Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bible Deism and Knowing Jesus Part 4 - The Interpreter

Isaiah 50:4-5
New King James Version (NKJV)

4 “ The Lord GOD has given Me The tongue of the learned, That I should know how to speak A word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear To hear as the learned. 5 The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not rebellious, Nor did I turn away.

The inspiration of Scripture remains one of the firmest and least challenged tenets of the Christian faith. While inerrancy, accuracy and interpretation may be debated, the overall God-breathed, God inspired nature of the Bible stands as a sure thing among those who have experienced rebirth in Christ. Scripture is God's objective, persistent revelation to the world of His nature, His being and His person. We take a natural comfort in the inspired objectivity of Scripture. There may be different translations, different texts, but these agree with astounding, faith-enforcing symmetry. We draw comfort from knowing that God is not to be understood and discerned through mere, fickle and weak subjective means but through a context and understanding formed by the steadfast, unchanging Word of God.

As an evangelical community we spend a great amount of time and energy teaching, enforcing and "holding fast" to what we know as sound doctrine. This activity is empowered by Scripture, the root of our doctrine and the security of our knowledge of what is and is not sound teaching (2 Tim 3:16). Our defense of sound doctrine is made secure by what we view as objective revelation, that which cannot and should not be questioned, that which can be supported by hermeneutics, language studies, historical context and other objective factors. We find these things comforting, empowering and safe. We tend to view subjective revelation as spurious, without foundation, without accuracy, untrustworthy and altogether inappropriate.

However, Scripture is far less an objective revelation than we might pretend. The vast and varied interpretations of Scripture even in the realm of academia should be evidence that the text of the Bible is subject to personal interpretation and consumption. While we know that Scripture is not of private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20) we often fail to agree what the public interpretation is to be or what the gamut of public interpretations should be.

We've sought to enforce principles to keep us safe, producing vast amounts of information on biblical interpretation, hermeneutics, inductive Bible study, study Bibles, commentaries and so on, but even these measures do not protect us from this simple truth that we are subject to our own weakness, cleverness and dullness of spirit when it comes to interpreting the Bible. We cannot trust ourselves. Even with all the academia we've developed, even with all the education we've consumed, we cannot be certain of our absolute purity in interpretation and consumption of the Word.

This remaining weakness and fallibility creates an enduring question. Who is the best interpreter of Scripture? Isaiah 50:4-5 prophesies of the Messiah who was and is and is to come, stating the vital perfection, "The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not rebellious, Nor did I turn away." Jesus Christ was not qualified to understand the Father, His will or His Word by His intellect or academic prowess, though He was undoubtedly a genius and astounded the religious leaders even as a child (Luke 2:47). He was qualified by His ability to listen, by His attentiveness to the Father, by His submitted heart. He was able to accept and understand the cross. He saw it in Scripture when no one else did.

When the Pharisees and Sadducees were arguing finer points of doctrine, Shepherd boys, pagans, old men and uneducated women were worshipping the newborn King of Glory. They had a prophetic perception that went beyond the letter that kills (2 Cor 3:6, remember this verse is quite possibly referring to Scripture itself when void of the Holy Spirit's interpretation) into the Spiritual realm of divine, inspired truth and revelation. This is the testimony of Jesus: the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10), the Spirit given ability to perceive who Jesus is, what He has done, what He is doing and what He will do. The interpretive power of the Holy Spirit is far more reliable than hermeneutical principles, interpretive processes, and all the Bible knowledge available to man. It is our confidence in ourselves that is more likely to blind us than our ignorance:

One of the most serious flaws of Bible deism is the confidence the Bible deist places in his abilities to interpret the Bible. He assumes that the greater his knowledge of the Bible, the more accurate his interpretations are. This follows logically from a hermeneutical axiom the Bible deist often quotes: The Bible is the key to its own interpretation. In other words, the Bible interprets the Bible the best. Wrong! It takes more than the Bible to interpret the Bible.
The Author of the Bible is the best interpreter of the Bible. In fact, he is the only reliable interpreter.
And if the Spirit's illumination is the key to interpreting the Bible, isn't the Bible deist's confidence in his own interpretive abilities arrogant and foolhardy? How does one persuade God to illumine the Bible? Does God give illumination to the ones who know Hebrew and Greek the best? To the ones who read and memorize Scripture the most? What if the condition of one's heart is more important for understanding the Bible than the abilities of one's mind? Is it possible that the illumination of the Holy Spirit to understand Scripture might be given on a basis other than education or mental abilities?
-Jack Deere, Surprised by the Voice of God p. 257
It takes more than text, knowledge, understanding or mental ability to receive the truth of Scripture and it takes far, far more to apply it. God desires sincere children. Those who will utterly depend on Him for knowledge, understanding and wisdom. He wants those who are desperate for an accurate revelation of who He is and what He desires. He desires to reveal Himself. He desires us to know Him through His interaction with us. He wants to know Him through relationship. Without that relationship, that connection of the Holy Spirit, the Bible remains a revelation that burdens us with responsibility but fails to pierce our hard hearts. Thank the LORD for His Holy Spirit, poured out on the earth today. He empowers the Word to penetrate our hearts and enlightens our eyes to see the truth of what is written.


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