Over spiritualizing texts

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by christianyouth, Jun 1, 2007.

  1. christianyouth

    christianyouth
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    About 8 months ago I ordered a set of books containing many sermons by Charles Spurgeon. I was so excited about what I was going to read, expecting him to be an expository genius, but I found something unusual about his sermons, and I am seeking some guidance on this issue.

    Spurgeon, who I do not doubt was a great preacher, preached sermons usually from a single text! I have actually read sermons, were it seemed like he was taking a text from the OT, removing it from its context, and then creating an elaborate sermon out of it, using it as a spring-board for his own thoughts. I know he does not do this as heavily as other people I have seen, especially some of the WoF teachers who are populr, but honestly, it seemed like poor exposition.

    So, as I was thinking about Spurgeon's method of preaching, I began to examine more of my own Bible study, and sadly, I find that I do what he does! When I read the OT, so many times I draw parralels between OT Israel and then personalize them for my life, is this bad?

    Today I was studying John 12. Instead of focusing on the main text, I selected a single verse and went off on a tangent, and somehow ended up over in 1 Corinthians studying Total Depravity. I've done this at other times.

    Now, for preaching, I see this all of the time! So many times in the pulpit, I will hear someone draw from an OT text and use it to push along the point of their sermon, but it will NOT be talking about that in the original context. Other times it was just a portion of Israel's history and the Pastor uses this story for a platform, and then dives off into how that text applies to us.

    To clarify : Is it ok to over spiritualize texts, either in sermons or in personal Bible study?

    Example : Paul Washer preaching on Song of Solomon. He refers to the text where Solomon is speaking of his Shulamite bride and he says something along the lines of , "with one look from her eyes my heart beats faster" and something else, and he ends up by saying, 'Every time we pray, God's heart beats faster'.

    Now, would that be an example of over spiritualizing texts?
     
  2. IFB Mole

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    I think what you may be doing is trying to simply make a PRACTICAL application of a text. I have heard many good expository messages but with no practical application. A good message - IMHO - needs 4 essential ingredients:

    1.) Exegesis or Exposition to interpret and explain the verse or text in its biblical context
    2.) a practical application to the listener of that text or verse in "real life"
    3.) conviction of sin, exortation, etc. of the text and its application
    4.) a call to sinners for salvation (that does NOT mean an alter call neccessarily).
     
  3. pinoybaptist

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    That one is a hoot.

    God jumps up and down, heart beating fast, like a lovelorn young man ?

    I can't even call that overspiritualizing. I think he's very corny.
     
  4. ktn4eg

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    IFBMole got it right! :thumbs:

    Expository preaching with no practical application for those in the audience (like me) does little to either help those hearing the preaching or to bring glory to the God who inspired the scriptures.
     
  5. Hope of Glory

    Hope of Glory
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    I agree with what Pinoy said. Further, I would add, that the things in the OT are given to us as types. If it's in the NT, it's in the OT as type. We need to apply the things we are given. But, if anyone ever said that to me about God's heart beating faster, I'd have to say, "Scripture, please?"
     
  6. TomVols

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    I think you're talking about different things. I'd like to see which Spurgeon sermon you are talking about.

    Spiritualization should be avoided. At the same time, we should not make the mistake some historical-grammatical people do of being so caught up in the "then," that we fail to see the application and Christocentricity of a passage. The OT is for us; however, the application must be proper. Some h-g folks claim to be h-g, yet get to Revelation and become nuts...but I digress :)

    I don't think there's any question that the Song of Solomon exegesis you refer to is stupid. The text can never mean what it never meant. But like I said, I'd like to see the Spurgeon sermon. He was not a pure expositor, per se, but I don't know if I'd say he flew off a lot either.
     
  7. christianyouth

    christianyouth
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    Thanks TomVols. I dont want to fall into either error, either the over spiritulization of the text or completley detracting all spiritual meaning of the text and studying it as a regular piece of history or literate.



    I suppose the question is, how do you find that balance? YOU specifically. I know I dont find the balance much, especially in the OT, but some of you students of the Word should be able to give some helpful hints.

    To rephrase: How can we study the OT and understand the original context, and yet draw out the spiritual truths and application?
     
  8. skypair

    skypair
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    You make many good observation, cy. Many preachers do go off on tangents when the only use one short passage. What you did seems logical for them to do -- find themselves in other scriptures on the issue and presenting the full counsel of God. Good on ya' mate!

    Second, it was representative of the era of Reform that the church was considered to be Israel -- either by what they call "replacement" in which God was fed up with Israel and replaced it forever with the church -- OR by continuance -- Israel of the OT were first to take the gospel and true Israel became a Gentile religion forever.

    Either way, we need to be careful applying OT passages today. There ARE typologies ("these things were happened to them for an ensample" 1Cor 10:11). There is "unfiltered" wisdom to be had -- Proverbs, for instance. There is God's revelation of Himself, His character, His purposes, etc. which should not be overlooked. There is prophecy to consider and most all of it comes true LITERALLY.

    Certainly, if the context allows. It is said, "If the literal makes good sense, seek no other sense unless it is offered." What you did was the correct approach -- try to find other instances of what you think you see in scripture and especially in the NT. Scripture is always like the proverb "In the mouth of two or three witnesses [passages] is the truth established." To me, when I find the same thing in several places, I believe that the Holy Spirit is trying to tell me something and I pray about it.

    No, I think tha is good comparison. God loves us that much! :godisgood:

    skypair
     
    #8 skypair, Jun 2, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 2, 2007
  9. npetreley

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    I don't think that would be called "spiritualizing" the text. It is, nevertheless, ridiculous.
     
  10. TCGreek

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    Whenever I come to a text, I immediately begin to think like an exegetical theologian. An exegetical theologian is one whose theology/teaching emerges from the text. So within every narrative or genre of Scripture, I seek the theology or doctrine and then seek to apply it.

    But first, I take my grammatical-historical approach: What did it mean to the first time reader. I think it is good exegesis to ask what is the theology behind every text.

    I find this a lot in Spurgeon, but we are all fallible. I am glad that aspect of Spurgeon raised some concerns for you. In that way you can inquire about proper exegesis and application of Scripture, a divine craft that must be recaptured.
     
  11. pinoybaptist

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    Amazing how humanists hold themselves in very high regard. Don't kid yourself, skypair.
    God loves His Son, and only to His Son, can you add the phrase "that much".
    You ? Me ? Mankind ?
    Sure He loves His people, but His main, unwavering, unconditional, eternal love, belongs to His Son, and His Son's unwavering, unconditional, eternal love, belongs to the Father, and you can say that of the Spirit as well.
    Don't put yourself in too high a pedestal, or your heart will forget to whom it owes the hope of heaven it holds on to.
    None of us were there to share that love with God before the foundation of the world.
    In the beginning, and before the beginning....God !
     
  12. DQuixote

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    Wow. Read that again. And again. And again.

    :thumbs: :thumbs: :thumbs:
     
  13. Grasshopper

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    Which begs the question, is there application or spiritual truths in every passage of the OT?

    I personally allow the NT writers to interpret the OT passages for me.

    Example:

    Amo 9:11 In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:

    Now what does this mean? There are different beliefs, but I would allow the NT Prophets (Peter in this case) toi interpret it for me:

    Act 15:15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
    Act 15:16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:

    It seems unless an inspired NT writer comments on the OT we should keep the interpretation to the context of the OT. It is an interesting topic to think about.
     
  14. WaltRiceJr

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    I'd rephrase that: It can never mean what God never meant it to mean.

    Two cases:

    (1) The understanding of the hearers can fall short of the true meaning. We are not limited to what they thought it meant. We read it for ourselves.

    (2) I think we have the freedom and the responsibility to apply Scripture by extrapolation of its spirit and principles to situations not contemplated in the text, by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

    Consider the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus says, if a man compels you to go with him one mile, go with him two. The literal application generally doesn't apply today (because it rarely, if ever, happens!), but clearly we apply the concept therein.

    Otherwise, I appreciate the comment that we understand the OT in the light of NT interpretation. I do think that we can take the example of the NT expositors and additionally consider the whole of the OT. We see and understand, for instance, Christ throughout the OT, even in places where the NT writers never specifically pointed him out.
     
  15. Pete Richert

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    I'm a Calvinist and a Baptist so of course Spurgeon is one of my heros and I find him extradinarily encouraging, lucid, and insightful. There is no non-biblical author who I walk away with more spiritually charged then Spurgeon.

    And yet I completly agree with christianyouth, Spurgeon reads way to much into one verse.
     

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