Friday, April 7, 2017

THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING SCRIPTURE





Understanding Scripture can be challenging. This challenge gives opportunity to various churches and cults to twist Scripture to conform to their own philosophy of life, each claiming that they alone have the interpretive key. A Course in Miracles claims:

·       Many people regard the doctrines presented in [the two volumes of] A Course in Miracles as Christian. The Course often speaks of Jesus Christ, God, the atonement, sin, and other concepts reminiscent of Christianity. When closely examined [using our interpretive key], however, it becomes apparent that the meanings given to the Christian terminology reflect beliefs consistent with the New Age movement. (H. Wayne House, “Charts of Cults, Sects, & Religious Movements,” 91)

Consequently, to properly understand Scripture, it must be seen through the lens of the New Age movement. The Way International also has their own lens by which to understand Scripture. The founder, Victor Paul Wierwille, taught that only certain Books were authoritative for the Church. Not even the Gospels were able to make his cut:

·       So are the Gospels addressed to us? Not if the Word of God is right, for Romans says that all Scripture before Pentecost is for our learning, and the Gospels obviously come before the founding day of the Church…The New Testament actually begins with the book of Romans…Hebrews is not addressed to the Church…James is addressed to the same Old Testament minded believers. (“Power for Abundant Living,” 207-13)

Therefore, in order to properly interpret the Scriptures, they must be understood through the lens of particular Epistles.

Similarly, in The Divine Principle, Sun Myung Moon had written that he too had been given the key to understand the Scriptures:

·       “The Bible is not the truth itself but a textbook teaching us the truth.” [What is needed] “is a new truth that can elucidate the fundamental contents of the Bible so clearly that everyone can recognize and agree with it.” “This new truth has already appeared. With the fullness of time, God sent His messenger to resolve the fundamental questions of life and the universe. His name is Sun Myung Moon. For many decades, he wandered in a vast spiritual world in search of the ultimate truth…He came in contact with many saints in Paradise and with Jesus, and thus brought into light all the heavenly secrets through his communication with God.” (James Sire, “Scripture Twisting,” 117)

The Biologos Foundation, a Christian group funded to evangelize the churches in favor of Darwin, has done the same thing. In order to remove any contradiction between the Bible and the theory of evolution, Biologos has taken the position that Genesis 1-11 should not be taken as history but, instead, as mere theology. To support their claim, they denigrate the teachings of the Bible about the physical world as errantly influenced by the “science” of their day, the Ancient Near-Eastern cosmology.

In this manner, Biologos and other groups have violated the numerous Scriptural injunctions to not tamper with Scripture:

·       You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Rev. 22:18-19)

This same stance is taken by many rabbis, according to Orthodox Jewish writer David Klinghoffer:

·       Scripture is cryptic…The Pentateuch contained innumerable textual difficulties…The Rabbis taught that what looked like editing glitches in almost every verse were really allusions to esoteric teachings.  (David Klinghoffer, “Why the Jews Rejected Jesus,” 24)

How then do the rabbis interpret Scripture? They have their own key – Gematria, taking the numerical value of each letter and deriving meaning from the patterning of these numbers.

All of these attempts to apply their own key to the interpretation of Scripture assume that the correct interpretation is inaccessible to the ordinary reader, but is it? Not according to Moses:

·          "For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.” (Deut. 30:11-14)

Consequently, Israel had no excuse for their disobedience. They couldn’t complain that they were unable to understand God’s Word; nor did they ever use this excuse.

Also, Paul insisted that Scripture, even his own writings, were accessible:

·       For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand—just as you did partially understand us… (2 Corinthians 1:13-14)

Even if the Church didn’t fully understand Paul, he seemed to assure them that understanding was available, even if it might take some time.

Peter also acknowledged that some of the Scripture Paul had written might be difficult to understand (at first):

·       And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16)

It was not the uneducated believer who had twisted Paul’s writings “to their own destruction,” but the “ignorant and unstable.” On the whole, Paul’s writings were accessible at the moment. However, some of his other teachings would require more time and maturity.

By this, Peter also suggested that his own writings were easier to interpret. He never hinted that his own writings could be easily twisted, perhaps because they were plainer.

Is there a secret key that we need to unlock the meaning of Scripture? Some might recall that Jesus even used the word “key”:

·       “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” (Luke 11:52)

According to Jesus, the knowledge of Scripture itself is the key, not a secret esoteric knowledge. It was a knowledge that those who knew the Scriptures already had. However, they had  self-righteously perverted  it.

In a parallel verse, Jesus charged that it was the pride of the Pharisees that had caused them to obscure the true meaning or key to the Scriptures:

·       “Whoever exalts himself [like the Pharisees had done] will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.” (Matthew 23:12-13)

The problem wasn’t with the Scriptures. Instead, their arrogance blinded them to what Scripture actually taught. They had convinced themselves that they deserved the blessings of God (Romans 3:19-20; 9:30-32). Consequently, they blinded everyone else into believing that they could merit their own righteousness through their obedience to the Law.

What then is the key to understanding Scripture? Simply this – the Spirit working through an open and prayerful heart and mind!

2 comments:

  1. Are Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus considered to have been Pharisees ? - They seemed to have been different than the adversarial Jewish Leaders during the time of Christ's earthly ministry and death. np

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would guess that they were. In addition, it seems that many Pharisees had come to faith (Acts), but they might have been more inclined to the Judaizing party?

      Delete