Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
A Thirst for Godliness: Christ and Hermeneutics (I)
08/01/2005 - James WhiteI began writing an article in response to a "reformed Catholic" who took aim at John Samon's article posted 7/28, and wrote a few paragraphs before Mike Porter asked if he could respond, so I thankfully handed the task to him. But I had already sent the first few paragraphs to John, so, I include them here, followed by the first portion of Mike Porter's response.
I saw some pretty amazing words today coming from that concentration of post-reformational ecumenism and source of opposition to all things biblical and apologetic, the "reformed Catholics." I read,
We make a mistake if we think that our central concern as Christians should be to properly exegete the text of Scripture. Nor should we be entertaining the idea that such should be the primary concern of the Christian minister. Bible study of course is important but our central concern should be Christ. Men thirst for the Living Water, not how we ought to practice hermeneutics. Catholicity is based on our identity in Christ, not our ability to agree with one another on the meaning and interpretation of the biblical text.
Of course, the writer is responding to the blog article immediately below regarding honoring God by honoring His Word. I searched in vain through the article for anything that said exegesis was the "central concern" for a Christian over against Christ. That's because, of course, there is nothing in the article that could lead any person to think that was John Samson's meaning. But some--especially those who continue their pilgrimage away from believing, conservative, Reformed beliefs--do not read anything that comes from their former backgrounds with even a modicum of fairness. The caricaturing of "the old ways" is epidemic today.
There is no conflict, of course, between practicing hermeneutics and thirsting for the Living Water. But, I may ask, should it not be that those who thirst for the Living Water will thirst for the truth about the One they worship and follow? Will not such a person desire to hear only the Shepherd's Voice? And how else is one going to properly honor God and His Word than by handling it with the awe and reverence and respect it is due, and I mean by that not the physical act of handling, but that of applying our best to its interpretation?
As to "catholicity," I do not see catholicity with those who do not honor the Word, undercut its authority, teach false gospels, and in general ravage the flock of Christ. I find the only unity that transcends culture and geography (and time) is based upon a common confession of the truth--and not a truth that is little more than a bleached skeleton of shallow affirmations of meaningless phrases into which we cannot pour a single iota of truth. No, I refer to apostolic truth, biblical truth, truth full and satisfying and thrilling to the soul and challenging to the mind and convicting to the heart. I refer to a truth that is not a least common denominator, "say Jesus is Lord but never, ever, ever ask what on earth that is supposed to mean" kind of ecumenical swill.
That was as far as I got. I now thankfully hand the task to Mr. Porter.
Recently, Pastor John Samson offered an article expressing his convictions on hermeneutics. His desire was not to have hermeneutics for hermeneutics sake. Rather, it was to use hermeneutics as a means to better understand God’s word and warn against those who promote any wind of doctrine. He expressed this in the title, A Thirst for Hermeneutics. A blog recently was written with the obvious intent of countering the points made by Pastor Samson. The title itself started the counter: A Thirst for the Living Water. Seemingly, one who addresses a single issue is guilty of over emphasizing it at the cost of another issue. In this case, it is being implied that Pastor Samson is emphasizing proper hermeneutic method over the purpose of that method, knowing Christ. The opening statement of the blog is, “We make a mistake if we think that our central concern as Christians should be to properly exegete the text of Scripture.” Now, nowhere in the article by Pastor Samson is there a declaration or indication that the “central concern” of the Christian life is exegesis, and given that there is not a body of literature to compare Pastor Samson’s views to this blog article, I’d say that such a sentiment is uncharitable and putting words into his mouth. And, lest there be confusion that the author was, indeed, offering a polemic sentiment I would point out that Steve Hays had some interaction with the author who clearly stated that his intention was to ask, “What is central?” Following that opening line, we read:
Nor should we be entertaining the idea that such should be the primary concern of the Christian minister. Bible study of course is important but our central concern should be Christ. Men thirst for the Living Water, not how we ought to practice hermeneutics. Catholicity is based on our identity in Christ, not our ability to agree with one another on the meaning and interpretation of the biblical text.Now, having already put words into the mouth of Pastor Samson, the author here indicates that hermeneutics should not be a primary concern for a minister – implying, maybe, that the primary purpose of Pastor Samson is not to know Christ through a proper understanding of Scripture, but simply to know methods for methodology's sake. Paul’s pastoral warning to Timothy is truly applicable here:
2 Tim 2:24 The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
Note the necessary ability to teach those in opposition so that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil. If it is true that we need not be concerned with “agreeing with one another on the meaning and interpretation of the biblical text” then this warning seems out of place and irrelevant. Does the author not conceive of a scenario wherein proper hermeneutical method is at all decisive in matters of faith?
I suspect he does, but it is curious that such does not make its way in his blog to counter some of the more radical and unbalanced comments he makes. I take issue, for example, with the idea that there is at all a disconnect with knowing Christ and knowing Scripture “for it is these that testify of Me,” (John 5:39) our Lord tells us. I would be curious to know how the author would, engage someone who claimed that Jesus was “a god.” Flowing from the arguments presented in his article, we need not be concerned with agreeing on the meaning and interpretation of a biblical text because all we need is Jesus.
I realize that this is not an argument put forth in his article, but in all honesty, is there any attempt made to balance the need of biblical interpretation and the need to keep Christ the focus of that interpretation other than glib assertions that understanding the Bible is important? Further, is there any attempt made to honor Christ’s own words of warning that unless you believe that “I am” you will die in your trespasses and sins (John 8:24) (oh, the exegetical fun we can have by deciding if Christ was affirming his identity as Yahweh, affirming his deity, or simply affirming that he is the Messiah!).
The connection that Christ makes to his person is also not something that can easily be dismissed, for while our author might argue against such precision, or while his principles set forth lead to that possibility, Christ has warned that not believing who he says he is has significant repercussions in that they will die in their trespasses and sins. [continued tomorrow]