Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Humble Hermeneutics

Before we begin a serious comparison between the ancient methodology of bible interpretation and that of the present, I want to emphasize the pressing need for humility in our day. Specifically, our need to rediscover humility in bible interpretation. It is due to our lack of humility that many are misled by the darkness both within us and outside of us. Thus, it is here that we might learn a thing or two from the dessert fathers.

The devil appeared to a monk, disguised as an angel of light, and said to him, “I am the angel Gabriel and I have been sent to you. But the monk said, see if you have not been sent to someone else; I am not worthy to have an angel sent to me. At once the devil vanished.

There is a tendency in contemporary bible interpretation to set aside the reality of our own limitations, and to presuppose that God is speaking to us and revealing something unique to us individually. Those two tendencies possess just enough error to be spiritually unhealthy. Surely God is speaking to us through his divine word, but never in isolation from the rest of the church. This means that whenever we deduce a meaning of a particular scripture, our conclusion cannot differ from that which others have received (all the way back to the beginning). If there is disagreement about a text, then we carefully consider the outcomes of debates, synods, councils, &C…. It may also very well be that the church has not given a strict conclusion about particular text, and we too must learn to hold a view any interpretation of those texts as private and not universal interpretations. However, when the church speaks with one voice, it is incumbant upon us to grow into that understandng and forsake our own. It is spiritual pride that leads a person to say, this has been revealed to ME, and no one else!

Like the monk in the quote above, we must learn to view our private interpretations and revelations with a great deal of suspicion, and the way to do so is by elevating the one voice of the church above our own. When we do this, those demons of interpretation quickly vanish. Those who pretend to speak with authority, yet whose voice is not aligned with the whole church (all the way back to the beginning) have probably bought into a similar false and demonic vision as that of the monk in our quote. The mindset that should prevail in us is one that sees the one voice of the church as greater than our own.

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