Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
A Thirst for Godliness: Christ and Hermeneutics (II)
08/02/2005 - James WhiteI will not belabor a thorough line-by-line examination, but I will address a few more comments made by our author. In what seems to be an attempt to create a lack of confidence in hermeneutics, we are presented with the following assertion:
Not only did the original authors of the New Testament generally avoid the sort of historical/grammatical method of interpreting the Scripture they had available to them, they often employed methods that today would be declared unacceptable by those who feel free to call biblical hermeneutics a science.He seems to borrow part of Peter Enns argument without following it to its conclusion wherein at least Dr. Enns offers a solution (albeit, a controversial one).
Without granting legitimacy to the blog writer’s assertions, as I am currently studying much of the interpretive methods in that time period before I make any argument on that at this point, I would ask him to offer a demonstration of how he would use the “pesher” interpretive method in the 21st century. One of the points that Enns examines is that such a method is foreign to our culture and us and quite impossible to duplicate. Longenecker, cited by Enns, suggests that the historico-grammatical method is the choice for the church to understand the Apostles. Enns disagrees somewhat and adds some caveats. I will not engage that disagreement other than to make the point that while our blog author references this controversial matter in passing as though it were incontrovertible, he ignores that there is scholarly dialogue and support for using the historico-grammatical method in order to understand the text of Scripture.
[JRW: I would simply add that the Apostles were most often seeking to utilize the Tanakh in the demonstration of the Messiaship of Jesus. In this case, then, they were approaching texts that most today would admit of dual fulfillment as historically given prophecies with relevance when given but a second, greater relevance in Christ. Obviously, this places the conversation in the majority of instances in a different context than that which we face in interpreting, for example, the direct assertions of Paul regarding the historical existence of "false brethren" in the church.]
So, while we are told that the Apostles are using a particular method, we are never told why the historical-grammatical method is therefore invalid. In fact, we are never explicitly told anything about the method, only that it was not used by the Apostles.
Another assertion made:
Not that learning how to study the Scriptures or properly interpret them is unimportant–but what is more important than obedience and devotion to the person of Christ? I’m not saying that we ought to be producing uneducated ministers or somehow that a seminary education is useless. Far from it. I’m speaking to what ought to be central.Again, since there is no comment made from Pastor Samson on what is or is not central, we are being presented with a non-existent dilemma by this writer. Is this truly an either-or problem? The problem, with all due respect, seems to exist in the mind of the blog writer, and therefore I would suggest that the “mistake” made is in assuming a characteristic of another author without giving due charity and grace to its reading.
I doubt that this writer would allow an untrained person, a recent convert, to pastor a church. I doubt that he would sit still while a person argued from the pulpit at his church that Jesus was “a god” and not triune.
And yet, there would be no denying that without that understanding from Scripture, and without being able to successfully defend it from exegetical arguments, there would be no means of achieving the “central” goal this writer aims for. The writer further says:
Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. The study of the Scriptures is important. Properly intrepreting them to the best of our ability is also important. But these things are not central to the salvation of men’s souls. We are called to be witnesses of Christ (Acts 1:8), not witnesses of just how we ought to be interpreting Scriptures.The underlying presupposition that the writer seems to be taking is that there is a way in which a person can know Christ outside of knowing Scripture. And, while it is not likely a presupposition that he would make confessionally, this is what is played out in his complaint. Why would we ever direct a person away from understanding the Scripture properly? If they believe in a false Christ, is it better that they loved that Christ rather than the Christ explained in Scripture?
The approach taken by this writer to offer a rebuke represents an unfair reading and unwillingness to assume that Pastor Samson did consider Christ as the center.
The final comment I will address here is the following:
We must preach Christ and Him crucified. Our job is not to call men to accurately interpret Scripture. Our job as witnesses is to tell forth Christ and the gospel that can set men free. Men thirst for Christ, not biblical hermeneutics. Men need Christ, not instructions on how to properly understand the Bible.
Unfortunately, the writer never offers us any insight into how to convey Christ and Him crucified outside of properly understanding the Word of God. Indeed, how did this gentleman come to understand that the right and proper message was Jesus Christ and Him crucified outside of a proper understanding of the book that conveys that message? It is not a fair statement at all, then, to say that our job is to preach Christ and not hermeneutics, implying a sharp dichotomy. You see, we know that we do not call people unto exegesis. We call them unto Christ. But, we know this because we have studied the Word to know what that message is. And the conflict here is…what?
The Psalmist tells us, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” I suppose it does little good for someone who needs the light from the lamp if I don’t even know where the switch is.