This is the seventh article in a ten part series about why the UMC split over the issue of homosexual practice is a Bible engagement crisis. In the first two articles, I defined Bible engagement, and the steps in a process to determine if a situation is a Bible engagement crisis. In the second article, I explained why the Bible mandates that a Christian practice Bible engagement that satisfies the biblical standard.
In the third article, I discussed 2 Timothy 2:15 to develop a foundation to comprehend the biblical standard for Bible engagement. In the fourth through sixth articles, I looked at six actions found in verses 14 and 16-24 of 2 Timothy 2 that define actions in contrast to those comprising “rightly handling the word of truth” of verse 15 These six contrasts provide guidance about what biblical Bible engagement is not.
In this seventh article, I attempt to articulate a clear definition of the biblical standard for Bible engagement. This definition has a foundation in 2 Timothy 2:15 expanded by the literary context of 2 Timothy 2:14, 16-24 and guidance supplied by the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics. Because it is very important, rather than gloss over attributes of the biblical standard, I have tried to make it complete so as to err on the side of detail in contrast to brevity.
A Clear Definition of the Biblical Standard for Bible Engagement
The biblical standard for Bible engagement requires the Bible engager to possess an intense desire to exert his or her best efforts to arrive at an excellent exegesis of Scripture. The Bible engager’s intense desire must be to determine what Scripture really says, i.e., the truth of the biblical message. This desire is to perform a noble task akin to the Bereans’ eagerness to evaluate the accuracy of Paul’s gospel message (Acts 17:10–11 (ESV)):
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Inherent in the standard is the principle stated in the Exposition of The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics that:
Scripture is clear and sufficient both as a source of doctrine, binding the conscience, and as a guide to eternal life and godliness, shaping our worship and service of the God who creates, loves, and saves.
It takes hard work to exegete a passage in order to arrive at the meaning the author expressed in writing.
Hard work can be measured in terms of time spent, depth of thinking, discussions with others, and other relevant criteria representative of hard in-depth analytical efforts.
In an exegetical process, the Bible engager employs the grammatical-historical hermeneutic by which he or she asks what is the linguistically natural way to understand the text in its historical setting. In an exegesis of a biblical text, the Bible engager follows where the text takes him or her. There is no pre-planned agenda that forces an interpretation to go where the Scripture does not go. In other words, an excellent interpretation of Scripture is not the result of isogesis.
An excellent exegesis of Scripture mandates that the interpretation is accurate meaning that it is true. An
interpretation is true if it conforms to the reality of the content of the message of the biblical text. This is consistent with the principle that God’s Word expresses biblical truth that is both objective and absolute. The biblical text can express only a single, definite, fixed meaning so that there is only one accurate interpretation of a biblical text. An accurate interpretation is not useless, but instead, brings genuine hope in a spiritually dark world. Genuine hope can manifest itself in personal sanctification, i.e., growing in holiness. The Bible engager can display genuine hope through actions to help others in a tangible way or intangible way.
An accurate interpretation does not contain or in any way possess spiritual error. An accurate interpretation is in unity, harmony and consistent with all of Scripture meaning that Scripture is its own best interpreter. Scripture’s own interpretation of itself is always correct. The teaching of the Bible as a whole should always be viewed as providing the framework within which the interpretation must be reached and in which it must logically reside.
An accurate interpretation withstands scrutiny so that it meets approval by God which means it is not dishonoring or disrespectful toward God. The substance of an accurate interpretation will not gives birth (or bring into existence) combative conflicts over words. These conflicts comprise intense bitter disputes that in no way honor God. The substance of an accurate interpretation does not overturn people’s lives causing them to move further into behavior disrespectful of God. The substance of an accurate interpretation of Scripture does not result in the spread of heretical teaching from spiritually unhealthy people to infect spiritually healthy people who then become heresy-infected spiritually sick people who
An accurate interpretation will not shame the Bible engager even if the interpretation may be unpopular. In
a spiritually dark world, a general rule is that the more unpopular the interpretation, the more biblically accurate the interpretation. An accurate interpretation will not result in behavior that reflects spiritual immaturity, i.e., youthful passions. This behavior can include stupid belligerent adolescent arguments that do not seek a solution, but are arguments merely for the sake of argument.
In the next (eighth) article, I will measure the interpretation of Scripture by the pro-LGBTQ faction of the UMC according to the above biblical standard for Bible engagement.
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