Monday, January 16, 2012

Why Hermeneutics Matter - Part 2

Good Day all!!

This is part two in a mini-series I'm doing on what I regard to be a matter for the soul of the Christian Church. If you missed part one, click here. While I believe that God will preserve His Word, as He always has, I note with much trepidation that it is not beyond God to allow many generations to pass with no heart for Him or His word. I write this in hopes that those who read it will awaken to the lack of fidelity to the things we claim to hold near and dear.

Who Cares about Hermeneutics?

Unfortunately, very few care about Hermeneutics. This is a complete mystery to me. When I discovered Hermeneutics, it was as if God had opened up His Word to me in a whole new way. I was no longer confused by complicated passages. Even if I did feel confused by the Bible at times (Hi-ya second half of Daniel!), I felt empowered to be able to solve my interpretative problems. I had a sense of what I was doing with this book I hold in such high regard. It was exhilarating! God was demonstrating to me that His word was truth and I could trust it in every sense. Truths I had always believed, but somehow seemed mysterious to me, suddenly seemed within reach.

Most importantly, it helped me to really understand Sola Scriptura and to actually increase my reverence for the Word of God. I felt as if I had always been a clumsy child handling a precious artifact. Now I was an adept curator professionally making use of the ancient tool in my hand. It was a great feeling.

Unfortunately, it also "ruined my life". I say this tongue in cheek, of course. I remember remarking to my Pastor (my ever faithful mentor) that I was going to have a T-Shirt made that read "Hermeneutics Ruined My Life" because my life was quite literally never the same. This had its positive points as willful ignorance is a dreadful lot in life. Nonetheless, it had its negatives too. I began to use the things I've learned and realized, much to my horror, the depth of deception of "Christians" that believe ridiculous things and use Scripture (improperly) to justify those beliefs.

What was worse was that I tried to tell my fellow Christians that what they were doing was not right and I was hated for it. Truth be told it was one of the chief experiences that led me to call this blog "That Crazy Christian". Here were a group of people who claimed to hold God and His Word in the highest esteem. I thought that this news would be received like a thirsty man receives a canteen of water. Instead it was as if I had vinegar in my canteen. I was mocked, derided, scolded for being "haughty" and "proud", argued with, and abandoned by people who claimed to believe as I did, and in some cases, those I genuinely cared about.

I admit that I'm not always the best "people person" in the world. Did I make mistakes in how I approached some people? Sure! Could I do better in being a teacher? Yes! However, even knowing this and trying my best to act as Christ would, I was absolutely shocked, and terrified, by the response I received when I talked about this subject.

You see it wasn't that people didn't understand what I was saying. It wasn't that they didn't want to understand what I was saying. It was that they understood what I was saying and still didn't care. Some didn't care because, in their own eyes, they could do no wrong. Some didn't care because they were bored by the subject (which in and of itself is gut wrenching). Mostly though, people didn't care because. . . try though I might. . . my explanations as to why this mattered SO much fell on deaf ears. Deaf to the implications. Deaf to the ramifications. Deaf to the disharmony with their stated beliefs.

When I think back on it, and look at the current battles I have in this arena, I can only conclude that many Christians have made an idol out of their Bibles. The Bible is not Words of Life to the dying, living waters to the parched, to some people. No, instead it's a pliable lump of clay that is to be manipulated and shaped to say whatever they want it to say. It is, in fact, a God in their own image. Instead of taking it at face value and hearing from it the very Word of God in its purest and unadulterated form, they would rather make it to mean what they want to hear. They spend their Sundays singing about how they've "Surrendered All" and what a treasure the Word of God is, but then refuse to surrender their image of the Word to the real thing and instead melt down that treasure to fit their desires.

Harsh? Probably. The truth is harsh sometimes. To paint the complete picture, I think it's worth noting that many Christians act this way because they genuinely believe that by doing so they are honoring God. Which, to me, says that they at the very least desire to honor God. They think, for example, that it helps our cause to show Jesus in every book of the Bible. . . even the books where He isn't there. While I applaud the sentiment to defend the faith or to honor God, it must be pointed out that we don't honor God by mishandling His word.

Nevertheless, this minority of Christians who ignorantly ignore Hermeneutics cease to be ignorant when someone confronts them about their ignorance and shows them the right way. No doubt, this takes a patient and careful approach. It's not the easiest of concepts to grasp and it takes some time to see the truth.

However, once that confrontation is complete, the Christian has some hard questions. Do they really believe Sola Scriptura? Do they really honor God's word? Do they want to do the hard work of understanding the Word? Most of all, do they really care what that Word says?

I can say from personal experience, that most answer that last question with a resounding "no". So, to the church at large, there is nothing wrong with believing that Jesus is the "pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night" even if the basis for that belief amounts to "I simply want to believe it". When you look at the fervor with which they defend their baseless points, you see just how deep this has gone.

Fervor tells us a lot. Someone who will casually defend that Jesus is Lord but passionately defend the honor of their local sports team obviously reveres that sports team more. It's what caused them to be wound up and an attack upon it touched a nerve.

It was the same way in the area of hermeneutics in my experience. I could disagree with them politically and most didn't care. I could be a Calvinist and they Armenian and still not many really cared much about that. Yet, the moment I told them that their handling of Scripture is wrong, I became enemy #1.

Apathy isn't the problem. In fact perhaps they care more about Hermeneutics than I give them credit for. They've adopted one even though they reject the notion that they need one. Funny how that works isn't it? One thing is for sure, what most didn't, and many do not, care about was adopting the proper one.

Tomorrow we talk about why this topic isn't merely a pet peeve, but as I have said, a battle for the heart and soul of the Church.

Stay tuned and stay faithful!

(see part three here)

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