Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On My Walk 101: The Basic Difference

Is your theology saddled by your hermeneutic,
or is your hermeneutic saddled by your theology?
My wife and I have been looking for a new place to fellowship since Easter of this year. The search has gone from disheartening to infuriating to sicking and back again... we've been learning some very important lessons though. I've also been loosing my appetite for argument.

I've always enjoyed banter. You know, good hearted strong discussion with lots of back and forth, good points, intensity and laughter. I also very much enjoy a good "argument" that is a well made persuasive case for a position, idea, opinion or theory. I love to be challenged to think about things. I love to experience how other people think about things. I'm fascinated by the the very process of learning and that of the forming of opinions.  I've been willing to argue with people in order to pull an "argument" out of them. Or to help them see how something isn't actually true. I'm tired of it though. I'm not tired of critically examining things, or of deep discussions but the plain truth is the Bible tells us how to deal with false teachers: mark them and separate from them. I don't need to argue with anyone. If they have false theology and they are not open to discussion then my only responsibility is to protect myself and those whom I care for from their teaching. That's it.

So that's been my state of mind for the last week or so, and it is the state of mind I was in when I had the opportunity to communicate with a Reformed Calvinist Pastor of a local assembly which I was interested in based on their website. The website had a reasonable enough statement of faith, and many sermons but nothing that really stated what they believe the Gospel is or how someone comes to be saved. So I emailed the Pastor with a few questions. While I was waiting to hear back from him I kept digging for answers about his theology. Google + perseverance revealed that he was in fact a Reformed Calvinist of the Lordship Salvation flavour. I was a bit ticked off. I complained to my good friend about how it is frustrating that one has to be a private investigator to find out what Pastors preach at their pulpits. I went on complaining about how if they really believe something is true why don't they clearly say so and let everyone know about it easily on their website. My frustration was actually about how we really want to find a place to fellowship and not having one is eating away at me. My dear friend told me that he knew of this Pastor and that I could expect clear and straight forward answers to my questions from the man. And that's exactly what I got from him. I'm pleased to state he gave me exactly that. Yet he gave me much more than just that. He gave me a simple and clear explanation of why I do not agree with the Reformed Calvinist Lordship Salvation proponents; I am very, very, thankful.

I had explained that we hold to the Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutic exclusively, from cover to cover of the bible. In his email he explained his hermeneutic this way:
We are passionately committed to a Grammatical-Historical-Theological approach to interpretation. Meaning is to be derived from context and the overall unfolding of God's plan of redemption.
It may be a subtle difference: I develop my theology and my view of "God's plan of redemption" by using the Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutic. That is: grammar and the meaning(s) of the words from the period of history they were written in (not today's meanings and usage) tell me what the context is, and this determines my theology and doctrine. Whereas the Reformed Calvinist Lordship Salvation proponent uses their theology and doctrine to inform the grammar and to select which meaning the words have.

I simply cannot imagine a reasonable excuse to use my theology to control my interpretation of the Text. How could I hope to objectively find truth? How could I prove my own theology false? It sure would make studying the Bible easier though... easier but I'd never be able to tell if what I'm learning is actually true or not. What if I were a new believer and didn't have any theology? How could I study the Bible in that case?

Using the Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutic is hard work. I don't have any easy answers I can reference from a Systematic Theology book. I have to work each thing out line by line, precept by precept. You know what though? I wouldn't have it any other way.

The truth is however, that many of the most controversial topics are plainly explained in the Text. I love when I can read my theology straight out of the Bible without explanation, such as:
  • What's the true saving Gospel? 1Cor 15:1-11. 
  • What is true saving faith? Rom 4:1-25.  
  • Will all truly saved people live godly, fruitful lives and persevere until the end? 2Pet 1:5-9
  • Did Christ die for everyone or just for the Elect? 1Jn 2:2 
  • If Christ died for everyone doesn't that make Universalism true? Lev 16:1-34
  • Does God only save those who submit to the mastery of Christ over their lives? John 3:14-17
  • Does regeneration precede faith? John 1:10-13
  • Doesn't one need to first be regenerated in order to believe? John 3:3-17, Num 21:8-9
  • Do we have access to faith by grace or access to grace by faith? Rom 5:1-5 
  • Is the Believer eternally secure or can we loose our salvation? Jn 5:24, Jn 6:40, Jn 10:27-30, Phil 1:6, Eph 1:13-14
  • Does Repentance mean to "turn from sin" and have a "changed life"? Luke 17:3-4 
These are just a few of the easy answers we have directly from Scripture. No deep study required. Are these not the very same questions that the "Grammatical-Historical-Theological approach to interpretation" make very complicated to answer? Check out the list of things that the author of the book of Hebrews calls "elementary principles of Christ" or the very basics of our Faith. Paul calls these things "milk" that is all the immature can tolerate and make use of. Heb 6:1-2 Are these things elementary work using your hermeneutic? If they are not the things that a babe in Christ can study easily using your hermeneutic then I suggest that is a big sign that there's a problem with it.

This is the basic difference between myself and most of the churches we checked out over this past Summer. Not all are Reformed Calvinist or Lordship Salvation, though most are, but all that we've found so far put their theology into, or onto their hermeneutic.

So here's my question for you today: Has your hermeneutic put a saddle on your theology, or has your theology put a saddle on your hermeneutic?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post. And it is so hard to find a church that teaches pure grace. Most are poisoned with the lies of Rome.