What Is the Role of the Holy Spirit in Interpretation?

From Paraklesis, a resource of Baptist Bible Seminary (Fall, 2012). Used by permission.

We might better ask the question, “Does the Holy Spirit have a role in interpretation?” If the Holy Spirit does have a role, what is that role?

The purpose of this article is to propose first that the role of the Holy Spirit in interpretation is not to enable the reader to grasp the meaning of a text. We will look briefly at certain verses which supposedly teach this to see whether they actually do teach this.

This article then proposes that a role of the Holy Spirit in interpretation is actually post-interpretation. The role of the Holy Spirit is to enable the reader to make a correct evaluation of the meaning of a text so that he can welcome or accept that meaning. The Holy Spirit also assures the reader of the truth of Scripture. A role of the Holy Spirit also may be to enable the reader to relate the meaning which comes from interpretation to his life. The article looks briefly at texts which seem to support these proposals and this suggestion.

The Holy Spirit does not enable the reader to discover the (author’s intended) meaning of a passage. He does not teach the reader the meaning of a text. The Holy Spirit does not help the reader to comprehend Scripture.

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Rules of Affinity, Part 5: Clarifying the Purpose

BiblePosted courtesy of Dr Reluctant. Catch up on the series so far.

In my so-called “Rules of Affinity” I am seeking to accomplish one main task. That task is to uncover the degree of affinity between any statement of a doctrine or part doctrine, and the biblical references which are brought in to support it or defend it. All of us know that Christians with different theological outlooks claim that their views are biblical. But in reality just saying “I believe such-and-such because it’s biblical” does not mean that it actually is biblical. It may be. But, for example, if someone says, “Calvinism is biblical” and someone else says “Arminianism is biblical” it stands to reason that behind both statements is the opinion (either informed or uninformed) of the one making the claim. No one ought to assume that any statement is proven by assertion.

As I was reading my own theology and thinking through the question of why I differed from this or that theologian, I concluded, naturally enough, that the main reason for my disagreements was because I believed my position was more in line with the Bible. That didn’t mean it was, but that was why I demurred. The words “God has spoken” seem to me to be the most momentous three words in the English language. I therefore wanted to know if what I believed and taught actually closely reflected what “God has spoken,” and how compatible were my theological propositions with the texts I appealed to. I did this by assuming a suspicious attitude towards my Theology. Hence, the negative application of the method was uppermost in my mind when it was first roughly devised. The negative use also became apparent when I began asking myself why I couldn’t accept certain formulations of doctrine by some of the great men I read. Almost immediately it dawned on me that the chiefest doctrines of the Christian Faith: the doctrines all Christians would say must be believed at a minimum to be a Christian, involved very straightforward appeals to biblical passages (hence, the Positive Application of the rules).

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Rules of Affinity, Part 4: Negative Application Continued

Posted courtesy of Dr Reluctant. Catch up on the series so far.

1. In this piece I shall match up more theological beliefs with these “Rules of Affinity” in order to show the negative use of those rules. I have tried to find respected sources to interact with so as not to be accused of soft-targeting. This is from G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 32:

Adam was to be God’s obedient servant in maintaining both the physical and spiritual welfare of the garden abode, which included dutifully keeping evil influences from invading the arboreal sanctuary…(my emphasis)

Beale gives Adam a responsibility to guard the original creation from “evil influences.” But there is nothing in Genesis 2 or 3 which encourages this (the verb shamar in 2:15 can mean “guard” or “protect” and could have the serpent in mind, but nothing is said about “influences” plural). Certainly, God allowed the serpent into the Garden, but the only warning given to the man is the prohibition in Gen. 2:16-17. The serpent tempts Eve and Eve tempts Adam. It is Adam’s capitulation to his wife which is given as the reason he disobeyed God’s command (see Gen. 3:17. cf. 1 Tim. 2:14). Could Adam have ejected Satan out of Eden? Where is that indicated? And what of this talk of a plurality of “evil influences”? One will look in vain for such things in the texts Beale employs. We thus give the statement above a C4 rating.

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Rules of Affinity, Part 3: The Negative Application

Posted courtesy of Dr Reluctant. The series so far.

These guidelines (the “rules of affinity”) test the distance between a given theological proposal and the actual textual references alleged to lend them authority. As already mentioned in previous posts, all the major non-negotiable doctrines of the Christian Faith have a strong affinity with the wording of the biblical text. Under the Grid of Category Formulations of these Rules of Affinity, all these first level doctrines are C1 and C2 (category 1 and category 2) doctrines. Doctrinal propositions which are arrived at by the consent of several converging biblical texts to bring about an “inference to the best explanation” are C3′s. C3′s are open to revision if better scriptural conclusions from clear texts are forthcoming.

The two other categories in the Grid, which reveal little or no affinity between the words of Scripture and the doctrines supposed to be borne out of it, are C4′s or C5′s. These categories are heavy on inference and light on affinity. They are chock full of human reason and empty of clear, definable connection to the verses which are being unfairly summoned to support them.

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"The question ‘What does this verse mean to me?’ often takes precedent over the prior question, ‘What did the author of this verse mean by it?”

“[M ]any Christians have unwittingly imbibed a postmodern approach to scripture through a failure to properly distinguish between interpretation and application.

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The Preface, Part 4: Marginal Notes in the King James Version

Republished with permission from Theologically Driven. (See also: previous installments in this series.)

The King James-only view argues that only the 1611 KJV is the Word of God in English. All other versions or translations are so corrupt that they are not to be used, nor be appealed to as the Word of God. Most KJV-only advocates contend that the printed Greek text from which the KJV was translated, commonly called the Textus Receptus (TR), is inspired and inerrant, and the KJV is the only translation that accurately translates the TR. But this is not true. The New King James Version (NKJV) is also translated from the TR. Being TR based, the NKJV cannot so easily be discounted by KJV-only proponents. Therefore, they seek to find other ways to disqualify the NKJV.

A common complaint against the NKJV by KJV-only advocates is the use of notes provided by the translators. For example, D. A. Waite says:

The diabolical nature of the New King James Version shows itself in their printing all the various readings of the Greek text in the footnotes. They print all sides and take their stand in favor of none of them. By so doing, they confuse the readers. The editors have made no decision as to what God’s Words really are (Defending the King James Bible, p. 125).

William P. Grady sounds a similar warning:

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Rules of Affinity - Classifying Relationships between Doctrines and Their Supporting Texts

Posted courtesy of Dr Reluctant.

What I call “The Rules of Affinity” are a relatively straightforward device whereby a theological proposition (e.g. that a sinner is justified by faith) is compared with the texts of Scripture by which it is supported to disclose how closely those passages agree with the proposition in question.

Thus, a theological proposition may be adduced which has either direct “one-on-one” relation to a text of the Bible (e.g. justification by faith, or that God created the world), or strong reasons for deriving the doctrine from certain texts of the Bible (e.g. the doctrine of the Trinity); or it may have little or nothing to do with any scriptural passage brought forth to substantiate it, especially once the passage is viewed within its context (e.g. propositions such as the covenant of grace or infant baptism).

It is understood, of course, that the wrong texts may be mistakenly employed in support of a sound doctrine. These “rules” will help ferret out such misapplications by highlighting the weak link between text and proposition. This does not mean the proposition must be discarded automatically. It may be that other texts of Scripture can be brought forth to fully support the doctrinal proposition. In which case, ones scriptural case for a certain theological belief will only be bolstered. On the other hand, if after successive attempts to align the Bible with a given doctrine fail to produce any clear relationship between them, the proposition must be held to suspect or even spurious.

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Dreams, Out of Body Experiences & Visions

Reprinted with permission from Voice, March/April, 2012.

Many Christians have read popular accounts about people who claim that they have been in heaven and have come back to report on it or that they have died and hovered over their own bodies before being brought back to life. Some of the people in my congregation have read Heaven Is For Real and 90 Minutes in Heaven, as well as other books, and have taken them as real descriptions of heaven.

Does the Bible have anything to say about these phenomena or the many accounts of visions and dreams about spiritual matters?

This is a timely topic since there are many who accept these accounts as not only being factual but as direct revelations from God. Yet someone may ask what is the harm in believing these accounts? The answer is threefold. First, we have a complete revelation from God in the Bible and we do not need any further revelation (including dreams and visions). Second, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12 that he was transported to heaven yet he was not allowed to speak of what he saw in heaven. Third, there are people who take these visions as confirmation that they are going to heaven when they are actually lost.

Three passages to keep in mind

As we begin to discuss the topic at hand, we need to consider three Bible passages to give us some important insight: Ecclesiastes 5:3, 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, and 2 Corinthians 12:1-4. Whereas none of these passages are definitive when it comes to the topic of dreams and visions, they are helpful to give us a framework for discussion.

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