On whose and what authority do we interpret Scripture?

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by Matt Black, Dec 3, 2004.

  1. Matt Black

    Matt Black
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    We would doubtless all claim to be able to interpret Scripture, but on what basis and on what authority do we claim to do so? If we say "under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit", that's good as far as it goes, but the multiplicity of interpretations which exist just in the 'Baptists only' fora of this board give me the nagging suspicion that the HS isn't doing His job very well...

    So is it all just subjectivity - my 'inspired' opinion against yours? Or is there a solution to this problem?

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  2. swaimj

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    I don't claim to interpret the scriptures "under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit". Inspiration is a specific doctrine which concerns the writing of scripture, not its interpretation.

    Also, I think your portrait of the disagreements on the BB is overstated. In the area of soteriology for instance, we might have arguments regarding the relationship of God's sovereignty to human will, but 99.9% of Baptists on this board agree that salvation is by grace through faith, not of works. Likewise, in the area of Bibliology, a high percentage of of members agree on authority and inspiration. Our disagreements tend to be in minor areas like which version is best. My point is that disagreements seem to be more severe on matters that are peripheral rather than matters that are essentials of the faith.
     
  3. Charles Meadows

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    I think SwaimJ is right in noting that disagreements tend to center around more peripheral points. The Bible is quite clear in asserting the basics of salvation.

    "99.9% of Baptists on this board agree that salvation is by grace through faith, not of works."

    Interesting point. Why do they believe it? I believe it - because that's what the Bible clearly says. It means little to me how many late 20th century protestant ministers with Scofield Study Bibles say so - I trust what is written in the book.

    This may partly explain why people disagree so. I think many "pet doctrines" such as eternal security, the rapture and others are accepted en bloc by most without question - deciding first and THEN finding out the scriptures that support the position.

    This leads to people holding position with significant emotional fervor - and being unwilling (and sometimes scared) to even explore then reason they believe them.

    At least well all believe Christ!
     
  4. Matt Black

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    Is there not a danger though of 'theological anarchy'; of the situation in the Book of Judges of 'every man doing as he sees fit' attaching to Biblical scholarship? Whilst accepting your points about BB disagreements to a degree, we have quite violent disagreements over eschatology, Israel, charismata etc - all based on SS - and I'm sure the protaganists there would not regard these as 'peripheral issues'; and that's before one ventures beyond the Baptists. To give an extreme example, JWs and Christadephians arrive at very different conclusions to us about the Trinity - scarcely a peripheral issue! - using SS (the JWs admittedly with a modified version of the Scriptures).

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  5. Dr. Bob

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    "But first off, know this: no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's personal explanation. No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

    In the past, false prophets arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies . . "

    I cannot have some "personal explanation" that is not in keeping with the entire Word of God.

    Such is the basis for heresies.
     
  6. OldRegular

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    John F. MacArthur in his book Charismatic Chaos [page 94] presents some valuable information on the interpretation of Scripture as follows:

    “The Reformers used the expression scriptura scripturam interpretatur, or ‘Scripture interprets Scripture.’ By this they meant that obscure passages in Scripture must be understood in light of clearer ones. If the Bible is God's Word, it must be consistent with itself. No part of the Bible can contradict any other part. One divine Author, the Holy Spirit, inspired the whole Bible, so it has one marvelous, supernatural unity. The synthesis principle puts Scripture together with Scripture to arrive at a clear, consistent meaning. If we hold to an interpretation of one passage that does not square with something in another passage, one of the passages is being interpreted incorrectly, or possibly both of them. The Holy Spirit does not disagree with himself. And the passages with obvious meanings should interpret the more arcane [obscure] ones. One should never build a doctrine on a single obscure or unclear text.

    Since MacArthur is a dispensationalist I am not sure he is consistent with this principle. Dispensationalism relies heavily on Daniel 9:24-27, a very obscure passage of Scripture, and ignores John 5:28, 29 a very clear passage of Scripture.
     
  7. Daniel David

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    Oldreg, John 5 says that the righteous and unrighteous will be raised one day. Did Christ say when or that it would take place at the same time? I didn't think so either.
     
  8. OldRegular

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    John 5:28, 29
    28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
    29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

    Perhaps I am too simple minded to see all the nuances in this passage of Scripture but it seems to me that:

    1. the hour means the hour
    2. all means all
    3. come forth means come forth
    [​IMG]
     
  9. Daniel David

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    If that was the only text on the resurrection, you might be correct. Personally, since I am a premiller, I can take the revelation regarding all texts on the resurrection and then come to a conclusion.

    As for that verse, it only states that those in their graves will hear the call of the son and will be raised.
     
  10. OldRegular

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    And I thought that dispensationalists took Scripture at "face value".
     
  11. OldRegular

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    And I thought that dispensationalists took Scripture at "face value". </font>[/QUOTE]Also John 5:29, 29 is the simplest Scripture regarding the resurrection except perhaps that of the Apostle Paul:

    Acts 24:15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be A resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.

    Does A mean 1, or 2, or 20? :rolleyes:
     
  12. OldRegular

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    And I thought that dispensationalists took Scripture at "face value". </font>[/QUOTE]Also John 5:29, 29 is the simplest Scripture regarding the resurrection except perhaps that of the Apostle Paul:

    Acts 24:15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be A resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.

    Does A mean 1, or 2, or 20? :rolleyes:
    </font>[/QUOTE]Could it be that Paul was lazy or distracted and intended to say a multitude of resurrections. :rolleyes:
     
  13. Daniel David

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    Well, the Apostle John (who wrote the gospel with his name on it), stated that there is at least one resurrection prior to the 1,000 year earthly reign, and one after it.

    So, unless John was on crystal meth, he thought of at least two, not just some general resurrection.
     
  14. Matt Black

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    Yes, but the myriad of interpretations with which we are beset all, by and large, can quote chapter and verse of Scripture to back up their views. If what you say is correct, why all the interpretations?

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  15. Matt Black

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    I refer you to my reply to Dr. Bob above

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  16. av1611jim

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    Yes, but the myriad of interpretations with which we are beset all, by and large, can quote chapter and verse of Scripture to back up their views. If what you say is correct, why all the interpretations?

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
    </font>[/QUOTE]Matt;
    You have a very good point. (The JW"S and LDS excepted) Just what is the answer? One man's "Good" doctrine is another's "heresy" and round and round it goes until Jesus comes back.

    I think the answer must be personal. By that I mean, each believer ought to be full persuaded in his own mind as to what is true doctrine and false. He does this by reliance on the Holy Spirit.
    Unfortunatly this does lead into all kinds of heresies. But what is being missed in this sad fact is that those heresies are "doctrine's of devils" as the Scriptures plainly say, i.e. soul sleep, anniahlationism, oneness, and such things.

    What is often the case, is (I think) an unregenerate man reads Scripture, sees something "for the first time" and runs with it. Other folks (being lazy) join in and as Jackie Gleason used to say, "AWAAAAAAAY WE GOOOOOO!"

    There are many things that have led to the deplorable situation in Christianity today. And the end is not yet! Won't be long now though praise God? "When ye see all these things, lift up your head for your redemption draweth nigh" (Loosely quoted and applied).

    In His service;
    Jim
     
  17. OldRegular

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    You need to read the quote by MacArthur again!

    Again if you "take Scripture at face value" the first and only resurrection to date is that of Jesus Christ. That is what John called the first resurrection in Revelation 20. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection, that is those who have been saved through the blood of Jesus Christ.

    Ephesians 2:4-6
    4. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
    5. Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
    6. And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

    As that guy on the radio says, "meditate on these things", Selah. [​IMG]
     
  18. OldRegular

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    Actually if you take the Apostle John at "face value" he states that the first resurrection occurs at the end of the 1000 years:

    Revelation 20:5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

    What is the antecedent of this? [​IMG]
     
  19. Matt Black

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    I suppose what I'm getting at in the OP is this: who decides what is sound doctrine and on what authority? Why should I, for example, accept Dr. Bob's word on a subject over and above, say, Pastor Larry's? This whole toppic highlights a basic weakness in the Reformation's legacy.

    It was perhaps inevitable that the Reformation, with its (rightful) emphasis on the need for personal salvation through the individual’s faith and relationship with God, would spawn an, at times, unhealthy reliance on the Christian as individual rather than as part of the Church as a whole. Although we have to recognise that the pre-Reformation Catholic Church was not quite the monolith with a united front that some evangelicals would like to think (consider in particular the Catholic-Orthodox schism of 1054 and the split within Catholicism between Rome and Avignon 1378-1417), it is nevertheless true that in destroying the concept and ideology of a united ‘Great Church’ with universally-held and certain doctrines and uniformity of observance and worship, the Reformers created a problem for themselves and future generations of Christians: if the Catholic Church hierarchy is no longer the arbiter of doctrine, discipline and Biblical interpretation, then who is, and by what right and on what basis? Two solutions presented themselves – and still do today. The first is that it is the individual Christian who determines what is right and proper by revelation from God and by the Spirit illuminating the Bible as the Word of God. This is of course a recipe for both anarchy and heresy as well as the culture for the emergence of Godly, gifted and anointed Christians. The second solution was to set up an alternative church with its own doctrines and own hierarchy (different, of course, to that of the Catholics), which is what Luther essentially did. The second solution, however, presents a problem – who decides what form this church takes and what its doctrines are, and on what basis? So, again we are thrown back on the individual ultimately, and the second solution has large elements of the first in it.

    Thus in replacing corporate objectivity which was in error with largely individual subjectivity which was equally prone to error, the Reformers created the climate for further splits within Christendom. After all, if Luther (who was he after all?) could start his own church, why couldn’t anyone else? This is, of course, the fundamental weakness of Protestantism; that any old Tom, Dick or Harry (yes, it’s usually men who are the problem here) can set up shop on his own, attract a following and declare himself to be the sole repository of all truth.

    Therefore Protestantism, taken to its logical conclusion, and despite its stated reliance on the Bible as the revealed Word of God, is nevertheless dependent ultimately on individual conscience and interpretation of that Word. This is both the strength and the weakness of the Reformation's legacy and is evidenced daily on these boards.

    Don't know what the solution is here; but there sure as eggs is eggs is a problem...Any takers?

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  20. rjprince

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    Old Reg,

    The point of the MacArthur quote is that all the relevant Scripture that addresses an issue must be considered and balanced. You cannot focus in on only one passage while ignoring others which touch on the same subject just because it does not fit your theology! Rev 20:4-6 and 20:12-13 clearly speak of more than one resurrection. I am not going to go into that here and now, other than to say that you cannot approach the Word of God like a buffet table, only picking and choosing that which you find most palatable.

    As far as MacArthur being a “dispensationalist”, he terms himself a “leaky dispensationalist”. He is dispensational in the sense that he clearly maintains a difference between the church and Israel (while at the same time recognizing that Jews and Gentiles are equal in the Body of Christ, the church). In his interpretations of the Gospels and in his view on “Lordship Salvation” he leans more toward the covenant theology end of the spectrum. I have probably 90% of his books, have read and listened to him for over 20 years, and go to his Shepherd’s Conferences. At the SC three years ago in one of the Q & A sessions, he described his view on the dispensations as “leaky”. Was not sure what he meant at the time, but Master’s Seminary is leaning pretty heavily toward progressive dispensationalism.

    In any case, to respond more to the point of this thread, Dr. Bob is right on the money in saying:
    “I cannot have some "personal explanation" that is not in keeping with the entire Word of God. Such is the basis for heresies.”

    I would also hold that the Scriptures are to be interpreted in a contextual literal grammatical historical sense. If the literal sense makes sense, seek no other sense, period!

    Most of the problems in Dan 9:24-27 come in allegorizing that which should be taken quite literally.

    One other key failure in interpreting prophecy is a failure to recognize that the prophets sometimes link events together that are separated by hundreds of years.

    For instance Ezekiel’s prophecy concerning the destruction of Tyre was literally fulfilled over several hundred years even though the text gave no clear indication of gaps in fulfillment. (Ezek 26).

    Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah linked the first and second comings. When Jesus quoted the passage in the synagogue at Nazareth, He stopped in the middle of verse 2 and declared, “this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

    The prophets faithfully and accurately described what they saw. If you have ever been to the mountains you can stand on one peak and see the peaks in the distance. You can look into the valley immediately below you and see what is there clearly. Yet as you look at the distant peaks you cannot see the valley that lie between them. Sometimes, the prophets describe the peaks without any mention at all of the valleys that lie between. Other times, God will give a birds eye view of a distant valley. At these times, it is essential to compare Scripture with Scripture.

    The quotation by MacArthur is quite appropriate and if you approach Scripture with a contextual literal grammatical historical hermeneutic you will find that JM is pretty consistent in his interpretation. You will also find yourself with some kind of a dispensational view of the Bible!

    Matt,

    Regarding the myriad of interpretations...

    It is impossible to approach the Bible with no prior conceptions. We all have some ideas about God and man even if we have no knowledge of the Bible. The trick is to be willing to honest about the fact that we have preconceptions and to be willing to adjust those preconceptions when we find a passage that does not fit our theology. We must bend our theology to the Word of God and not vice versa.

    As for who is right, I am of course!

    LOL! Sorry, could not resist the opportunity.

    Seriously, we all must be in a state of continually adjusting our theology to the Word. The Bible is a large work. People come to it with a great variety of preconceptions. Those of us who have received formal training, be it college or seminary level, or personal reading and Sunday School, are taught from the perspective of the teacher.

    What we must do is to examine the Scriptures daily to make sure that we have been taught the Word and not the traditions of men. We must discard what is not consistent with the rest of the Bible and develop a theology, as best we can that is consistent throughout the Word.

    AND, we MUST, IMHO, submit our ideas to the scrutiny of others who have likewise given their lives to the study and teaching of THE BOOK. When we refuse to honestly consider the challenges against our position we have reached a position of intellectual and, I believe, spiritual stagnation.

    That is the tremendous value of a site like this where an open exchange of ideas is encouraged and given forum. It is a great value when different ideas from different theological presuppositions are tested and challenged by others with equal commitment to the veracity of the Bible.

    Personally, I am glad to be here so I can straighten you guys out!!! HAH! Just kidding. I have studied a lot. I have given my life to the Lord and to the study, teaching, and preaching of THE BOOK. But one thing I know for sure is that MY THEOLOGY IS STILL UNDERDEVELOPED. But I am working on it. Making progress in a few areas. Have not even started in many others.


    I would definitely DECLARE that ANY MAN who sets himself up as the sole repository of truth should be avoided like the plague.

    In this line of thought, I would suggest that it is beneficial to read the church fathers to get a take on the very earliest understandings of some key issues. I have always sought to read the BEST OF BOTH SIDES. When I studied out OSAS, I read the best I could find, in the seminary library of both positions. I took their views to the Word. I compared the consistency of interpretation and I looked at their interpretive procedures. Did the same thing on TONGUES and the baptism of the Spirit. Read the best Pentecostal writers I could find. Then read MacArthur! His Charismatic Chaos is still one of the best general treatments of the issue in one volume.

    Now I read the articles in seminary journals before most of them even make it to book form. I read BibSac, JETS, WTSJ, GTJ, MSJ, DBSJ, and others. Get a pretty good balance from JETS. WTSJ is obviously from a covenant amil perspective. Older BibSacs are classic dispensational, newer issues, less so.

    The volume of material is so vast that no one man can ever be an authority on more than a few areas. A lifetime of study may give someone proficiency in numerous areas, but never all. Bottom line, read good commentaries, do not take any of it at face value, evaluate it all in light of Scripture.

    Sorry, Matt. Sometimes I like scrambled, sometimes I like fried. They other day at a local restaurant I gave my breakfast order to the waitress.

    She asked, "How do you like your eggs?"

    I said, "I don't know, yet. Bring them to me and after I have tasted them I will tell you how I like 'em"

    She said, "How do you want them cooked?"

    I said of course I want them cooked! Do you eat them raw?

    She said, "Do what them fried, or scrambled?"

    I decided not to confuse her any more with over light, medium, well, poached soft, etc, etc. and said, "Scrambled will be fine".

    She brought my eggs. Later when she came back to refill my coffee, I said. "I like my eggs just fine, thank you."

    Gave her a big tip. She earned it. And, I hate cheapskate preachers. Show people a little bit of God's love and tip generously!

    And you thought that "eggs is eggs is a problem"!

    Good question but that’s the best I can do with it. And it is certainly not the last word. Hope it helps someone here.
     

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