not going beyond what is written

There are those who suggest that the issue today in Biblical studies, and precisely in regard to hot button issues, although this is far from relegated only to that, is a matter of hermeneutics which means Biblical interpretation, and I think this is largely correct. We must be careful not to downplay the role of tradition as to how the church has interpreted scripture.

The Bible purports to be the Book of God, or the Word of God written (the inscripturated word of God). But clearly it is also a human book, written by humans in specific times and places using grammar and cultural references which can be obscured in translation, but are still evident to some extent. It is both a book from God, “God-breathed,” and a book written by humans. So that it is necessary to try to read it as both, working on understanding the original context to understand the meaning and relevance or application of the text for today. Many helps now are available for this endeavor. The point is that we need to do it. And probably most important in this endeavor without discarding the rest is the importance of simply reading all of scripture and trying to see each part in the overall context of the whole. A tall task by itself, but part of what we’re to be about as Christians.

One of my biggest problems in reading what many Christians think on issues today is the suspicion of what I think is indeed evident: that the Bible is not front and center in their understanding in reference to what they’re saying. Maybe it’s some theological position, quite often it seems to me a rather pop kind of theology which gained some traction somewhere and perhaps took off on its own and in so doing really ends up not taking all of scripture or the story found in scripture for all its worth. So much of what I read seems off the mark either in saying what scripture doesn’t say at all, and failing to say what it does say.

One example: It is common to hear that once someone comes to Christ, the judgment is gone, since God took on himself in Christ the judgment and condemnation for all our sins. That is clearly true. But then the thought goes on that Christians need not worry about being judged at all, that all their sins are covered so that they are no longer subject to judgment. False. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5, so that everyone might receive according to what they have done in this life, whether it was good or evil. And the context there is for Christians only, even though there is a final white throne judgment in Revelation for everyone else.

We need to go back to the Bible and keep turing the pages. And we need to read helps in interpreting what it says in the details as well as the whole. That can seem a toilsome task, but it is especially critical for those who teach the word to others. But it’s important for us all. And not only individually, but together in Bible studies as church.

Keep going back to the Bible to test what is being said out there. But above all to help us understand what we’re reading in any given text in it. And keep at it. A humbling, yet potentially transforming experience.