Scripture, Context, Interpretation and False Ideals #1
While on a recent bike ride, just a few minutes ago actually, a thought I have had for a while now I started to think through. This thought was the idea of putting together several short 1-3 page papers on some of the most commonly and grossly misinterpreted scriptures and false ideals that are often attributed to the Bible and Christian worldview. Feeling that after hearing these same passages ripped from their rightful definition in context numerous times I have had enough and nearly made sick by the fallacious use of them on a daily basis. Deciding that enough is enough and the Word of God demands more respect than it gets will produce this and the following additions to this series.
Let me also say that these writings are not to be taken as exhaustive, nor full and complete teachings on the subjects covered here. But rather are merely a basic overview and mostly polemical in nature. Not to give a full and comprehensive teaching on a specific passage but rather to counter the misleading interpretation and false presuppositions it either springs from or continues to confirm.
So for this first entry in an hopefully large encompassing series I will start with the issue of Doctrine and Theology. Which I believe are of the worst of the faulty ideals with the connotations these two words carry with them to much of the main stream lay Christian minds today. Hence the title of this entry is born from said ideas.
Why Doctrine and Theology, Can't I just love Jesus?
I can't tell you all how many times I have heard the above ideal stated to me in defense of ones ignorance and arrogance of their opinions and worldview. Sadly I also believe that this very thinking, or lack thereof comes from the negative preaching that is coming from many of the Christian leaders today from their Plexiglas pulpits themselves. Many attribute these terms meanings to things such as "Organized Religion" "heretics" and some sort of non-spiritual way of understanding the Bible and contents thereof. With it the idea that critical thought and precise definition of scripture is in conflict with loving Jesus and opposed to being a faithful disciple of His. Nothing could be a more erroneous foundation to our view of both God and his creation, mankind.
"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Jn 8:31,32.
I think it wise to start with the very definitions of the terms in sight here. And then go on to further show that fear and contention of them is nothing more than a phobia. The word Doctrine is defined as simply: Something that is taught, a teaching and it's parts. For example, if you went to a tennis instructor and learned the ins and outs of tennis, you would be learning the doctrine of tennis. Same holds true to any set of rules and ideas that pertain to any system of beliefs. There is a doctrine of evolution, a doctrine of grammar etc. When a Christian speaks of the Doctrine of salvation, it's meaning nothing more than a teaching of salvation and all that pertains to it. The Doctrine of Christ likewise is nothing more than ones teachings of Jesus and His nature and all that defines their beliefs of Him.
The term Theology is even more so frightening to many new and lay Christians. Again as with the term Doctrine, it's meaning is simple and non-threatening. Theology is defined as: The study of God. The term is made up of two words, Theo and logy. Theo, from the Greek word for God and Logy from the Greek word logos meaning reasoning or study. Just as we have the term for the study of living things, Biology. Or the study of artifacts, Archeology. So the two terms (theology and doctrine) are rather tame and in and of themselves are merely labels to define quickly and precisely what is meant. But why use such terms? Why not just say "the teaching of salvation" or "the study of God"? Well, that is all in the desire of the speaker but often are a better way to make ones point as I will show below. The point that I want to make here is that the terms themselves carry no meaning other than the ones I have given in and of themselves. When the term theology is used, it has nothing to do with any particular denomination or religion nor conveys any specific teaching. The meaning of that is defined by it's context. And "context" will be gone over shortly with just what importance it plays in understanding all statements and especially scripture.
I think a great way to show why terms are beneficial and good to use can be shown by an excerpt from the movie "Coming to America" which stared Eddie Murphy. If you have never seen it let me give you some back ground. Murphy plays a Prince named Akeem from a foreign country that is very different from America. Many of our everyday common rituals and favorite entertainment's are alien to him. His reasons to come to America is to find for himself his future wife and princess which will eventually rule with him as King and Queen as he is heir to the throne. Since he is rather opposed to the prearranged woman that his Father and Mother, the King and Queen have selected, he comes here to find a woman that "thinks for herself".
In this particular scene he is working in a pseudo McDonalds and is speaking with his unknown at that time future Father-in-law Mr. MacDowell. Here is the scene verbatim;
Though this is rather comical I think there is a great analogy to be drawn from this exchange on the need for terms. While everything Murphy's character said was right, and very precise, the same message could have been stated in a not so tedious fashion. The description of the game and it's outcome could have been made just as clearly with some simplified terms. Though it would lose it's comical tones, the point that it makes is clear and easily understood. With our terminology of football it could have easily been said thus; "The Giants beat the Packers in the end with a field goal."
Again I just want to show how terminology can clarify and not necessarily dilute the meaning. And in that, one can make their point simply and briskly. Imagine if we never used terms and labels in our everyday life! How tedious this would make simple communication for everyday discussion.
With that said, a final thought. The term Theology proper never appears in the Bible. But the idea is found throughout it. 2 Tim 2:15 for one example; "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." But with the word Doctrine, it appears over 40 times throughout the Old and New Testaments. One passage that uses it is from the mouth of Jesus Himself. "Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (Jn. 7:16,17). Jesus obviously referring to His teachings and making clear they are not merely His words, but are Doctrines of God. And by this doctrine we can know if He is of God or not.
Finally I want to give a quick description of just what Context is. For this is paramount to any and all understanding of language and finding the speakers/writers meaning. Context defined in simple terms is; "The setting of words and ideas in which a particular word or statement appears." Context defines words by the surrounding words around it. This is why I truly hate the idea and statement that conveys "You can make the Bible say what ever you want it too!" Well, just as much as you could make any writing that contains the equal mass of words and statements say anything you want it to. But the only way in which this is accomplished is by tearing the lines or statements out of context. For example. If I make the statement; "I was painting the house over the weekend. I decided to change it from off-white to a nice blue. Then my dog came and knocked over the ladder and the full gallon of paint splashed all over me. So today I am blue!" One could take the last line of this statement and totally misconstrue the meaning of the entire sentence. For example lets say the person I told this too later discussed it with another person. "Hey how is Bruce doing?" The mans replies "I talked to Bruce yesterday, he said he was blue." The second man could then from just that little snippet of my statement walk away thinking the word "blue" was referring to my emotional state. That is, I was feeling blue, or down or sick. I know this is rather a simple example, but the meaning and point really conveys the issue. Just as in the use of many words and phrases context defines the meaning. The word Ram for example. It can mean multiple things. But the context will more than not flush out its definition and intent. "I need to get more RAM for my computer." RAM meaning Random Access Memory. "I watched the Rams lose again today against the Raiders." Rams meaning football team, and so on.
With that said let me put this all into perspective and address the main point of this paper. Can we love Jesus without Theology and Doctrine? The simple answer is No! For as the old adage goes, "to know me is to love me", but better yet, the scriptures state it this way. "To love Jesus, is to know Him." Without knowing Him, which we do by theology, we cannot love him. The idea that is preached over and over is that "Christianity isn't a religion, it's a relationship". But what kind of relationship is ever a good one without understanding and knowing of the person whom you seek to love? It is most absurd to preach love of Christ and a relation with Him, but make either no effort or even worse deny the need to learn who He is? If we do not know who Jesus is, as He revealed himself, we are fooling ourselves and not in a relationship with the Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus of historic Christianity. We are loving and communing with an imposter.
Remember the words of Christ Himself, "For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things" (Mk. 13:22,23). How many false Christs have we made with our own minds that lack understanding of who He really is? How many False Christs have been pedaled by the pseudo-Christian teachers and preachers on radio and TV who deny even the very fact that his death was sufficient for our sins or that he was not God in the flesh that dwelt among us. Jn. 1:1,14.
My friends, if your ideas and understanding of God, Christ and all He has taught us is not in harmony with the revealed word of God, the Bible. You are treading on very dangerous ground!
The only way to know of a false gospel is to know the True one
and it's definite claims and meaning. The Bible is not ambiguous on the person
and work of Jesus Christ. It is not open to any interpretation that we want.
Just as any of us have very specific personal parts of us that make us who
we are, like where we work, the city we live in, the color of our eyes, our
nationality etc. That differentiates one John Smith from another. Likewise,
Jesus the Christ has them as well that differentiates Him from all the other
false Christs in the world. Whether it be the false Jesus of Mormonism, or
of the Jehovah Witnesses or even David Koresh at Mount Carmel in Texas. The
Word of God must be our only source of that information, not what we think,
feel or want to believe. That information is gained by right and proper reading
of the scriptures in context.
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