WARNING...I am about to get off on one of my wild-haired, albeit correct tangents...I believe. :-) There is a fascinating discussion on one of my friends blogs. It is in relationship to hermeneutics or Biblical interpretation. I believe that this is a subject that I have talked about before, but this time I approach it from a different perspective.
I think, to a degree, that a principle at work in relationship to how we approach hermeneutics or interpretation goes back to one of the key statements of the Restoration Movement… "to speak where the Bible speaks and to be silent where it is silent." I believe that with certain passages and principles that we have studied we have done so, on many occasions...but not necessarily “to show ourselves approved.” Instead, it has been to show ourselves to be right based upon what it is that I may already have been taught...or even what I have come to understand on my own on a previous occasion. The heart problem lies in the fact that I study because my real intent is that I want the Bible to prove my pre-suppositions...instead of get my heart in line with understanding what it is that God is continually trying to teach me or reveal to me.
There is a fine line between righteousness and self-righteousness. While it is true that we can agree to disagree on certain issues, there are greater matters at stake…matters of the heart. In other words, I can win all of the legal arguments and still be way off the mark spiritually…in fact, if I am having to win all of the arguments, I am probably more likely off the mark, spiritually, than not. A lot of the argumentation I have been exposed to in my life is not from a basis of love, but a basis of pride...in fact I have been guilty of it myself on many occasions. 1 Corinthians 13:1ff comes to mind.
Some simply approach things from a different perspective or even philosophical and theological world view. When simply making the case for a forthright positive principle, such as…"this is what Jesus stands for," it does not necessarily have to call for an anti-argument, such as "this is what He would be against." Some simply cannot understand the Scriptures unless the argument is black and white. This is precisely the temptation when we approach the Bible as a legal document instead of as a spiritual teacher. It is not necessary for such matters to have an equal contrasting correlative argument -- they can simply stand on their own. I do believe that this is the heart of what Paul is getting at in Romans 14 in relationship to the weak/strong brother (or sister :-) argument. For us, it has been and is born out in relationship to a host of issues. For example, some will say that..."we sing," therefore the contrasting correlation is that "using an instrument is wrong or a sin." This is not necessarily the case. Our bane for too many decades has been "to speak where the Bible is silent." The principle is that "we sing"... simply put and case closed. There does not have to be a contrasting correlation. If an argument needs to be made for or against another point of view, it needs to stand or fall on its own merits, but it does not have to be reactive to the case in point.
It is difficult for us to deal with principles not having a correlation. It makes things much simpler, much easier if they do. This is how we have been trained to think...and it has applied to how we have approached a number of matters in relationship to life, and this includes our Bible study. God has not necessarily called us to an easy understanding of interpretation or application of said principles...our faith needs to be challenged. It does not mean that we have all of the answers, because, as I have said before, I think that it is more important to have questions. What we need to do is...be willing to dig, to seek, to grow. In this, we can find some answers, but not as many as we might think -- it will likely raise more questions. Remember..."you are saved by grace through faith -- and this not from yourselves...it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). Just ponder the italicised portion for awhile. What does it mean to live by faith? Probably much more than any of us will ever imagine -- most of the religious people around Jesus did not understand, but the gentile Centurion and Syro-Phoenician woman did, so there is hope. :-) In conclusion, always keep the following critical principle in mind -- the more you learn the less you know. Blessings,