Let’s Be Honest

My blogging friend Fajita, with his usual fine knack for getting to the point and nailing it with a single blow, named several reasons for people using the wrong interpretational “tool” (hermeneutic) in his comment to the previous post. The middle one was:

selfishness – using an inappropriate tool in order to arrive at a conclusion that fits a personal or organizational goal.

Guilty as charged.

I’ll bet you are, too.

We Christians have a tendency to proof-text … to lift a single passage of scripture out of its comfortable, contextual home and try to make it sit up, roll over, and speak; to make it say more – or less, or even something different – than it actually wants to say in order to prove our pet point.

Oh, we recognize that Satan can do and has done and will do the same thing. But that’s when scripture is mishandled by the hands of the enemy and twisted into a growling, snarling beast. Not when it’s in our loving hands.

So we do it under some misapprehension that when it’s done by those who love God and love scripture, it’s not wrong.

That, as a scholar like Fajita would recognize, is intellectually dishonest. It is disingenuous.

And it’s a fine line.

When someone asks a question about a matter on which scripture is abundantly clear, is it wrong to share with them that clarity without making them read an entire chapter or biblical book? I don’t think so. Jesus pulled a few words of psalm and prophecy out of the canon of that day to make His point – more than once, to be sure.

But, to say that something is mandated, permissible, or forbidden because scripture does not specifically mention it is dishonest. It’s pushing your agenda. It’s proof-texting at its worst.

Why not just be honest about it? Why not just say, scripture is silent and possibly indifferent on the subject? Why not enumerate your reasons for the way you believe on the subject and just say, “This is my preference. This is what draws me closer to God and what I do to keep my conscience clear before Him”?

To me, it’s clear that there were all kinds of questions upon which the church of century one could have easily split, and epistles were written to try to prevent it. Gentiles could eat meat sacrificed to idols with a clear conscience; the idols meant nothing to them now. Jews could not; those idols represented Satan and his hordes. The instruction was, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

It was not a hard-and-fast rule. Under certain circumstances, that would require being sensitive to the conscience of others. Under other circumstances, it would necessitate demonstrating your belief. In all circumstances, it would demand loving brothers and sisters in Christ and engaging in dialogue with each other in order to understand each other better and draw closer to God together.

There was never an instruction in scripture to be right about everything. Not then. Not now.

In a discourse that establishes God’s ability to judge perfectly and be right as opposed to man’s disqualification to do so, Paul writes the Romans, “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” At the risk of proof-texting, I believe he encourages us to be humble with regard to our own judgment, and recognize God’s perfect judgment.

In fact, I believe that the whole of scripture has as a long-running subtext, from beginning to end, the recognition that we are not up to the task – and God alone is.

That’s why we need to back off of our microscopic inspection of other’s eyes in order to see clearly the log in our own. (Hey – there’s a blog title in that somewhere!) That’s why we need to be able to confess that we’ve been wrong and repent. That’s why we praise God for His perfect balance of righteousness and mercy expressed in His Son, Jesus.

That’s why there is no room in our methodology to retreat to separate camps of like-minded ones and loudly proclaim “Here’s what I think and I’m right about it because God says so. Look right here at this isolated verse! Look at it with my hermeneutic! See it my way, or go to hell!” Nor is there room to smugly observe the other camp, joke and judge: “They just don’t get it.”

That’s why there is all kinds of room in our methodology to say, “Here’s what I believe and why. What do you think? How does it read?”

That’s why, even though Jesus was the embodiment of God on this world who could have thundered the proclamation of His truth to all mankind simultaneously, He still left us the methodology of asking questions, telling stories, and reading scripture – together.

Call it a perfect example.

How do you read it?

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5 thoughts on “Let’s Be Honest

  1. <>“Nor is there room to smugly observe the other camp, joke and judge: ‘They just don’t get it.’”<> Ouch. As much as we may not like to admit it, we all are usually guilty of having this attitude, of leaning to one extreme or the other sometimes. Keith, I was looking for a quote of yours in an archived post that I read recently, where you referenced Acts 15. I couldn’t find it, but I recall you describing what happened w/the council at Jerusalem as the apostles were seeking for an answer from God. You said that His response was “You guys need to work this out.” I recall hearing that from my mom on occasion, as I was growing up. When my sisters and I would have arguments, there were some things that she just would not intervene in. I’d like to think that our Father does that with us sometimes, in order to help us mature spiritually. In looking for the lost quote of yours regarding Acts 15, I found another that I thought was relevant: <>“There are a whole passel of things that are left up to each and every one of us to figure out for ourselves, to help us mature our own consciences, to assist in building our own relationship with God through His Son and His Spirit.”<>—from “Father, May I?”, July 06. I would only take this a step further and say that it also assists us in building our relationships with each other, as we create that dialogue about our interpretations of scripture. And it all starts with our attitudes. I saw a pretty good example of this last Wednesday night in our class. We were discussing how we sometimes make faith legalistic. One guy in our class expressed his opinion on our favorite subject, instrumental music; he expressed how he didn’t see anything in the Bible that said or implied that it was wrong. Our minister’s response was, “Well, I believe that singing is the instruction and example given in the Bible. But that’s okay. <>You and I will still fellowship!<>” I’m sure he didn’t want to get off the subject and into a discussion on the why or why not of instrumental music at that point, but the right attitude was there, between both of these guys. This, I believe, is what is most important for us as members of Christ’s body. That’s how we achieve the unity that Christ so earnestly prayed for in John 17. Because it’s when we are willing to discuss our differences that we begin to see a little more of each other’s viewpoints. We begin to use a <>comprehensive hermeneutic<>, rather than one extreme or another.

  2. Lacey, I think you might have been looking for < HREF="http://keithbrenton.blogspot.com/2006/01/taking-things-too-literally-part-ii.html" REL="nofollow">this post<>.Thanks – it <>is<> all a matter of attitude.

  3. Okay, I’m sorry, Keith, I realize this is your blog, but I had one more comment to share with you and your other readers, then I promise I’ll leave you alone. Just couldn’t let it pass on this Memorial Day, when we remember those who paid a great price for our freedom.From reading your most recent posts on hermeneutics, and a few others like them in your archives, it is obvious to me that you appreciate the freedom that we all share in Christ. Thank you for reminding us all of that, and of the great Price that was paid for our freedom. I believe you said it best as you ended a post from June 2006:<>“It isn’t easy to sort out the unorthodox hermeneutic. Sometimes silence forbids. Sometimes it permits. But mostly, it speaks loudly of God’s awesome justice and mercy in our lives. Because it’s the sound you make at the foot of the cross.”<>

  4. I sure appreciate Lacey pointing out that last quote, because THAT one has stuck with me a LONG time!Like you, when Chris says something, my ears usually perk up.I may not always agree with him, but you can count on it being something worth listening to and searching about. Kinda like that Brenton fella! 🙂Great post, and wonderful comments!In HIM,DU

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