Guidelines for Interpreting Scripture, part 1
How are we to interpret the Bible, especially in light of the fact that there are so many different traditions, denominations, and schools of thought? Are we allowed to interpret a passage however we like, or are there some basic rules and guidelines to follow?
On this program the hosts will begin a two-part series on this topic as they walk through some basic rules of “hermeneutics,” or the science of biblical interpretation. Join us as we begin this mini-series on interpreting Scripture on the White Horse Inn.
“When you think of the kind of questions that we automatically ask and go to the Bible to seek answers for, it kind of revolves around how I can be happy, wealthy and stress-free. Well, I’m not likely to hear those questions when I go to Africa or India or China. I talked to Christians suffering persecution in various parts of the world and they’re not just, “How can I be a better me?”
“Your culture does matter when you interpret Scripture. Your circumstances, your environment does matter and we shouldn’t be naive about that. We should kind of drag it from under the beds, so to speak, and say this is what it is. I need to be aware that I’m probably inclined to ignore or marginalize passages that Jesus considered really important because I am a White, middle-class American. But shouldn’t that be true of all of us then? You can’t come as a woman to the Bible and say it’s okay basically to screen out everything that doesn’t affirm my womanness, or that the Bible basically is meant to be read from the perspective of Black experience or Hispanic experience. Because whatever norms or has the ultimate say over truth is, in fact, your Bible.” – Michael Horton
Term to Learn:“Drama of Redemption”
We are to view the historical events recounted in Scripture as ingredients in a unified story ordered by God’s providence. There is no square inch of human history that is outside the mission fields of Son and Spirit. The biblical authors are witnesses to a coherent series of events ultimately authored by God. This series of events involves both divine words and divine deeds and, as such, is both revelatory and redemptive.
The Old Testament testifies to the same drama of redemption as the New Testament, hence the church rightly reads both testaments together, two parts of a single authoritative script. What unifies the canon is Divine Providence and this in two senses: formally, the Bible is the product of divine authorship; materially, the subject matter of the Bible is the history of God’s covenant faithfulness. It is the story of how God keeps his word: to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and so on. It follows that the Old and New Testaments are connected at a profound level, for the one story of God’s faithfulness to his covenant promise is told in two parts. The typological connections that link the two testaments are grounded on God’s acting consistently through time. (Adapted from Kevin Vanhoozer, “Ten Theses on the Theological Interpretation of Scripture,” Modern Reformation July/August 2010, pp. 17–18)
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