Our presuppositions are our most basic beliefs. They serve like a lens that colors everything else we see and believe. They also color our interpretation of Scripture. For example, I came to the Lord 40 years ago as a washed-out radical leftist. I had hated the police. Why? I had been a pot-smoker and knew that if the police caught me, I’d have to suffer the consequences. Therefore, they represented a threat to me. Besides, leftists hate authority unless it’s their own authority.
Consequently, when I, as a fledgling Christian, encountered the verse that instructed me to submit to all the authorities, since they are from God (Romans 13:1-4), everything within me rose in revolt. I was sure that there had to be another interpretation besides the obvious one. Fortunately for me, there weren’t any other ex-hippy leftists around to offer me any appealing alternatives. Instead, I gradually had to bite the bullet, and this biting – the believing of things I didn’t want to believe - has been my companion for the 40 years of my life in the Lord.
In fact, my powerful needs affected my presuppositions so profoundly that I read Scripture in an entirely distorted manner, selecting only those verses that allowed me to feel good about myself.
Surprisingly, I just couldn’t get my mind around the idea of grace. Another one of my presuppositions informed me that there were no free lunches. Instead, I had to earn God’s “grace.” However, this presupposition contained the seeds of its own destruction. Over the years, the Spirit made it apparent to me that I couldn’t even earn a smile from God, let alone salvation. Consequently, I felt so self-condemned, I was sure that God also condemned me.
If I was going to survive, there had to be something else in God’s promises against which my presuppositions had blinded me. Utterly broken, my Savior opened my eyes to a mercy which I had seen before:
· For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
My old dysfunctional lens had to first be removed through suffering before I could see through the new presupposition that God truly loved me.
This illustrates something very important about doing theology and understanding Scripture. Understanding is more than mental activity. Primarily, it is a matter of the Holy Spirit emptying us in order to fill us. With paradoxical wisdom, Paul wrote:
· You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:2-3)
On the one hand, our spiritual growth is the result of the ministry of the Word of God (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 1:2-3) along with our diligence to understand it, meditating on the Word both day and night (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1). On the other hand, even after all of our diligent labors, we are the product of the Spirit:
· But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
The fruit that comes forth from our lives is actually the fruit of the Spirit, and so He must get all of the credit, even for our understanding.
Of what does His work consist? Exposing our blindness, our presuppositions and attitudes – the fruit of our darkness! As Jesus taught, in the natural, we are lovers of the darkness:
· And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:19-20)
Ordinarily, we are such lovers of the darkness, that we have trained ourselves to see ourselves as creatures of the light. There are so many evidences of this that I hope it is sufficient to only cite one:
· All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit. (Proverbs 16:2)
It is so painful to see that we are wrong and at fault. we have convinced ourselves that the fault lies within the other person. Similarly, I had been so blinded that, even after coming to Christ, I had assured myself that He had chosen me because I was more worthy than others. This addictive presupposition had to first be burned out of me before I would be in any position to adore God for His mercy towards this entirely unworthy vessel. He first has to humble us to exalt us.
I know that there remain in me areas of blindness. I am always discovering logs in my eyes, which obscure my sight (Matthew 7:1-5). Consequently, I am ever-dependent upon my Savior to reveal to me my faulty presuppositions – my basic foundational beliefs that color everything else that I see and believe. And this is an ongoing process.
If we are to understand Scripture, our eyes must first be cleansed of logs, but this is painful. Wisdom requires us to see that we are unworthy servants (Luke 17:10). Until we see the truth about ourselves, we are not going to see the truth in anything that matters. It is like trying to see the world through a filthy pair of lens. But who wants to remove their blinding lens? Proverbs reveals we reject wisdom because it rebukes our pride:
· “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof… Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof. (Proverbs 1:22-30)
Acquiring wisdom and the understanding of Scripture, therefore, is not primarily a matter of mental activity or even of graduating from a good seminary. Instead, it begins with the “fear of the Lord.”