Friday, April 16, 2010

The Need for Hermeneutics (Part 1 of 2)

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2Tim. 3:16-17, NKJV)

How do you know what you believe is “the” truth? Is it by faith? Don’t other beliefs say faith is there answer too? How do you know which “Faith” is right? There has to be something that distinguishes one from another, truth from false, right?
     How do you know that what you believe in your belief is true? Is it by faith again? Wouldn’t that mean that anyone can say their opinion of their belief is true? How do you know what is truth in your belief, and can you be sure it is? There has to be something that distinguishes one from another, truth from opinion, right?
     In Christianity everything cannot simply be answered with “faith”. As I just showed, through those series of questions, faith cannot make those distinguishments by itself. There has to be some reasoning, evidence, and methods of distinguishing the “true Faith” from the “false faiths”, and the actual truth within a Faith from the falsehoods, opinions, misinterpretations, or misunderstandings within the same Faith. Christianity is the only belief to have reasoning, evidence, and methods accompanying our faith to show itself as true (i.e. apologetics). However, as for the internal distinguishments (i.e. polemics), it is most divisive. Yet, whatever we do agree on is only because of our understanding of the fundamental who, what, when, where, why, and how’s of our Faith’s origins (i.e. hermeneutics).

“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you...” (Lk. 1:1-3, NIV)

     So why have I shared all of this? Because as Christians we have been charged by the Word of God to learn apologetics (a reasoned defense of what and why we believe for those outside our Faith- 1Pet. 3:15), polemics (which is apologetics for false and bad teachings within our Faith- 2Tim. 2:24-26, 1Jn. 4:1), and hermeneutics (the method of how we properly interpret the Bible- 2Tim. 2:15). Though I must note, apologetics requires hermeneutics, polemics requires hermeneutics, and proper application of the Word of God also requires hermeneutics. You cannot sincerely read, study, follow, or teach the Bible without hermeneutics. And here’s why:
If you misunderstand verses and passages in the Bible and you seek not the proper method of interpreting it you will most likely misinterpret scripture, thus you will falsely apply the Bible, and possibly lead others astray. If you interpret the Bible based on your opinion in any capacity you will almost certainly misinterpret scripture, thus falsely apply the Bible, and presumably lead others astray.
Anytime we ask a who, what, when, where, why, or how question about something within the Bible we have just crossed over into hermeneutics. Furthermore, in order for us to apply, when we attempt to apply, and when we do apply anything the Bible tells us to do we have just crossed over into hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is a must for every Christian and inseparable for reading, studying, and applying the Bible! You cannot get away from it. Either you will apply biblical hermeneutics (the proper method of interpretation) or you’ll replace it for your opinion and your own interpretation—which will lead you and others in error.

     “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2Tim. 2:15, NKJV). The NASB says, “accurately handling the word of truth.” The NIV says, “a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” The actual interpretation of this single verse is exactly where the biblical concept of the method of proper interpretation (hermeneutics) is born. Paul prescriptively charges Timothy to study (be diligent–labor) to show himself approved by God, and as a master workman (or in our time it would be a skilled professional) would accurately, rightly, and correctly handle his tool or craft (just as Paul did at tent making- Acts 18:1-3; 20:31-35), so is Timothy to do so with the Word of Truth!
     For any Christian to know this and willfully choose not to accurately, rightly, and correctly handle the Word of Truth like Paul charged is disobedience and disrespect to God and the distinctive people of a distinctive time He chose to use to write this divine 66 book love letter we now have! Remember how Luke started his gospel, “they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,” and “I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning.” If within a couple of decades after Jesus Luke himself “carefully investigated everything from the beginning”, how much more us thousands of years later? For any Christian who now knows this and still believes that they don’t need or have to learn at least basic hermeneutics is in error, selfishness, and pride all to their loss. If this is you, I plead for you to repent from these sinful attitudes or suffer the consequences!

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2Tim. 4:3-4, NKJV)

     My fellow family of God, the only way to keep yourself from falling victim to 2Timothy 4:3-4 (and other scriptures alike) will be to follow the prescription of Paul in 2Timothy 2:15 so to properly follow the rest of Scripture. Just as God has given us the instruments of doctors, medicine, and so on to help us in our infirmities, He has given us hermeneutics (the method of how to properly interpret His Word) as the instrument the Holy Spirit uses to help guide us into all biblical truth (Jn. 16:13). This is to our benefit, and any true child of God is going to want to be led into truth by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14).

“The How for Hermeneutics” (Part 2 of 2)
In Part 2 I will cover what exactly is hermeneutics and some “how to’s” for hermeneutics so all can be equipped and edified.