Fundamentalism: Whence? Where? Whither? Part 8

NickOfTime

Digression One, Still Continuing: Populism and Scripture

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them. (Westminster Confession 1.7, Second London Confession 1.7)

Against the claims of the Roman magisterium, evangelicals of all sorts lay heavy emphasis upon the perspicuity of Scripture. By this they mean that the Scriptures are written to be understood. The Bible can be rightly interpreted without having to submit to a separate teaching office that enjoys some special spiritual unction to lend authority to its statements.

Similarly, evangelicals of all sorts emphasize the authority of Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura). Unlike the Catholic magisterium, evangelicals do not accept a separate, oral tradition as a source of revelation and authority. While evangelicals do believe in an apostolic tradition, they affirm that the content of that tradition has been canonized (i.e., its intrinsic authority has been recognized) in the books of the Old and New Testaments alone.

In the wake of Common Sense Realism and Populism, however, some evangelicals, including some Fundamentalists, have become confused about the meaning of these doctrines. They have distorted Sola Scriptura to mean Nuda Scriptura. They have replaced the perspicuity of the Scriptures with the perspicacity of every interpreter.

The Historic Theory of Perspicuity

The classical Protestant and Baptist doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture is well stated in the Westminster Confession and copied by the Second London Confession. These confessions acknowledge that the Scriptures reveal different truths with different levels of clarity. They imply that some of the less clear truths may be available only to the learned. One class of truths, however, is adequately comprehensible to learned and unlearned alike. That class includes such truths as must be “known, believed, and observed for salvation.”

In other words, the aspect of Scripture that can be understood by anyone is its saving message. Any truth that is essential to salvation is clearly and comprehensibly revealed “in some place of Scripture or other.” Anyone can learn the way of Salvation by reading the Bible.1

It is no small matter that the way of salvation has been revealed in language that any person can understand. We do not have to rely upon sophisticated intellectual tools. We do not have to rely upon specially-endued ecclesiastical spokesmen. If we can read the Bible in our hands, then we can know how to be saved.

But suppose we want more. Suppose we wish to acquire a more advanced understanding of the salvation that we have received. Suppose we wish to explore doctrines that are less directly connected with the gospel itself. Should we expect every doctrine of Scripture to be as clearly stated as the way of salvation?

The early Protestants and Baptists thought not, and most of us agree with them intuitively. That is why we have Bible studies. It is why we listen to expository sermons. It is why we usually expect our elders to have received special training in the handling of the biblical text. We do not just read the Word of God; we also want to be helped to understand it.

We still insist that no special, spiritual unction is necessary to become an official interpreter of the Bible. The only anointing that is available is the indwelling Spirit of God acting as our teacher—and He performs this function for all believers equally. This ministry of the Holy Spirit is what we call illumination.

Illumination, however, does not take the place of good reading and hard study. It functions less at the level of interpretation and more at the level of application. In His illuminating ministry, the Holy Spirit does not teach us what the text says. Instead, He takes our knowledge of what the text says (gained through study) and shows us its significance for our own lives.

Requirements for Effective Interpretation

If we wish to understand more than the basics of the gospel, how should we proceed? What do we need in order to understand Scripture rightly? I suggest that we must attend to at least three requirements.

Interpretive Method

The first requirement for understanding Scripture is sound interpretive method. The Bible’s perspicuity has sometimes been so emphasized as to overlook the fact that it is rather a complicated book. It was written in three languages over a millennium and a half. It contains narratives, poems, visions, oracles, biographies, and a species of epistolary literature that combines exhortation with theological treatise. It has its own, rather technical vocabulary that has been adapted from ordinary usage in order to make special, theological points. Reading the Bible is less like reading a daily newspaper than it is like reading Plato or Seneca.

The least that serious interpreters of Scripture should do is to prepare themselves as thoroughly as if they meant to understand Plato or Seneca. What does this preparation require? At minimum, it must include a sound grasp of the historical-grammatical method of interpretation. This method is what we mean when we talk about “literal interpretation.”2

Along with the method itself, interpreters must add other knowledge and skills. Naturally, historical method requires the interpreter to know the relevant history and the culture in which a document was produced. By the same token, grammatical method means that interpreters must understand grammar. For biblical interpreters this means not only the grammar of the language in which the interpreter is reading, but also the languages in which the Bible was written.3

Skill in applying the historical-grammatical method requires reading the Bible itself. Presumably, all interpreters read the passages that they wish to interpret. To understand the Bible well, however, there is no substitute for wide-ranging knowledge of the whole biblical text. This kind of knowledge is gained only by reading through the Bible, over and over again.

Interpretive method is not learned by simply studying method but by practicing the method under the tutelage of someone who has mastered it. This kind of practice is about the only way through which we can hope to have our bad hermeneutical habits exposed and corrected. It is the reason that every Bible college and evangelical seminary that I know of requires a course in interpretation.

The Interpretive Community

The second requirement for understanding Scripture is life in the interpretive community. I have already implied the existence of such a community by suggesting that interpretive method has to be learned from someone who has already mastered it. Teachers and students together form a community.

Biblical interpretation is a contact sport. While it requires hours of solitude during which we examine the text and reflect upon it, good interpretation also requires the rough-and-tumble of conversation. We submit our ideas about the text to the community of interpreters. The members of that community will invariably notice facts that we have overlooked. They will raise objections of which we have not thought. They will point out to us where we have allowed our interpretation to be influenced by prejudice or self-interest. They will pursue implications that we have left unexplored.4

The core of our interpretive community ought to be the local church. Indeed, one of the main functions of a local church is to train its members to become effective readers of the Word of God. This kind of training may certainly include formal instruction in biblical interpretation. Whether it does or not, however, churches offer plenty of informal instruction. Every sermon, every Sunday school lesson, and every Bible study is de facto a lesson in hermeneutics. Effective churches must plan occasions for members to practice their interpretive skills. They must also plan occasions for genuine conversation where ideas can be floated, discussed, and even shot down.

Interpretation requires conversation, but not all partners will be granted an equal hearing in that conversation. To whom should we listen most closely? One obvious answer is that we should listen carefully to those who have gained the greatest interpretive mastery. People who are skilled in interpretive method and biblical languages, and people who possess a broad grasp of the biblical text, certainly deserve our hearing. But so do others.

Within the church Christ has given some to be pastors and teachers. The men who hold this office bear a special responsibility, for they will answer to Jesus Christ for our souls. These ought to be men who have already shown themselves to be skillful interpreters, and we should listen to them for that reason. More than that, however, they have a charge from Jesus Christ to teach us, so their office carries with it an authority that comes from the Master Himself. As these bishops faithfully preach and teach the Scriptures, and as they display in their lives the application of their study, we are morally bound to listen to them and even to obey them (1 Thess. 5:12-13; Heb. 13:7, 17).

Special prominence should also be granted to those whose lives have been most marked by the character of Christ, especially to those who have borne great reproach for the sake of His name. Such individuals are exceedingly rare, but the voices of the martyrs are not to be despised. These may not be the most learned people or the most skillful hermeneuticians, but we should never be dismissive of those who give evidence of having known Him and the fellowship of His suffering.

The Christian Past

If we really believe in the importance of the community of interpreters, then we shall also include at least one other group in that community. Besides listening to our peers and contemporaries, we shall also listen to the voices of the Christian past. This is the third requirement of sound interpretation: a knowledge of the development of Christian thought. 

Most of us will never come up with a truly original interpretation. The Bible has already been read in almost every way that it can be read, whether rightly or wrongly. The wrong readings of the Bible have often become heresies that have challenged the most important truths of the Christian faith. In reaction against those wrong readings, Christians have developed very nuanced ways of detailing what they think the Bible teaches. Such formulas are very important, for they close the doors against disaster to the right hand and to the left. Historic interpretations of Scripture almost always have their guard up against something.

If we ignore the controversies of the past, and if we neglect the formulations that arose from them, then we open ourselves to the possibility of recapitulating mistaken interpretations that have led to error. Even if we manage to avoid the errors, we shall not perceive the importance of the correct interpretations until we understand the conflicts that threatened them.

In some circles, one finds a naïve belief that a solitary individual, given no prior instruction, can simply sit down with a Bible and discover the entire Christian faith. The problems with this view are manifold. The first and most obvious is that no one has ever actually done this. The second is that God never intended anyone to do so—God’s plan was for those who had been taught to commit what they had learned to faithful people, who would in turn teach others (2 Tim. 2:2). The third is that wherever people have tried to start from nothing and interpret the Bible for themselves, they have (almost?) invariably produced error and even heresy.

Does anyone really need to be convinced that biblical interpretation has regularly gone seriously wrong? Sometimes it seems as if misunderstanding has been the typical state of affairs. It is out of conflict with misunderstanding, however, that right understanding has justified itself. We cannot afford to be ignorant of those conflicts. Nor can we afford to assume that by just starting from scratch we can avoid all the mistakes of the past. We are neither more intelligent, nor wiser, nor better persons than the interpreters of previous generations.

The attitude of humility is essential for correct biblical understanding. We need humility enough to recognize that we need to be disciplined by method. We need humility enough to submit our interpretations to the examination of the community. We need humility enough to recognize our betters, to subject ourselves to licit authority, and to honor the martyrs. We need humility enough to recognize that a regard for the past may not be nostalgia, but an important step forward in articulating the correct interpretation of the Bible.

If we lack this kind of humility, then we are doomed to become a generation of do-it-yourself interpreters. We shall be merchandise for those who market their opinions as the teaching of Scripture. We shall be left to the tender mercies of the religious hucksters and ecclesiastical entrepreneurs. And we shall deserve it, for such is the fate of the proud.

 

 

1 Even with respect to the way of salvation, the understanding that all interpreters can achieve is not exhaustive or even advanced, but “sufficient.”

2 One of the best books on interpretive method is Mortimer J. Adler, How to Read a Book (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1940). I have found the earlier edition more useful than the 1972 revision, co-authored with Charles Van Doren. In any case, this volume ought to be required reading in every Bible college hermeneutics course.

3 I have heard people question the value of studying the biblical languages. Invariably the questioning is done by those who have never invested the necessary time and discipline to learn the languages. I have never heard anyone who actually mastered the languages question their usefulness. I grant that most of Scripture can be understood at the basic level by reading a good translation. For a more advanced level of understanding (the level at which most pastors ought to be functioning), and for help in solving certain thorny problems, knowledge of the original languages is indispensable. The person who does not learn the languages is doomed to read the commentaries of those who have.

4 This is one of the necessary functions of opponents and even enemies. Ideally, our friends should confront us about our mistakes, including our mistakes in interpretation. Often, however, our friends are more afraid of us than for us, so they allow our idiosyncrasies to pass unchallenged. Our opponents and enemies, however, share no such compunctions.

The Instruction

Thomas Traherne (1637-1674)

Spue out they filth, the flesh abjure;
Let not Contingents thee defile.
For Transients only are impure,
And Aery things thy soul beguil.

Unfelt, unseen let those things be
Which to thy Spirit were unknown,
When to they Blessed Infancy
The World, thy Self, they God was shewn.

All that is Great and Stable stood
Before thy Purer Eys at first:
All that is Visibles is Good
Or pure, or fair, or unaccurst.

Whatever els thou now dost see
in Custom, Action, or Desire,
‘Tis but a Part of Miserie
In which all Men on Earth Conspire.


This essay is by Dr. Kevin T. Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). Not every professor, student, or alumnus of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
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Rob Fall's picture

I've held a serious student of Scripture can no more ignore learning the original languages than a serious student of international business can ignore learning English.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Joseph's picture

I'm intrigued thus far by the lack of comments on this, one of Bauder's most practical essays. Here he actually provides "policy" recommendations, as it were.

One of which is the knowledge of the Christian past as essential for responsible biblical interpretation. This I find revolutionary; if other's do not, I think they are fooling themselves because few, if any, probably practice this or would suport those who advocate its practice.

Bauder also gives a rather striking role to the interpretive community in the formation of believers. Some time ago, I wrote the following about interpreting Scripture, which was not well received:

"So, to the extent that I can, as an individual, read and understand the Bible, I know I am thus enabled only because God has gifted me with a community of believers who have helped shape my maturity, helped me learn, through watching them read and live out the Bible, what it means to read my Bible. People bereft of these these structures are inevitably immature, at best, often simply not Christian, at worst.

Reading the Bible as Christians can only take place properly within the normative context in which that activity is supposed to occur: namely, the local church. To disengage the practice of reading the Bible from the church is engender precisely what takes place in secular department of religion in which secular people study a text, not as the Bible, but as a collection of religious writings representing simply one more holy book. Such people are not competent readers of Scripture, which is why Christians are justified in disregarding their work to the extent that it claims to have direct relevance for Christian’s study of the Bible. Yet to recognize and accept this negative example is to implicitly accept it positive corollary: that there is a proper context in which to read the Bible, and that certain individuals are able to do it better than others."

I said all of this in the context of arguing for the important of tradition in a way that most others on the thread disagreed with. Now, Bauder is saying something that looks very similar. Do people still disagree?

Again, I think the implications of what Bauder are saying (of what I said, of what Hunter and Macintyre say, etc.) is radical, in that it gets to the root of the way we think about Scripture, church, and theology. Maybe Fundamentalists would be better off if they gave more attention to such issues than they do to their pet theories of music, and whether so and so is too secular, etc. So much can be learned about our identity as persons and groups by the conversations we find worth having, the one's we give our time to, the one's we're willing to think about and get upset for. I think people underestimate the significance of what Bauder is doing and saying, and the significance of the opportunity for conversation he is opening up. Could you imagine what would happen if Pastor's made these essays required reading for their staff, then the subject of discussions, perhaps further research (e.g. from the footnotes)?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I've appreciated this whole series, even the parts I've taken issue with (maybe espeically the parts I've taken issue with). What I'm seeing here is an emphasis and balance I haven't seen in several of the others. Perhaps because of not seeing well, perhaps not. Here, I don't see a black and white picture where you either think one way or think another (either you utterly reject common sense and populism or you wholeheartedly embrace it).
And Kevin doesn't say there are those who know and those who don't. Rather, you have more relative language... some know better than others, some better yet, but none (speaking of believers interpreting Scripture) are excluded or written off as unqualified.

For what it's worth, I have felt for years that hermeneutics did not get enough attention at either the college or seminary level. If I remember right, I didn't have a hermeneutics class per se in college at all. And in seminary, two semesters. I think the time is more ripe than ever to "double" that across the board (two semesters in college, four in seminary).
[br ]
Edit...

Joseph wrote:
One of which is the knowledge of the Christian past as essential for responsible biblical interpretation. This I find revolutionary; if other's do not, I think they are fooling themselves because few, if any, probably practice this or would suport those who advocate its practice.

I'm not sure where you're getting that impression. I grew up surrounded by men who practiced this and taught us, not only by example but more directly, to do the same. That emphasis continued, believe it or not, at BJU during my years there and certainly in seminary afterwards.
Sometimes what looks like ignoring history is simply a matter of making different choices about what parts of that history someone finds most credible and persuasive.

Ed Vasicek's picture

I think Bauder makes some good points, but I think he took too much of a digression from his original theme. Hermeneutics has certainly been affected by Common Sense Realism -- no doubt about it -- and it has to be pointed out. But now we are on such a tangent; I hope he gets back to the main theme. Hermeneutics would make a great "next series."

I also think that many of his points are a bit of a stretch. For example, listening to martyrs IS valid. But why must they be martyrs from 1700 years ago and not today's martyrs? Why this fixation on the past? Why isn't the hermeneutical issue about being accountable to others, including today's scholars, rather than being isolated and without challenge or accountability? Sure, past issues and theologians should be part of the mix. But the other side of the coin is that this sounds like we are assuming a "Golden Age" theory of the past. We must build on the past and examine the past. But we must do so without rose-colored glasses.

Christians from the second century to the present, for example, have often been anti-semitic. This, I believe, has blinded us to a number of Scriptural truths and removed the key to understand many passages, IMO. From a human viewpoint, we must recall that we serve a Jewish Savior whose Word was largely written by Jewish Apostles. When I look at the past, I must do so as a selectivist, not an idealist. I must remember that past scholars also were affected by the philosophical assumptions of their day just as we are (the original theme of this series). We must understand that even Calvin or Spurgeon or Berkhof were mixed bags.

If we assume that the Roman Church had many errors (and I think we can agree on that), and if we assume that the Reformation addressed some or many of these errors, we then must propose that they may have been blind to a number of Roman errors because of their paradigm blindness. Yes, we must examine the past: but we must be as cautious about past scholars as when we examine modern, present day theologians. We must not allow the "romance" or the "aura" of the past blind us. One reason to consult the past to try to avoid reinventing the wheel. And that "wheel" included doctrinal issues, like the Arian heresy. And the creeds are valuable in varying degrees, but not NECESSARILY more accurate than their modern counterparts.

Past theologians and interpreters, like present ones, stand or fall on their accuracy and alignment to Scripture. That should be the cardinal consideration. Time has no bearing on the Word of God.

So, yes, I more or less agree with Bauder's basic points, but I am not sure I agree with where he takes them.

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Doesn't look to me like he really takes them anywhere in this one... that is, as I read him, he just says you have to factor the "community" in and that includes interpreters of the past. Didn't deny at all that the present community matters, too.

Steve Newman's picture

There are things I agree about, and things I disagree about here.
I don't have a problem with the three principles in general, but think illumination is getting short shrift here. There is a sense in which the author is saying to run things through people who know God differently and/or better (martyrs, community). Scripture does talk of us being more obedient to what we know and understanding better. It also speaks of the necessity to seek God a great deal. With those things in mind, I have a hard time with the statement that illumination is equal for all. Not all seek illumination equally, so how can it be equal for all? While the Spirit can give to all equally, and we don't need a special unction to understand, we also need to work through our own personal relationship with God to gain understanding. Without seeking God and His help, we are in danger of turning in to mere technicians in the business of interpretation.

Red Phillips's picture

Quote:
"Christians from the second century to the present, for example, have often been anti-semitic. This, I believe, has blinded us to a number of Scriptural truths and removed the key to understand many passages, IMO. From a human viewpoint, we must recall that we serve a Jewish Savior whose Word was largely written by Jewish Apostles."

Christians from the middle of the 19th century to the present, for example, have often been philo-Semitic. This, I believe, has blinded us to a number of Scriptural truths and removed the key to understanding many passages, IMO. From a human viewpoint, we must recall that we serve an ethnically Jewish Savior whose Word was largely written by ethnically Jewish Apostles who had converted.

Joseph, I too was expecting more comments but what this essay says does not strike me as all that controversial. A key point, I think, is to remember that a lot of protestant/Reformation doctrine has to be viewed in light of the Catholic doctrine to which it was responding. So protestant doctrines regarding individual interpretation (which seems to go by many names and have many interrelated implications) must be understood as a rejection of the Catholic magisterium without being an endorsement of a populist individual interpretive free-for-all.

Charlie's picture

I too am a bit surprised at how Bauder chose to define illumination. I'll give a positive thought and a negative thought about what was said. Positively, I believe it is correct to place the work of the Holy Spirit primarily in the moral sphere. That is, the Holy Spirit does not work in me primarily by teaching me Greek or correcting my faulty syllogisms. Nor do I believe that he works as a divining rod, pointing me magically to correct biblical interpretations. The primary work of the Spirit is the renovation of the inner man, my moral character.

At this point, though, we ought to see that the inner man has much to do with the interpretive process, much to do with how we look at life. Men and women are not calculators that add up data and come to dispassionate conclusions. There are many instances in which our beliefs are shaped more by our emotions, relations, and environments than by cool assessment. For example, I've often said that in some ways I'm glad my father isn't an elder or pastor. At BJU, it was obvious that for these kids, there is more at stake in a theological argument than just the truth of the proposition. "You're telling me that my father, who loves Christ, who studies his Bible and prays every day, who is good to his family, who gives himself sacrificially to his people, who has pastored for 25 years, is WRONG about eternal security (or election, or Bible versions, or baptism, or eschatology, etc.)? That's impossible."

Only the Holy Spirit can work in a situation like that to make one's own relationship to Christ and knowledge of His word more important than some other relationship. There are so many other examples, other bad reasons for believing things. "Drinking must be wrong because my brother was killed by a drunk driver" or "Drinking must be ok because my pastor does it (or because I do it)." "The Bible isn't against homosexuality because I'm a gay Christian" or "Homosexuality is a particularly evil sin because I personally find it repulsive."

The Holy Spirit's job is to take our love away from things not worth loving and redirect it to the One who is infinitely worthy. We become better Bible interpreters when we value God's truth above our own sins, above possible effects on relationships, above our veneration for a certain trusted leader, above our convenient lifestyles. The relationship between what I believe and who I am is not a line but a spiral.

Psalm 18:25-26 25 With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; 26 with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Ed Vasicek's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Doesn't look to me like he really takes them anywhere in this one... that is, as I read him, he just says you have to factor the "community" in and that includes interpreters of the past. Didn't deny at all that the present community matters, too.

You may be right. I concluded what I did because I understood him to say, "The [current ] Interpretative Community" is made up of church members and elders. But Bauder puts the SCHOLARS in the past." But, upon a reread, he doesn't ACTUALLY say that.

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

Red Phillips wrote:
Quote:
"Christians from the second century to the present, for example, have often been anti-semitic. This, I believe, has blinded us to a number of Scriptural truths and removed the key to understand many passages, IMO. From a human viewpoint, we must recall that we serve a Jewish Savior whose Word was largely written by Jewish Apostles."

Christians from the middle of the 19th century to the present, for example, have often been philo-Semitic. This, I believe, has blinded us to a number of Scriptural truths and removed the key to understanding many passages, IMO. From a human viewpoint, we must recall that we serve an ethnically Jewish Savior whose Word was largely written by ethnically Jewish Apostles who had converted.

Joseph, I too was expecting more comments but what this essay says does not strike me as all that controversial. A key point, I think, is to remember that a lot of protestant/Reformation doctrine has to be viewed in light of the Catholic doctrine to which it was responding. So protestant doctrines regarding individual interpretation (which seems to go by many names and have many interrelated implications) must be understood as a rejection of the Catholic magisterium without being an endorsement of a populist individual interpretive free-for-all.

I don't know that the Apostle had "converted" away from Judaism (that's my take on Acts 21). And the Philo-Semitic movement has never been a majority of Christianity. There has always been an abundance of anti-semitic or at least non Philo-Semitic (are there such words?) scholars around. So how could those trains of thought be lost?

Quote:
Acts 22:2b-3a, "Then Paul said, 'I am a Jew...'"

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Charlie wrote:
I too am a bit surprised at how Bauder chose to define illumination. I'll give a positive thought and a negative thought about what was said. Positively, I believe it is correct to place the work of the Holy Spirit primarily in the moral sphere. That is, the Holy Spirit does not work in me primarily by teaching me Greek or correcting my faulty syllogisms. Nor do I believe that he works as a divining rod, pointing me magically to correct biblical interpretations. The primary work of the Spirit is the renovation of the inner man, my moral character.

At this point, though, we ought to see that the inner man has much to do with the interpretive process, much to do with how we look at life. Men and women are not calculators that add up data and come to dispassionate conclusions. There are many instances in which our beliefs are shaped more by our emotions, relations, and environments than by cool assessment. For example, I've often said that in some ways I'm glad my father isn't an elder or pastor. At BJU, it was obvious that for these kids, there is more at stake in a theological argument than just the truth of the proposition. "You're telling me that my father, who loves Christ, who studies his Bible and prays every day, who is good to his family, who gives himself sacrificially to his people, who has pastored for 25 years, is WRONG about eternal security (or election, or Bible versions, or baptism, or eschatology, etc.)? That's impossible."

Only the Holy Spirit can work in a situation like that to make one's own relationship to Christ and knowledge of His word more important than some other relationship. There are so many other examples, other bad reasons for believing things. "Drinking must be wrong because my brother was killed by a drunk driver" or "Drinking must be ok because my pastor does it (or because I do it)." "The Bible isn't against homosexuality because I'm a gay Christian" or "Homosexuality is a particularly evil sin because I personally find it repulsive."

The Holy Spirit's job is to take our love away from things not worth loving and redirect it to the One who is infinitely worthy. We become better Bible interpreters when we value God's truth above our own sins, above possible effects on relationships, above our veneration for a certain trusted leader, above our convenient lifestyles. The relationship between what I believe and who I am is not a line but a spiral.

Psalm 18:25-26 25 With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; 26 with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.


Charlie... a fascinating way to look at illumination. My wheels are turning. I think illumination is more than what you've described, but I'm inclined to agree that it would it include it. That is, I think there is a cognitive (for lack of a better word) work of the Spirit in enabling us (as I believe Kevin says in the article) to see how Scripture relates to our lives. On the other hand, it could certainly include a ministry to the will/affections, bringing "light" by removing our unwillingness to see how Scripture relates to our lives.
But I'm persuaded that Kevin is right that the Spirit does not do for us "what we can do for ourselves" (not quoting Kevin here)... He doesn't do the ordinary thinking work of deciphering language.
But that's not to say that it makes no difference whether the one doing that work is regenerate or not. The Spiritual condition of the interpreter would certainly influence as well what he/she is willing to see or inclined to see when doing the brain work as well.
So maybe I'm talking myself out of it now. I think I see room there for illuminating work also, though still not the kind that removes the need to use brain cells, employ actual knowledge and skill and work hard.

Ed Vasicek's picture

First John 2:27 adds to the confusion:

Quote:
As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.

Verses like this seemingly reinforce "Common Sense Realism," especially the part that says, "...you do not need anyone to teach you." What's the correct take on this verse?

"The Midrash Detective"

Steve Newman's picture

I appreciate others picking up on this and helping to "flesh it out".
There are clearly some things we can say about the Spirit and His ministry. Moral factors such as Charlie wrote do have a part in what the Spirit can teach you; hence references to not grieving or quenching the Spirit (I Thess 5). On the positive side, being filled with the Spirit to me does say that you are bowing to the word of God over your own thinking. For example, the fact that the filling of the Spirit is in the same sphere as being filled with the word of God teaches me there is an equality. Where the illumination comes in to me is more in the Spirit's teaching ministry in I Cor. 2:12-13 "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 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." KJV
What exactly is this ministry? I have heard it explained, and I think there is validity to it, that this has meaning in comparing "spiritual realities to spiritual words". This means first of all that we have to give the Spirit something to work with - He can only work with what we have put in our minds. Secondly, there has to be thought given to the content at hand. Third, there is special emphasis on Scripture accomplishing God's purpose like nothing else (Is. 55:11, Heb. 4:12). Does the "spiritual words" have to do then with Scripture in particular? If that is the case, what is being talked about by Bauder has more to do with factors affecting interpretation of Scripture outside of Scripture itself.
To go back to I John 2:27, does this refer to our ability to draw conclusions from basic principles of Scripture and apply them? I believe it does. Do we need interpretation to carry out commands of Scripture that are plain? There are things that we wrestle with, even as Peter and others wrestled with Paul's scriptural writings (2 Peter 3:15-16). Many were making wrong conclusions to their own destruction in this passage. These scriptures did not have the same degree of perpescuity as others for them.

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