Accurate Hermeneutics Interpreting the Bible Part 1
I received an excellent question in the comments for last week’s article, Can We Understand the Bible Alike? The commenter asked, “What is your solution to properly interpreting the Bible? Do you take a literal interpretation, or a more intricate one, etc.?” This is a very important inquiry, because how one interprets the Bible – more specifically, whether one does so correctly – determines whether one is going to actually obey the commands and principles laid out in the Bible. That, in turn, has a direct bearing on whether one will be saved (Matt. 7:21-23; Heb. 5:9). Therefore, if God permits me I would like to take the next few posts on my blog to show both from scripture and from logic how to correctly interpret the Bible.
To begin with, it must be asked whether it is actually possible to correctly interpret the Bible. After all, some believe that truth is relative rather than absolute. This notion is easily proven to be very much mistaken when one thinks about it with an open and honest mind (cf. Luke 8:15). To the person who confidently asserts, “There is no absolute truth,” responding with the simple inquiry, “Are you absolutely sure about that?” shows the inconsistency and error of such a proposition. Nevertheless, many still believe this foolish notion. A popular rock band from my youth wrote a song which opined, “This is not a black and white world/To be alive, I say that the colors must swirl/And I believe that maybe today/We will all get to appreciate/The beauty of gray.” This post-modernistic idea – the beauty of gray, there are no black and whites, there is no absolute truth – is very popular in our society, and for good reason. After all, if there is no such thing as absolute truth then there is no such thing as an absolute standard of what is right and what is wrong. (If not, why not?) Therefore, who are you to tell me that I am wrong for doing whatever it is I want to do?
Hypothetically, I could commit adultery with your spouse, murder your child, steal your money, and burn down your house, and you probably would have a problem with that. Fine, that’s YOUR definition of truth. MY definition of truth is that it’s okay for me to do those things. Since truth is relative, that means we’re both right. And since I am right, I will continue to commit adultery with your spouse, murder your children, steal your money, and harm your property…and who are you to tell me I’m wrong to do so? Such a mindset is not only ludicrous on its face but also extremely dangerous, because following this line of thought to its logical end would result in chaos (cf. Judg. 21:25).
Additionally, having this post-modernistic mindset would make it impossible for one to correctly interpret the Bible, because to a post-modernistic mind every word in the Bible would be subjective, open to multiple interpretations of which all would be valid. For example, you believe that John 3:16 teaches that God gave his Son because he loved the world? Fine, that’s YOUR interpretation. MY interpretation of John 3:16 is that God gave his Son because he did NOT love the world. Since truth is relative, we’re both right and who are you to tell me that I’m wrong? Again, a simple reading of the passage under consideration shows very clearly…to the person who already knows about and accepts the existence of absolute truth…that the above, post-modernistic way of thinking is absurd on its face. The passage very clearly states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” Believe that statement to be absolutely true, and you will clearly see the error of anyone who would interpret it in any other way.
Therefore, the existence of the post-modernistic mindset does not mean that it is impossible for anyone to correctly interpret the Bible. On the contrary, those who recognize the existence of absolute truth in this world will find it easier to correctly interpret God’s Word, because God’s Word IS truth (John 17:17). When one who already knows and accepts the fact that absolute truth exists and then comes to know and accept the fact that God’s Word is truth, then one has achieved the first step towards correctly interpreting the Bible.