I have been exploring the Hermeneutics of Humility. Hermeneutics simply means the science of bible interpretation. This false doctrine is when people say “I’m fallible, and I’ve been wrong before in my interpretations of the bible, and gee, look at how many other people are wrong in their interpretations, and I’m just too humble to say that I think I know the bible. So I won’t say I do.”
Now, there is a difference between conceit in knowledge, and humility in certitude. The Pharisees were conceited. Romans 12:16b tells us “be not wise in your own conceits”. This means do not be puffed up with an opinion of your own wisdom. If you have gained wisdom from the Spirit then say it is from the Spirit. Do not be conceited, thinking it is your own special braininess that gained you a deeper understanding. 2 Corinthians 12 and Galatians 5 are examples of what happens when people become conceited outside of the Spirit. Paul is the example of confidence in the certainty of doctrinal Gospel. Stephen, too. We will not be arrogant in our deeper understandings if we remember Peter’s wise words: “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,” (2 Peter 1:20). The definition of prophecy in how Peter used it is “prophesying; the gift of communicating and enforcing revealed truth.” We MUST communicate revealed truth, we also MUST refer to the Spirit in His work as the One who revealed it.
There are lots of people running around who say that they have gained a special insight from the Spirit but it is frankly a wacky interpretation. If you are in the Spirit, He will give you discernment when people say these things. Have full confidence in Him!
Let’s look at James again.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:2-8)
I am going to use the metaphor of the sea and on that sea, boats. James said that the double minded who ask for wisdom not in faith, are like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. Any old schmo can get on a boat and get on the water. Some are in dinghies, some are in sailboats, some are in motor boats, some are in canoes, some are in bass boats. But any person can get on a craft and go out onto the water. But when the when the wind comes up and a storm starts, the doubters are driven here and there. They can see the lighthouse, and safety, but they are being driven in a direction they do not want to go.
There is one craft that is on the sea, aiming for the lighthouse and the safety of the home berth, but they have an advantage. They are on a submarine, and they can sink below the tossed waters of the storm and they can chug along in placidity. The tossing of those above do not affect the submarine nor those on it. All is quiet.
Now, I said that any old schmo can gt on any old boat and dip their toe in the waters of Christianity. If they do not apply themselves to the truths revealed within the Word, they will be tossed. They are on the surface, and the surface is always rougher when the wind kicks up. But not any old schmo can get on a sub. That requires special training. All US Navy sailors go through training. But you have to work really hard and spend a long time to attain the credentials for submarine sailor. “Basic shore-based training teaches submariners fundamental skills before they are assigned to the submarine, but each crew member continues to learn and gain more expertise after they are assigned aboard the submarine. As sailors gain operational experience, they receive advanced training.”
Too many Christians today are kitchen table theologians. As we read this comment on bad hermeneutics: “Today’s evangelicals aren’t known for being profound, sober-minded, or consistent; instead they’ve developed a reputation for being superficial, trivial, doctrinally erratic, and theologically naïve…. Those who take God’s Word seriously spend many hours in study. Coming out of diligent study are lessons, sermons, articles, and books that are deep, weighty, sober, doctrinally coherent, and theologically consistent.”
When I get into a conversation with a Christian about, say, the rapture, and they say something ignorant like John Darby invented that doctrine, I share the bible verses and show how I came to the conclusions I did, my basis. If they refute that out of hand, I know they are speaking from the flesh because they dismissed the Word out of hand. My job is then concluded. I’d shared the verses in love and civility. I stood up for the Word. Alternately, if the person says, ‘I never saw those verses before, let me read them and try to see what you’re saying,’ I know they are speaking from the Spirit, because we both have pointed to the bible verses and not ourselves. Not our intellect. Not our opinion. The bible. I know that person wants ears to hear and eyes to see. The conversation may continue if they so desire, because they have a seeking heart and so do I. It works in reverse with me, too. I listen to others, I seek the word, pray, study, ponder and then the Spirit will lead me into either a deeper truth or show me where the Word refutes what the person claims.
Paul advised Christians not to be ignorant of four things. It means don’t be without knowledge:
Don’t be ignorant about God’s plan for Israel (Romans 11:25).
Don’t be ignorant about spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1).
Don’t be ignorant about suffering and trials in the Christian life (2 Corinthians 1:8).
Don’t be ignorant about the rapture and the second coming of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
And what are we fighting most about these days! These very things, which too many are ignorant of, being tossed by every which wind. They tire so they say, ‘I’m too humble to know for sure. I’ll just rely on the essentials.’ I would like to know just ONE THING in the bible that Jesus didn’t die for?! What is one thing that is not essential to know and defend on His shed blood?! He fulfilled the Law, so that is the Old Testament. He delivered the Gospel once for all, so that is the New Testament. There is not one comma, not one jot nor tittle in the bible that is not essential to defend.
In no case it is wise or advisable to argue out of ego. But neither do I let things go. I do “fight.” We are called to so so when necessary. “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Tim 6:12.) Speaking the truth will evoke reactions but that is no cause to cease doing it. Paul confronted Peter. Stephen confronted the Pharisees. Paul and Euodia and Syntyche contended.
I had to do just that recently. A personage of some influence and stature in the community, the former local newspaper publisher, has an opinion column weekly. As Publisher Emeritus, he knows that words have influence. In last week’s opinion piece, he said that Genesis account of creation is co-existent with evolution. I was sadly disappointed to read this. Initially I did not want to confront that error because I am flesh like everyone else. But the times call for courage and emboldenment. The Spirit would not let go. So finally I sent a rebuttal letter. I was thankful the editor published it. As usual, there were lots of craven comments in the online comment box. The Spirit had me make two replies to those, to clarify and to answer a question, then I discerned that that was enough. No need to perpetuate the point. I had my say, or rather, the Spirit did. The rest is up to Him. I have full confidence that His words will find some good ground and bear fruit. It is all for the glory of God. Saying we are too humble to know besmirches His name, does not glorify it. We should be humbled when He reveals His intelligence to us. We should be humbled when we speak His words and they find good ground. But we should never be “too humble” to be bold and declare His glory as clear, perfect, and interpretable!
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,” (Philippians 1:9-10)
What is biblical hermeneutics? (Got Questions?)
Proper Biblical Interpretation (John MacArthur)
The Ultimate Hermeneutic, by Art Azurdia (mp3)
How does one determine the authority behind “proper” biblical interpretation? (Bible.org)