Monday, November 17, 2014

How Not to Read the Bible

In my Spiritual Formations class this Tuesday, the professor just casually mentioned that too often when we are reading the Psalms, we put ourselves directly into the story. We pretend that when the author was speaking of the faithful one, he was obviously referring to us.

Thus we read that our enemies will be vanquished if only we trust in the Lord. It's great; we now relate to the Scriptural passages we are reading, but we are not the faithful one that the psalmist was thinking of when he penned those words.

Here's the thing about the Bible - it already is a relatable book. One can definitely find teachings in it that are relevant to our own lives.

But our process in determining those types of applications should not come until after an understanding of the text itself.

This chronological step is not just a semantic matter. If one tries too much to only look to the Bible for meaning and application in his own life, it becomes all too easy to rest in "Promises of God" that God never actually promised. For instance, it becomes easy to say that Philippians 1:6 is a reason why the Lord will continue to bless a friendship into great things, because he started a "good work in you."

Obviously, the apostle Paul was referring to the idea that the Philippians' eternal salvation was secure, not any extraneous circumstances regarding friends. This relates to our own life in regards to our own eternal salvation, and nothing more at all regarding any other parts of life.

All this does not exclude the idea of applications into our own life that perhaps the original author would not have known possible. Just because computers weren't a thing doesn't mean that the admonition in Colossians 3:17 to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus doesn't apply to my writing of this blog post.

In conclusion, then, let's hear some words from my Spiritual Formations textbook, 40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible, by Robert Plummer,
"Depending on the setting of the modern-day reader, a variety of implications are possible. The implications must flow within the channel of meaning determined by the conscious intent of the human author; they must be 'submeanings' of the original paradigm... The original author is the determiner of meaning, which in turn limits implications." 

So yes, we should be able to relate to the Bible, but let's be sure that we base that relationship on the Bible itself.

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