermeneutic. Anyone who says otherwise is a false teacher.