It is amazing how quickly we can take a good thing and turn it into a bad thing.
Like perhaps, take someone saying they submit to Scripture.
It doesn’t get much better than that. I meet a person who says they believe what the Bible says wholeheartedly and want to put it into practice and I want to stand up and cheer.
At the same time, saying you submit to Scripture and actually submitting to Scripture are two different things. And you know while submission to Scripture is a great thing, saying you submit to Scripture when in fact you are not really willing to, is a pretty dangerous thing.
Because you see what happens is that all the sudden you’ve given your view and your opinion a divine mandate. The old I believe this because the Scripture says it is a lot different than this is an opinion I have.
That’s why I think it’s important to understand the process you come to your perspective is important. I am so big on this, to the point where most of the time, I would take the wrong view with the right process over the right view with the wrong process.
That sounds funny.
I don’t want wrong view over the long haul. And there are obviously certain wrong views that just are completely unacceptable.
But given the choice between someone whose method of interpretation is basically taking their theological system and imposing it on whatever text they are studying until they force it to say what they want it to say and someone whose method of interpretation is humbly submitting to the Scripture and wrestling with the text and asking questions and trying as hard as they can to let the text say what it actually says, I think most of the time, honestly the second guy is going to be easier to work with even if our views are slightly different.
I think sometimes teaching theology, this is what gets missed on the church level at least. Maybe because we so want people to have the right theology, which is great, we try to get it to them quick in easy snippets or something and again that’s fine, but I am pretty convinced they don’t just need the theology they also need to understand the process. It’s not just like this view is right and this view is wrong, but we’ve struggled with the texts and I can show from this passage why it means this, using context, using all the basic principles of hermeneutics.
Anyway I am rambling here.
Maybe this is one of those fuzzy in the pulpit a cloud in the pew kind of days, but perhaps it will help if I throw out a couple quotes that are spurring on these thoughts.
Daniel Doriani, I am reading his book Putting the Truth to Work, and he describes the attitude of some conservatives like this,
“I believe whatever the Bible says.
Whatever the Bible says I believe.
I know what the Bible says.
Therefore, what I believe is what the Bible says.
Therefore, if the Bible seems to say something I don’t believe it must not really mean that.”
I am sure this kind of attitude can creep in with anybody. And again, it is a little bit like that good thing becoming a bad thing again. A theological system or set of beliefs can be really helpful, we need it, it acts like a fence and keeps out a lot of pretty terrible stuff but at the same time it can be a problem when put padlocks on it because it can also if it is not quite right, keep some of the good stuff from coming in too.
If we are going to benefit from the Scripture we need a humbler syllogism, Doriana says.
“I probably do not believe this passage as purely, as radically, as I should.
I probably do not understand this passage as fully as I should.
Therefore, I probably need this text to correct my understanding and deepen my faith.”
I like that.
It’s not pretending you don’t anything at all. But it is admitting you probably need to learn more. And it seems it kind of obvious to me at least, if you are going to understand a passage you have to go in willing to actually learn.
To “prevent further deception” Doriana goes on to note, and I love this, “conservatives should distinguish between standing on the Bible and standing under the Bible, a distinction made by the evangelical German scholar Adolf Schattler during a theological examination. A churchman asked Schlatter if he stood on the Bible. ‘No’ he replied, ‘I stand under the Bible.’ That is, he would not use the Bible as a platform to build his theology. He would observe the data of Scripture and allow them to determine his views.”