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Practical Rules for Interpretation: Rule 11

Rule 11  – Interpret the Scriptures with a Spirit of Humility

“It’s remarkable that men should be so arrogant and secure when there are so many, indeed countless, evidences around to suggest that we ought to be humble. . . . Yet our hearts are hard as steel and pay no attention to such evidence.” – Martin Luther

While we believe our interpretation of Scripture and opinions are corrent, we must humbly allow for the possibility of our error.  God alone is all-knowing.

God’s word is infallible and inerrant, our interpretations are not.

James Shire writes in Scripture Twisting:

Christians who respect biblical authority have a special burden to read right. We, too, are prone to fall into error. In fact, none of us is absolutely right about what God’s Word really means. That is why we must ourselves return daily to the Bible—reading and rereading, thinking and rethinking, obeying what we grasp, correcting our earlier readings as new insight is given us, constantly crosschecking our grasp of Scripture with our pastor, our fellow Christians and with the historic understanding of Scripture by orthodox Christianity.

We should be humble, approaching the Scriptures with fear and reverence and with a heart that constantly pleads:  “Teach me, teach me, teach me!” (Martin Luther)

The study of the Scriptures is a lifetime pursuit.  We need to be careful of the “theology of the first glance” – that is when we read something lightly and come to quick conclusions.  Paul admonishes Timothy to “continue in the things you have learned,” reminding him that Scripture is “profitable for teaching for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:14, 16).

If the Scriptures are to teach, reprove, correct, and train us then we need to always remain teachable, reprovable, correctable, and trainable.  This is what it means to be a disciple.  It is not a once-for-all thing you put on a decision card.

This does not mean that we maintain a skeptical outlook on our ability to understand the Word and to be in constant doubt.  We can apprehend certain things (understand) without comprehending (have total knowledge) the nature of God and the things He has revealed.  We can be confident about the things that the Holy Spirit illumines to us in the Word but we must simply be ready to be corrected as new information, through study, challenges us and allows us to see things differently or more comprehensively.

We should never let pride, arrogance, or laziness get in the way of our interpretation.  We always stand under the authority of god’s Word and must allow for our own error.  However, we must demand that our understanding be challenged by the authority of the Prophets and the Gospels and that Scripture Alone (sola scriptura) is to bind our consciences.

For instance, consider Galatians 1:6-8

Galatians 1:6–8 (ESV)

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

Can an individual be led astray by the Church?

Does humility demand that we allow that any view is correct?

What do you think of this comment:

In the forward he says, “Catholic teachings are carefully examined in light of Scripture, which speaks for itself.” If Scripture spoke for itself wouldn’t all Christians of good will follow the single line of doctrines taught by Scripture? Assuming there are Christians of good will we must conclude that Scripture isn’t quite so clear. Is there an authoritative Protestant interpretation of Scripture? A Protestant catechism?

So, we are left with Catholic teaching pitted against one man’s view of what Scripture says. A similiar book could have been written showing from Scripture why his Catholic half of the book is absolutely what Scripture teaches. Who owns what Scripture means? The author assumes he does but that is not well established.

Why Tradition? Jesus said “If they hear you they hear me.” Paul says to “hold on to the traditions that you were taught by us…”. We know that even the prophets passed on teachings that are not recorded in the OT. Matt. 2:23 suggests that the holy family returned from Egypt to fulfill the prophetic claim that “he shall be called a Nazarene.” Where in the OT is that recorded? If Scripture claims sole authority the above would be contradicted and that is why he appears to punt on the issue.

Is this a humble answer to the problem of private interpretation?

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