Pastor’s Friday Comments (09.04.20)

It’s not important that you know any of the big words I learned in seminary, but the principles behind some of them are critical for your understanding of Christian faith, especially if you see the Bible as your rule for faith and practice and consider its proper interpretation to be essential for how you live your life.

Today I’m going to teach you about two important words (if you don’t know them already). They both derive from Greek and have to do with biblical interpretation. They are exegesis and eisegesis

Stated as simply as I know how, the practice of exegesis is letting the text speak to you; eisegesis is speaking to the text. (Biblical scholars will opt for a more nuanced approach, but I’m confident in my definitions.)

Exegesis is an exercise in which we should all engage, even if we have never heard the word. I wrote in the front of my study Bible something a professor once said: “Apply all of yourself to the text and apply all of the text to yourself.” He meant that we should use every tool at our disposal to understand the plain meaning of the biblical text – what the words mean, the context in which they were written, the perceived intention of the human author in including that material in that book of the Bible.

Then, once we have a clear understanding of what it means, we are to apply its teaching to our lives. We don’t get to twist it to conform to what we are already doing. We can’t make it say something that it is obviously not saying. We simply have to live under its guidance.

Eisegesis, on the other hand, is going in search of texts that agree with what we already believe. It is engaging in interpretive contortions to force texts to support a position we already hold. It is sinful pride in that we place ourselves above the word of God as revealed through Scripture. And it keeps us from ever getting to the point of bowing beneath the Word of God, Jesus Christ, as he is disclosed to us. It actually prevents us from knowing how we ought to live.

The temptation to substitute our own interpretation of Scripture for the “hard sayings” that challenge our conduct is understandable, but it is a particularly dangerous practice when it is used to attempt to persuade others. In our contemporary political environment, watch out for heretical substitutions.

The United States of America cannot be substituted for the kingdom of God.

Old Glory cannot be inserted in a text where the subject is Jesus Christ.

Patriotism cannot be equated with commitment to Christian faith.

“The rule of law” cannot be held above the rule of love.

If you think (or think that I think) that one political party is more likely to do this than another, you may see this as a partisan attack. It is not. It is a response to an offense. I am offended by anyone, regardless of political affiliation, who either casually or with guile, takes the holy word of God and uses it in such a wrongful manner. It is taking the primary means by which the events in the life of the Founder of our Faith are revealed and cheapening its message by applying it to something less holy. It is heresy. Watch out for it and don’t buy into it.