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Friday, April 19, 2013

How to interpret scripture?

In these days Christians are often tempted to accept interpretations of the Bible that make it say something different from what it seems to say.  I ran across a quote from Martin Luther today where he addresses this idea.  Specifically, Martin is addressing the debates about Communion in his own day, but I love the way he says this:

"... no violence is to be done to the words of God, whether by man or angel.  They are to be retained in their simplest meaning as far as possible.  Unless the context manifestly compels it, they are not to be understood apart from their grammatical and proper sense, lest we give our adversaries occasion to make a mockery of all the Scriptures."  (On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, written in 1520)

So today, when Christians find the larger bulk of society rejecting scripture, we are tempted to unsay what the Bible says for the sake of not giving offense to society.  But we must be careful with this, or we will find ourselves washed downstream with the crowds rather than standing on the firm foundation of Scripture!  Read it, understand it, live it in its plainest sense.  Where the context lets you know that the Bible is speaking metaphorically, go with the metaphor.  (In other words, don't literally cut off your hand or pluck out your eye.)  Where the Bible speaks literally, however, go with the clearest, most simple meaning.

In other words, it is critical for Christians to submit to the words of the Bible and not to try to reign over scripture as its lord, commanding it to say that which it does not say, and commanding it to be silent where it speaks uncomfortably to us.

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