My journey of coming to understand God's Word more fully has not been a easy one. It has taken much time and the truth is we all are hindered to one degree or another by the things we have been taught. Much I was taught was good and I am so thankful for it. But in all of our lives there are always those blind spots created by a view or wrong interpretation of scripture we have grown up with. In my case it took years to fully understand the plan of salvation as outlined in the Bible (specifically the doctrine of justification). This is because of some teachings that have for some time been in error in (some) Mennonite circles. Consequently the subject of justification is now one of my favorite aspects of salvation to talk about. This is because when you realize what it means to be truly justified it well.... it is just plain exciting. More on that in a later post.
I believe one reason so many verses are taken out of context today and twisted is because many people are involved in eisegesis. Many verses are twisted due to this method of interpreting Scripture. Cults are started and bad theology is born. Eisegesis is when one imposes their own opinion or their own thoughts on to a passage of Scripture. Exegesis on the other hand is where you study to draw out the real meaning of Scripture apart from your views. Unfortunately, most people today do not practice exegesis but rather practice eisegesis.
Eisegesis has its roots in postmodernism which is the teaching that truth and reality do not come from God but rather are created by man, therefore, how can one know what is really true anyway? The teaching of postmodernism as applied to literature says that one cannot possibly know what the writer really meant but the meaning must be interpreted by each individual reader. This is also known as Whole-Language and is used in our public school system today. The founders of Whole-Language call reading a guessing game; in other words, the meaning of a written passage is generally anyone's guess. Students are encouraged to add or omit words in sentences that they read. They are encouraged to invent their own sounds and shapes for letters. There is much more to Whole-Language than this but you get the point. You can imagine then a parents frustration wondering why Johnny can't read, spell or sound out words, or construct a simple sentence.
Many self professing Christians do not believe in absolute truth, and although they would not admit this, they show it by how they approach God's Word. Many people within churches today interpret Scripture in light of the teachings they were brought up being taught, Their traditions and dogma play a big role in how they view Scripture. This is quite normal but very dangerous as entire groups of people have been slowly lead into apostasy (rejection of the true gospel) by leaning on their ancestors teaching rather than going back to God's Word. When challenged about the meaning of a specific passage or about a particular practice that doesn't come from God's Word they become defensive rather than stopping and asking,"Well what does God's Word say?"
The bottom line is how we feel about Scripture and its interpretation doesn't change its true meaning. Each Scripture was written by a particular writer under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to a particular people in a particular time to a particular culture all of which combine for a particular meaning. We so often miss this meaning and head down trails of theology that can turn out to be quite dangerous. And all because we have our particular colored glasses on (whatever denomination you may be). For many people their identity has become wrapped up in their ancestry and their ancestor's beliefs and in how they may dress. Rather our identity should be in Christ and His Word alone and what He has done for us on the cross. When we have our identity in the wrong things it prevents us from interpreting Scripture accurately as we are more apt to see things through a lens rather than seeing the truth clearly that is really there.
One important thing we must remember if we truly want to understand Scripture independently from our view point is to always interpret Scripture with Scripture. Scripture never contradicts itself and if it seems to contradict itself then we have interpreted one Scripture or the other wrongly. It is amazing to me the built in answers the Bible has for the questions I may have if I will only look around and read the surrounding verses or chapters. Another thing I have learned in reading the Bible is to always interpret harder to understand passages in light of easy passages. Go with what you do know for sure God's Word is saying and work from there.
This post must come to a end, however there are things touched on in this post I will pick up at a later date. May this verse remind us that our view of Scripture does not change the truth in God's Word. May we exegete rather than eisegete. May we allow God's Spirit to lead us into truth and not push our interpretation, practices and beliefs onto Scripture.
"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation." 2 Peter 1:20
Tags: eisegesis exegesis mennonite gods word tradition interpretation