Welcome to The Reasons to Believe podcast, episode #173. My name is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International.
Our Reasons to Believe Scripture Passage for today is Isaiah 55:8-9. It reads, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Our Reasons to Believe quote for today is from Gary Burge. He said, “When (we interpret Scripture by focusing) on our inner voice, we risk losing the original voice of Scripture, the historic anchor that has given the church its foundation and faith, and the uniqueness of a moment of historical revelation without parallel to anything we may experience. And evaluating our own experience risks confusing what is subjectively true for me with what is objectively true. Truth (does not) reside in my own temporal experience (but rather in the correct interpretation of the Scriptures).”
Our Reason to Believe powerpoint today is titled “The Bible: Myth or History?, Part 5” from “The Handbook of Christian Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli.
The authors continue with the third part of this chapter subtitled, “Eight Basic Principles of Biblical Interpretation.”
This topic may seem out of place in a book on apologetics, but in light of the situation described in the previous section, it cannot be ignored. The following remarks are very introductory and sketchy; they focus on the most controverted principles only, and are not to be taken as an adequate introduction to hermeneutics, the science of interpretation.
Use Common Standards, Methods and Approaches
Our first principle for interpreting the Bible is to use the same standards, methods and approaches to the Bible you would use for any other book. This is the only way of making contact with unbelievers (which fundamentalists find hard to do) without patronizing them by fudging your textual data to make it more acceptable or palatable to them (as modernists do).
Read for the Author’s Intended Meaning
The most important positive principle for interpreting any book is to read the book in the same spirit or mind as its author wrote it. In other words, exegesis, not eisegesis. Don’t try to understand the author’s mind through the colored eyeglasses of your own worldview, assumptions, beliefs, categories, ideologies or prejudices. Just the reverse. Look at everything, including yourself and your views, through the author’s eyes. He is trying to communicate something new to you, something you did not know before; your job is to receive it intact, as fairly and objectively as possible. That is, after all, the purpose of reading any book in the first place: to grow and learn something new, not just reinforce something old or flatter your own prejudices. As C.S. Lewis says,
The first demand any work of art makes of us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way. There is no good asking first whether the work before you deserves such a surrender, for until you have surrendered, you cannot possibly find out. (An Experiment in Criticism)
Before we respond, actively and critically, to a book (or a person), we must first receive, docilely. It takes great mental activity and effort to be docile, that is, teachable.
Separate Interpretation from Belief
We must clearly separate interpretation from belief. Many people, professional exegetes and ordinary readers alike, make the basic mistake of practicing, and even preaching, the opposite: the idea that we should interpret a book “in light of our own sincerely held beliefs.” Drop the words “sincerely held” and it is clear how absurd this is. Interpretation means finding out what the other person meant and believed, not what you mean or believe. It means interpreting the author’s words and thoughts and mind, not yours, and therefore this must be done in light of his beliefs, not yours.
After interpretation comes the question of belief or unbelief; after you understand what the other person means, you can and should make up your own mind whether you agree or disagree with it. But until you know what the author’s words mean to him, you cannot either agree or disagree with him, because there is as yet no “him” in your mind, only you.
This principle is easy to preach but hard to practice. We love to flatter our own prejudices by making others agree with us, and we find it hard to stretch and open our minds to new, startling or offensive ideas, because it claims to be the record of the words and acts of a God whose ways and thoughts are as far above our own as heaven is above earth (Is 55:8-9). A God who only comforted and reinforced us, and never shocked and puzzled us, would be a false God, one made in our own image—a mirror, not a light.
Lord willing, we will continue looking at this topic in our next episode.
Now, if you are listening today, and you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, allow me to show you how.
First, accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”
Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Now this is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.
Romans 10:9-13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Until next time, my friend, please keep in mind these reasons to believe. God bless!