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The Fiddler on the Roof

Caraboska's Theoblog

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Christian Hermeneutics
Praise the Lord. This is a reply to this post. At the Presbyterian church I used to go to once upon a time, they put a great deal of effort into proper Biblical and theological training for the congregation, starting even from infancy with Scripture memory. Evidently the aim was for people to have a more thorough grounding in these matters than they would get even at seminary. Principles for hermeneutics were referenced on a regular basis in the sermons. And I have noticed two things about them:

1. Most of them are basically common-sense principles, such as:

reading all of Scripture before one comes to a conclusion about what Scripture teaches, not just doing a word-study on the matter at hand, because some portion of Scripture that does not directly mention that matter at hand could nonetheless impact very vitally on the proper interpretation, because Scripture itself tells us which principles contained in its pages are more important, which of them provide the framework for interpreting the rest;

going from the general to the specific, i.e. not taking theology from mere examples;

starting from what is clear and only then moving on to what is isn't;

2. Almost every deviant interpretation is in an obvious manner rooted in a faulty hermeneutic (i.e. one that fails to obey sound hermeneutical principles) and often, ultimately, in people's cloaking their own fears and ambitions in Scripture (and then of course calling this 'the clear teaching of Scripture' and telling anyone who does not want to obey this 'clear teaching' that they are not 'Spirit-filled' or perhaps even just plain unsaved or otherwise devoid of relationship with God).

In recent years, my personal theology has become sufficiently out of the box that it is a very uncomfortable fit in any church. So I maintain no church membership at all, except in the so-called Invisible Church (whose membership rolls are kept in heaven and known with 100% certainty only by God).

A certain Catholic priest whose name escapes me at the moment once pointed out that Protestantism, if taken to its logical conclusion, lays a HUGE responsibility on its adherents. And this is very true. And I do take that responsibility seriously. I've been working on Biblical languages so I can read the original language Scriptures myself. I am very careful to apply the hermeneutical principles I've learned.

But I remain completely outside of any Church tradition. I take the responsibility to measure all things myself and take only what is good very seriously. God really does lay that responsibility on us (in a particularly obvious manner in I John - won't give verses so as not to proof-text). The Apostle Paul wrote at one point that if even he himself were to come to his readers with some other gospel than what they heard from the beginning, they were to reject that teaching. How much more, then, are we to weigh the teachings of our pastors!

I have become disturbed that while Orthodox Jewish people begin teaching their kids Biblical Hebrew at age 3, and Muslims begin teaching their children Qur'anic Arabic at about the same age, Christians are not teaching their kids Greek and Hebrew from early childhood. Indeed, they are not doing it at all, and furthermore in some cases are looking askance at lay people who take that trouble, because the lay person's job is to sit there in church and believe and obey what the pastor says, so that such a lay person is not showing the proper measure of faith in God's appointed authorities.

It is very legitimate to pose the question: at what point does a pastor's role in someone's life become idolatrous? Because very frankly there are very few if any churches on the planet where the pastors don't cross that line at some point, attempting to set themselves up as idols in their congregation members' lives. Preaching in a manner which basically aims to keep their congregation at a quite low level of spirituality, dependent on other human beings for their spiritual 'daily bread'. And the person who is not willing to occupy that kind of position - who is intent on worshiping God and only God - is quickly going to find themselves in a very uncomfortable position.

To put the matter another way: nearly every public Christian testimony I have heard talks about 'what God did for me'. One could get the impression that Christians worship God's benefits, God's salvation, instead of God Himself. Or when people start preaching the gospel, they speak of heaven and hell, of the necessity to 'get saved'. The problem is that if we are receiving the gospel because we want to avoid hell or go to heaven, then we are worshiping not God, but rather our own desires.

Someone might say, 'OK, but we have to start with people where they are!' And that is very true. But instead of leading people away from that being motivated by their own desires to being motivated only by God, teaching them the importance of truly having only one God in their lives, where Jesus fits into that and how He upholds that by His work on the cross, removing the punishment/reward issue so that we can truly love God with ALL our heart and ALL our soul and ALL our strength, many evangelists turn this into an opportunity to get people under their 'authority' - i.e. in bondage to them or their organization. Which is wickedness and idolatry.

My point here: many people forget that underlying that Most Important Commandment about loving God is the assumption that there is only one God. That that is the important thing: to worship God and only God. That it is He Whom we are to love with all our heart, soul and strength - He and no other. He has to be the sole ultimate motivation of all we do. When we ask which reiigious view or group we should be associated with, the question has to be: which one gives the most honor to God? And we have to look at Scripture to see what God tells us concerning what gives Him the most honor. And all that has to be the very explicit underpinning of our hermeneutics.