Practicing Hermeneutical Acrobats

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basic mathThere are certain doctrines in Scripture that I consider patently obvious and foundational to the Christian faith. When Scripture is read naturally, even a child concludes rightly what Scripture teaches about those doctrines. Unfortunately, it seems to me that more and more, children unknowingly practice better hermeneutics when they read Scripture than the most learned “scholars,” simply because they read Scripture in its plain sense – thus keeping them within the confines of Christian orthodoxy.

Scholars though, tend to spend their days stretching and flexing their hermeneutical acrobats in pursuit of something new under the sun. Consequently, many of them become heretics. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule. But be forewarned. May of those scholars who may appear to affirm what Scripture teaches, do so not because they are convicted by what Scripture teaches, but because, to them, it’s the best option given the historical or scientific data available, or sometimes because it benefits them in some way – like a politician who will say what he knows people want to hear for the sake of their job (or perhaps, in order to get one).

acrobats

So, when the historical or scientific data appears to change, or the temperament of their church or seminary, they change with it. They may give lip-service to their belief in the infallibility of Scripture, but it means nothing if they’re willing to compromise what Scripture clearly teaches because of some new discovery or whim.

The question is, “Will they believe what Scripture teaches, simply because it’s what Scripture teaches, even when all other data appears to contradict it?”

You may have wondered at times before, aghast by some theologian or pastor you once trusted, “How did so and so come to change his position on this?”

This is exactly how.

We’ve seen these kinds of changes in many aspects of theology where Scripture is otherwise clear. Matters such as creation, the life of Christ, the authorship of the Pastorals, the inerrancy of Scripture, a literal heaven and hell, or the Bible’s position on the family, church leadership, abortion What-Does-The-Bible-Sayor homosexuality are all examples of recent compromise in Evangelical “scholasticism.”

Is it discouraging? Yes, but not surprising. Paul predicted this would happen, and this is why he urged Timothy to remain faithful, not to historical data, not to scientific data, not to scholasticism, or the cultural climate, but to the Word of God:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.

– 2 Tim. 2:15-17

What does that mean? It means their philosophies and false doctrine will spread like a disease – rapidly and with lethal consequences. And it will only get worse.

These impostors will continue deceiving and being deceived (2 Tim. 3:13), and the people, even people in the church, will like it so much so that they will only appoint teachers who tell them what they want to hear, rather than teachers who are committed and faithful to the Scriptures (4:3-4).

What kind of false doctrine do you think Paul is talking about here? What kind of impostors?

Let me tell you, he’s NOT talking about false danger from withindoctrine that is so far outside the confines of Christianity that believers will quickly reject it. He’s not talking about cults or popes, or people who openly reject Christianity. He’s talking about dangers from within Christianity – compromise on primary and secondary doctrines to Christianity that ultimately work to undermine the authority of God’s Word and lead people unknowingly astray.

Ultimately, the question must be, “What is your commitment to Scripture?” This is a real and genuine question. I have had conversations with people ad nauseam who have compromised in their commitment to the authority, inerrancy, and infallibility of Scripture. In almost every one of these cases, I find discussions with such men to be utterly fruitless, but not fruitless because Scripture doesn’t speak plainly about this or that, or because the Word of God isn’t powerful to change lives.

They are fruitless because these men do not genuinely want to know what Scripture teaches. They want to make Scripture say what they want it to say. So they perform hermeneutical acrobats. They are disinterested in rightly dividing the Word of God. You’ve probably run into these people too. Speaking with them, you’ll quickly discover that no matter what text you appeal to, they have forged a maneuver to dodge it.

They will proof-text. You will show them the context. They will argue from words studies and grammar, and you will show them where they err, but to no avail.

They will pretend to be humble, but don’t be fooled. By “humble” they only mean that they’re willing to entertain false doctrine. That’s actually the opposite of humility. Being affirmative or dogmatic about doctrine isn’t prideful. It’s dependent on Scripture. It places trust not in your own authority, but in the authority of God’s Word alone. Isn’t that in itself a reflection of humility?false humility

Sometimes though you won’t know where a conversation will lead you, why a person asked you about x, y, or z. You assume the best and assume they are genuinely inquiring about God’s Word, but eventually you will come to realize the fruitlessness of the discussion. You will ask, “What do you want from me? Do you really want to know what Scripture teaches? Because I have shown you what Scripture teaches and you still won’t believe.”

So you have found that they do not want to hear what Scripture teaches. What they actually want is their disease to spread like gangrene. So, be forewarned and be discerning.

It’s at that point that you should not cast the precious pearls of Scripture before swine, or they’ll trample them underfoot, and make a mockery of it!

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  • MMJ

    Do you think Paul is really talking about secondary doctrines?

    • It sounds to me like there is something more you want to say here 🙂