Hermeneutics and Biblical Interpretation – part nine: A Trial Run

Biblical, Non-Biblical, Anti-Biblical, Beneficial

I’ve been meaning to post this last blog on biblical interpretation for more than a week. When things get busy it’s the blogging that gets set aside. Oh well, here we go.

The last method that we wanted to look at is “Biblical, Non-Biblical, Anti-Biblical, Beneficial”. This method is best used to look from the outside in at a particular issue. Here’s the run-down.

The first component is “Biblical”. When using this method, the first question to be asked is whether or not this matter Biblical? In other words, can this matter be found within the pages of the Bible? Does the Lord (or His inspired delegates), at some point within the pages of Scripture, specifically address the issue, question, practice or doctrine?

The key word here is the word “specifically”. For example, it is inconsistent or intellectually dishonest with the Scriptures to say that Ephesians 5:19 is talking about the manner of worshiping that honors God. That particular text isn’t talking about corporate worship at all (and to say that we can make a necessary inference there is a weak argument). Instead, in this text Paul is admonishing the Ephesian Christians to use caution in how they are living their lives.

The next component is “Non-Biblical”. This simply contends that the action or issue is not found anywhere in the Bible. We must be careful not to assume that, just because the Bible is silent on the issue, we should assume that the issue or action is inherently wrong, sinful, “unauthorized” or forever forbidden. It simply means the Bible is silent. For example, most congregations ask for, and in some instances require, new members to go through an “induction” or new members class. This is simply a non-Biblical issue.

The third of the four components is “Anti-Biblical”. This segment of the method asks the question: does this action, attitude, issue or practice violate any known principles or inspired advice given to us in Scripture? In other words, is there anything in God’s Word that would clearly point to the fact that this matter is “Anti-Biblical” in nature or focus? This is the exact opposite of “Biblical”. An easy example of this is fornication or sex outside of marriage. The Bible is explicitly clear in more than one instance that God does not approve of this practice (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7, Hebrews 13:4). It is clearly “Anti-Biblical”.

The last component to consider is “Beneficial”. If the action or matter is non-Biblical but not anti-Biblical, then we should ask whether or not this practice or action be beneficial to the cause of Christ and the Body of Christ? Will it help or hinder us in the fulfilling of our godly purpose either as individual Christians or collectively as the Family of God? Is it beneficial or detrimental to the growth and edification of the congregation of believers? If it is determined or thought to be beneficial, then the decision to move forward in that direction should be an easy one. If there are questions or doubts to whether or not it would ultimately be beneficial then it would probably be wise to table the idea for more thought and prayer (if not dismissing it entirely).

This is the last of the three methods of interpretations that we’re going to consider. The point of this series has been two-fold. First, to call your attention to the importance of hermeneutics. Second, to give you an opportunity to think a little more about, how you think about the Bible. You see, for most of us, we have already determined long ago what we thought about each issue no matter how significant or insignificant the issue might be. And unfortunately, too many of us made those determinations using poor logic or for the wrong reasons all together. Usually that wrong reason is a combination external pressure consistent indoctrination over time. Here’s what I mean by that. When you hear over and over and over the same message from many people over the course of many years then you’re likely going to start believing in what they are saying. If you didn’t believe it then you would have likely stopped listening at some point.

For me, a really good example of this is with musical instruments. I can’t remember how many times I have heard sermons like “5 Reasons We Don’t Use Musical Instruments”. I had no reason not to believe what was being preached. So of course I bought into to it. And not only did I buy into it, I easily agreed with the reasons that were being given for it. In this instance, those reasons usually revolved around the idea that there is no authorization for musical instruments in worship. Well, since then, I have started thinking for myself. And what I’ve determined is that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to consistently apply the Authority Principle. There are so many things that we do that we don’t have authority to do. And we are forced to pick and choose which authority we want to recognize and which authority we want to ignore.

For example, what about song leaders? People will say that we can’t use praise teams. Why, because there is no authority? There’s no authority for one song leader either. In this instance some people choose to ignore the Authority Principle because the hypocrisy is so obvious. So instead they will argue that it attracts undue attention to the members of the praise team and often becomes a performance. Yes it sometimes does. But I have seen many individual song leaders who were distracting and drawing attention to themselves. So to uniformly dismiss the practice as sinful or condemn those who don’t is inconsistent and hypocritical.

And this is the point I hope we’ve taken from this series – that often the way we interpret the Scriptures and make determinations about issues is inconsistent, hypocritical and based on whether or not we will agree with that outcome. What we need is a little less personal preference and self-assurance, and a lot more grace when it comes to differences that arise in our interpretations of Scripture.

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