Are We “Standing Over” Scripture When We Interpret It?

In a recent article in Charisma magazine Mark Driscoll made the following comments:

“When Jesus taught the Bible in Luke 24, none of his disciples attempted to interject their own opinion. You don’t hear Thomas saying, ‘Actually, Lord, I believe Isaiah 53 is more figurative in nature.’ There are really only two views of God’s Word: You either stand arrogantly over it or kneel humbly beneath it.

If I stand above the Bible, then I decide what it says. I decide what to keep and what to toss. I decide which parts to follow and which parts to ignore. I can change it, explain it away or alter it to my liking. I am in authority over the Scriptures, and the Bible is just another book filled with opinions to consider and apply as I see fit as God’s editor. In this approach, I exist to change the Bible.

If the Bible is over me, then I submit to its authority. I listen to God’s Word instead of censoring it. I obey the Bible rather than discarding it. Knowing that my finite, 3-pound fallen brain does not compare to the vast wisdom of God, I want to submit to it, be formed by it and agree with it as God’s worshipper. In this approach, the Bible exists to change me.” (Charisma, Sept. 2014 p. 52)

Let me start by saying I realize that this is a magazine article. Driscoll could not possibly give all the nuances he may have liked. With that said, this appears to be a bit simplistic.

First, we don’t know what the conversation look liked in Luke 24. Luke gives us the bare bones of what was certainly a longer conversation than what is recorded in the Gospel. So the argument is one from silence and though there is a place for that kind of argument I don’t think it works here.

Second, doesn’t everyone at one time or another “decide” what to follow and what part to ignore? We don’t offer animal sacrifices. We don’t greet one another with a holy kiss. Many don’t wear head coverings. Some are continuationists (a la Driscoll) others are cessationists. Is one group more humble than the other? Is one group being more selective than the other? When Driscoll reads several commentaries and they argue about the meaning of a passage he will eventually “decide” who makes the better case. Is he then “standing above” the Bible because he has reached a decision on what the passage says? I don’t think so. The nature of interpretation is that we struggle through the issues and come to a decision. That process can be done in a manner that seeks to find the truth and then to kneel before it or to alter it to fit my preconceived ideas. But the process itself is not the problem.

 

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4 thoughts on “Are We “Standing Over” Scripture When We Interpret It?

  1. Yep. It’s reasoning such as this that gives rise to the thin belief so many have come to embrace. Lord God give us a mind to love you and a love to mind you.

  2. “You don’t hear Thomas saying, ‘Actually, Lord, I believe Isaiah 53 is more figurative in nature.’ ”
    Apparently kneeling humbly beneath scripture means insisting it submit to 21st century literalism. Yet Jesus taught the disciples how to appreciate figurative language with all his metaphors and parables. Perhaps modern literalists who want to be Jesus’ disciples, need to learn to love and understand metaphor from Jesus too.

    Luke 24:26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. . Ironically one of the very first prophecies about the Messiah’s suffering, the promise about him stepping on a snake’s head and having his heel bitten is pretty figurative,At least there is no mention of a 4000 year old snake being stepped in the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion.

  3. Dear Louis,

    I have many disagreements with Marc Driscoll especially considering what has been going on with him lately, but I do think that he is correct here (intellectual honesty) since he is giving a most probable scenario. Is Marc stately exactly what was thought? We do not know since we were not there. We can only surmise, make an “educated” guess, or … Unfortunately, he has a bad habit of misspeaking or not choosing his words more carefully than he does. In the final analysis it does come down to this, “Who has the final authority in my life?” God as revealed in the Scriptures or myself? How we answer that question sets off a whole set of consequences that are both temporal and eternal. True, there are still many issues that have to be dealt with, but the hermeneutical triad (cf. Kostenberger and Patterson), if used, will take care of most of those issues. Some will have to remain in mystery because we do not know.

    One example, I think will suffice. It is common to state in doctrinal statements, etc. that the “Bible is sole authority for faith and practice.” Unfortunately, this type of statement does clearly describe the situation. The Bible makes many statements that to the “modern” mind is not correct. This is because there is a false dichotomy made between faith and knowledge, history and theology, etc. The correct doctrinal statement would be that the “Bible is the sole authority in all areas that it states for faith and practice.” I would think that this latter statement is what is more clearly meant than the former statement above.

  4. Pingback: Really Recommended Posts 10/3/14- Profanity in the Bible, Earth’s Age, “Uglies” and more! | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason"

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