By what authority do we interpret scripture?

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by Agnus_Dei, Oct 17, 2006.

  1. Agnus_Dei

    Agnus_Dei
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    So there’s a thread floating around entitled “How do we interpret scripture”, but I’d like to expound on that and discuss by what “authority” do we Christians interpret scripture.

    The reason I ask is that there is obviously a problem within the ranks of Protestism and that is schism. This is due in large part of a critical issue of authority.

    Ever since Martin Luther’s rally cry of Sola Scriptura, Protestants have jubilantly jumped on the Sola Scriptura bandwagon as if they truly espouse it. If all Protestants base their beliefs on the Bible alone, then one must ask why there are so many differing viewpoints and opinions regrading theology and biblical interpretation? In light of thousands of different protestant denomination, fact is, no one truly uses the principle of sola scriptura.

    Interpretation of scripture is shaped by our philosophical assumptions, claiming to be taking scripture in its plain and simple meaning. But, those who start with different assumptions see an entirely different plain and simple meaning. Never is one able to approach the Bible without additional frameworks influencing the manner in which one interprets the Bible.

    For instance, regarding interpreting the Gospels one would be better to check his or her preconcived notions at the door and submit to the fact that Jesus was a Jew talking mainly to Jews, therefore we should read the Gospels in a 1st century Jewish context with a Hewbrew mindset. But being Gentiles we usually read the Gospels in a Greek mindset. But anyway...

    The question becomes who or what speaks authoritatively on biblical interpretation? Is it the scholar? Your local pastor? Who determines whether five-point Calvinism or Arminianism is correct? Are they even mutually exclusive?

    Questions as such become even more daunting when we add to the mix interpreting the trajectory of doctrinal development. Why do we trust the doctrine of the Trinity when the concept is somewhat undeveloped in scripture? Can we rely upon the creed of Nicea as true Christian orthodoxy?

    So where does authority rest for you? Please do not flippantly say, "Well the Bible is my authority." That is to side-step the question. Perhaps the question would be better phrased as:

    On what authority do you determine what is an accurate interpretation of Scripture?

    It seems to me that Protestants have become their own little Popes, declaring their personal interpretation to be authoritative and anything that questions their myopic view is infringing upon their equally valid understanding. But is it really equally valid? So, again I ask, who or what determines correct biblical interpretation? The way you answer this question defines what you believe and how you communicate the Gospel narrative. Therefore for the responsible church leader I wouldn’t treat this question very lightly.
     
  2. Marcia

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    It seems to me your whole post is a result of your philosophical assumptions. Your statements above are shaped by assumptions, so why should we accept what you say as true or valid?

    You are just saying that if we don't have your assumptions then we are wrong.


    .
     
  3. dispen4ever

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    How difficult is it to understand 1 Corinthians 2:1-16? Any one of these that you identify,

    who is resorting to his / her own interpretation is interpreting from the mind, the intellect, the flesh, not the spirit. At the moment of salvation a spirit of righteousness is imparted to every Believer. THAT is where we go for proper interpretation of scripture, not to the scholar, the pastor, the Calvinist or the Arminian. The Pope operates on purely mental, fleshly constructs, not spiritual. That's why he and Roman Catholicism are so far out in left field. There's a long list of persons out there espousing "Christian doctrine" who apparently have never read the reference in Corinthians. We even have debates about doctrine! How can anyone debate Christianity? One can only do it by resorting to the flesh rather than the spirit. My righteousness is as filthy rags ~ it is only as the spirit imparted to me communicates with God through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit that I clearly interpret, understand, and apply my faith.
     
  4. Agnus_Dei

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    1 Corinthians 2: Paul is saying that believers will be able to discern the Gospel message not interpret scripture.

    If you read 1 Corinthians 2 you will note that apparently some in Corinth was using persuasive methods of words of human wisdom and Paul came preaching the simple gospel of Christ crucified and that the Corinthians will have Spirit to aid them in the discernment to differentiate between the wisdom of men and the power of God.


    This still doesn’t explain why there is such schism among the Protestants. If all had this spiritual discernment, then logic would say that all Protestants would be in total agreement and not at such odds.


    Hence my statement concerning five-point Calvinism or Arminianism, which is a doctrinal issue that schisms the Protestant church even to this day! So again I ask, Who determines whether five-point Calvinism or Arminianism is correct? Are they even mutually exclusive?

    Furthermore, what happens when a preacher asks the Holy Spirit for discernment when he is developing his weekly message and after service a congregant approaches him and call’s him on a error, which he later discovers was indeed an error.

    Case in point, in my days as a fundamentalist, an evangelist came to preach and said that after the rapture of the church their will be no chance of salvation, (here he used persuasive methods instead of allowing the Spirit to do His job). The next week our pastor told us from the pulpit that He, the evangelist, was in error concerning no salvation after the rapture.

    Who’s right and who’s wrong, when both are claiming spiritual discernment?
     
  5. dispen4ever

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    Logic? You make my point perfectly. Logic is a function of brain, not spiritual discernment. And if there was spiritual discernment throughout the church, yes, we would be in total agreement, which is precisely what we are called to be in! If there is not total agreement, then some of our number are operating in the flesh. It would be impossible for the two pastors you cited to disagree or be in error if they were spiritually discerning what they read and learn.
     
  6. Marcia

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    You mean like a schism between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox?

    What schism are you talking about? Schism is a pretty strong word. Please give an example.
     
  7. Eliyahu

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    This is one of the typical questions by Roman Catholics who worship idols, goddess, following various paganism, with Papacy.
    This coincides with the question by the Serpent:

    Genesis 3:1
    Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

    ( Did God say so indeed? or Was it indeed the Word of God?)

    If anyone is truly born again, then there is not so much doubt about what is the Word of God, what is not.

    Read the Bible !

    1 John 2:
    27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.


    Was Apostle John wrong ?

    Roman Catholic may say that they have to get the interpretation from Mr Joseph Ratzinger ( current Pope), but he apologized to Muslims even though they claim Papal Infallibility. Do we have to listen to Mr Joseph Ratzinger who respect Muslims so that we may respect Muslims ?


    What if the born again believers interpret the Bible differently or in contradiction each other?
    That's why Bible says this:

    Proverb 27:17
    17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

    Do you understand the meaning of this ? Do we have to ask Mr. Joseph Ratzinger ?

    This is why Hebrews say this:

    Hebrews 10:25
    25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

    Finally there will be continuously disagreements among the born-again believers about the interpretation of Bible, but this doesn't mean that the interpretation should rely on any specific person, or any specific organization with authority, or any specific group of people.
    The truly born again believers, either men or women, either old or young, they have their own authority to interpret the Bible. If they disagree each other, they have to gather together and study diligently as Bereans did ( Acts 17:11). Until the Lord comes, there will be no way for the world to have any uniform interpretation as Roman Catholic tried to get during the medieval times.
    The authority to interpret the Bible was the way how the whorish Roman Catholic persecuted the true believers by Inquisitions.

    Trinity is very clear if one read Bible:
    1 John 5:7
    7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

    1 Tim 3:16
    God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory
     
    #7 Eliyahu, Oct 18, 2006
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2006
  8. Agnus_Dei

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    Hi Marcia:

    Schism is a strong word and rightly so, for the term denotes a split within a church or religious body, hence the great schism of 1054 between the Eastern and western Church.

    Many of today’s Protestant denominations are no longer in communion with each other, whereas they could worship together, yet they decide to worship separately due to disagreements between them.

    Example: An Independent Fundamental Baptist are not in communion with the Church of Christ, due in large part they differ amongst the Baptist distinctives, mainly that of Baptism.

    The Church being the body of Christ, becomes in a sense the very person of Christ. The Church truly is the visible presence of Christ on this earth. There can be no division within Christ, therefore to leave the Church is to leave Christ. However, one must wonder if there are any justifiable reasons for schism. There just may be extreme cases or circumstances in which schism may be necessary.

    More importantly the only potential justification for schism is heresy. For instance: The Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church at the time was teaching some things which cannot be considered Christian. This Protestant split could be justified by one saying that due to the heresy promulgated by the Catholic Church, schism was necessary. However, even in this case an argument could be made that due to the heresy, at this time the Catholic Church could not have been considered the Church in all its fullness. In this sense, the Reformation would not as much be a schism as a return to orthodoxy.

    But, if it's true that the only justifiable grounds for schism are heresy (in which case one is not truly dividing the Church but realigning her), then can any Protestant divide following the initial reformation split be justified? I'm not convinced any can. If this is the case then it puts Protestants in a very precarious position. Has Protestantism, to an extent, put itself in danger of being outside of the fullness of the Church? Are there parallels between Protestantism and the Novatian schism?

    I am not implying that any Protestant denomination which finds its origins after the initial reformative split is not part of the Church, or that the grace of God is not flowing there. But I am somewhat concerned about the unjustifiable nature of Protestant schism.

    Any thoughts?
     
  9. Agnus_Dei

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    Sorry Eliyahu for your lack of understanding of the catholic faith, but the Pope did not make the Muslim statement Ex Cathedra, therefore the Pope was not speaking on grounds of infallibility.

    BTW, 1 John 5:7: The words “in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on the earth” are words that are not included in the vast majority of New Testament Greek manuscripts.

    Blessings...
     
  10. billwald

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    Problem is there is no plain and simple meaning of scripture except maybe Peter's statement, "I'm going fishing." Or maybe Paul's statement that all residents of the Island of Crete are liars and lazy slugs.
     
  11. Marcia

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    Most Baptists and other denominations are not in communion with the Church of Christ because 1) the Church of Christ requires baptism in their church to be saved; 2) the Church of Christ itself does not wish to fellowship with any church but the Church of Christ

    Jesus warned of false teachers; Paul warned of wolves arising within the church, leading many astray. The Bible does tell us to divide over doctrine - we cannot fellowship with those who deny the essentials. So yes, heresy is a justification for not fellowshiping with someone.



    I don't know of any wide "schism" within Christian ranks. I only divide over the essentials. This is true for my church, the churches where I speak, my seminary, my mission agency, other mission agencies I know of, etc. We may disagree on secondary issues but we don't divide over them. Some Chrisitans do, I realize that, but that does not mean non-Catholic churches as a whole are in schism.

    I asked for an example and you didn't give one except for the Church of Christ, which itself has separated from other churches. Please give an example of a wide schism within Protestant/non-Catholic churches. Keep in mind that disagreement is not schism. Schism is not fellowshiping in Christ.
     
    #11 Marcia, Oct 19, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 19, 2006
  12. Inquiring Mind

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    Actually there is, if you have trained and studied the customs and cultures of the Jews of Christ's time. The greatest example is the world "Sleep" that SDAs get all wrong because they have not the knowledge of why certain words were used and what context the words were used. That is one of the reasons one has to fall back as well onto history and/or the writings of the Early Church Fathers.
     
  13. Amy.G

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    That is one of the reasons one has to fall back as well onto history and/or the writings of the Early Church Fathers.[/QUOTE]

    The true early church fathers were the apostles including Paul. They had the authority to teach correct doctrine. When it comes to interpreting scripture, if we follow the lead of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) and use a few basic rules of study, we will have the correct interpretation of scripture. People however, are not perfect and sometimes bring their own "baggage" (personal experiences) so to speak into the study process which can lead to a misinterpretation. Also, one doesn't have to be an expert in the Greek language or lean on the interpretation of a "church father" to understand that Paul meant dead not sleeping. Let scripture interpret scripture instead of taking verses out of context.
    :)
     
  14. dispen4ever

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    Thanks, Amy. I think Angus_Dei is frustrated with Christianity and looking for justification to become a Roman Catholic. Shudder.
     
  15. DHK

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    2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
    --Only the Bible is inspired; it alone. This is why it is our sole authority in all matters of faith and doctrine. It is God's revelation to mankind. Man's opinion means nothing in the light of God's Word.
    Therefore:

    2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
    --The onus is on every person to study the word of God. As carpenters that do shoddy work would be ashamed of their work and would not be able to sell it, so it is that people who do not study God's Word, do not know what it says, pull Scripture out of context, and thus are not able to convince true believers of the truth.
    "Rightly dividing the Word of truth" is an expression that carries on with illustration of a carpenter, when after he has cut out all the parts or rather has all the parts (different piesces of wood, the nails and screws, the plaster and/or paint, all of the finishing touches including the small intricate parts, then he is able to put it all together into one piece like a puzzle and come out with a sold good product that he will not be ashamed of. He rightlly divides (cuts up the wood) so that he may rightly put it together. It involves searching the Word so that you can put it all together.

    2 Peter 1:20-21 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
    --The inspired Word of God came to us not by man. It came to from God by the Holy Spirit who guided God's men what to say. It is God's Word. They spoke and wrote what God wanted them to say. They were instruments in the hand of God.
    The Word of God is of no private interpretation. The Catholics take this verse out of context and misinterpret. The very fact that the Bible commands us to study the Word of God for ourselves infers that we are going to come to our own conclusions and will differ at some points. We will have our own interpretations of some things. No two men agree 100% on everything. That is just an impossiblity knowing the nature of man. We are fallible and imperfect with a sin nature.
    But the Catholic Church has their own private interpretation. They claim that their interpretation is right to the exclution of all others. The give permission to the adherents of the RCC to read the Bible but not to interpret it. Only the priest has the power to interpret the Bible, and that according to the magesterium. Theirs is a private interpretation. Every cult has their own private interpretation.
    The J.W.'s according to the publications of the Watchtower.
    The Mormons according to Joseph Smith and the book of Mormon as well as their other so-called sacred writings.
    The SDA' according to the writings of Ellen G. White.
    and so on.

    The Bible is our final authority in all matters of faith and doctrine. It is an inspired book. It came to us from God Himself through the Holy men of God as they were directed by the Holy Spirit.

    1 Corinthians 2:12 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.
    --The beleiver has been given the Holy Spirit of God that he may be able to understand the Bible, the things of God.

    1 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.
    --The natural man, that is the unsaved man, is unable to understand the Word of God on his own.

    That is why:
    Acts 8:31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
    --The Ethiopian could not understand the Scriptures that he was reading unless some saved person could guide or show him what they meant.

    Therfore:
    Acts 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

    There is a warning given in the OT, that is applicable to us today:

    Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
    --If we do not speak according to the Word of God, but contrary to it, it is because we are not saved. There is no light in us. Our doctrine must agree with the Word of God. The Word of God is our final authority. It does not contradict itself. That is why it so important to compare Scripture with Scripture. For the Bible interprets itself.
    DHK
     
  16. Agnus_Dei

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    Hi Amy: And just who do you think the Apostles taught that correct doctrine too? Ding..Ding...Ding...You guessed it...the early church fathers!
     
  17. Agnus_Dei

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    Why Roman Catholic, why not Greek Orthodox or Lutheran?
     
  18. Agnus_Dei

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    You're right Inquiring Mind...Given that Jesus was a Jew talking to Jews, one should read the Gospels in a 1st century Jewish context with a Hebrew mindset!
     
  19. Marcia

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    The early church fathers have some good things to say and study, but their words are not our authority, God's word is.
     
  20. Amy.G

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    Thanks Marcia. God's word is THE authority! :thumbsup:
     

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