Sunday, February 14, 2016

BIBLICAL BELIEF In The BIBLE - WHAT IS IT And Why It's Needed More Than Ever

It's still the number one best seller of all time. People are buying Bibles and there are actually some who bother to read it - even church members (if you can believe it)! 

Yet what do we believe about the Bible, which makes the bold claim (and proves it) to be the very Word of God? Does the Bible provide a 'How To' guide to believing and living our lives in the light thereof?

It does indeed - and we shall examine this in today's article. 

I've been getting deep into some theological studies with these books on something called hermeneutics; we will get to the definition of this term, as well as exegesis and eisegesis presently. One of the books I've been reading is by Henry Virkler; another book is by J. Edwin Hartill. Here they are . . . 

Put simply, exegesis is the method by which we extract information from the Scriptures; we do this by asking key questions with words such as "who, what, where, when, why and how". 
By way of example, when reading GENESIS 1, one could ask "who is speaking in verse one? Who is being addressed" or "what is being stated here? what is being done?" or "where does this event take place?", etc. These words of inquiry help to draw out everything we can discover in any passage of Scripture. Exegesis is objective in basis, it leaves nothing to the individual's preferences or ideas; it deals strictly with, as Joe Friday of Dragnet would say, "just the facts ma'am, just the facts". This will enable us to discover good and truthful doctrine and leads to proper understanding.
"What is the Bible saying?" is the primary question involving in exegesis.

The other side of this is called eisegesis, which is not drawing information out of the passage, but inserting information - that is, rather than seeking information so that we may understand the meaning of such Scripture, we overlap our own understanding and, or ideas on to the text. This is something that must be actively avoided because it produces false doctrine and leads to wrong understanding of the Bible.
"To me, this verse of Scripture means . . ." is the erroneous question involving eisegesis.
The former is Bible-centered, the latter is self-centered.

Hermeneutics is the science and philosophy of how we interpret the Bible. The manner and methods employed in using the information extracted from Scripture by means of proper exegesis to bring about accurate understanding. 

Think of it this way: suppose you are given a gift, all colorfully wrapped with a bow. Until you unwrap it and open the box, you won't know what the gift is. By unwrapping the gift and opening the box, you will find out what's inside. We 'unwrap' the Scriptures by exegesis to find out 'what's inside'.

Once you discover that the gift is a chain saw, you can then determine how best to use the machine. How you use it is in a sense, the hermeneutics - you could take the machine out back and look for a tree to cut down, and begin manually sawing at it with the chain saw without ever turning it on - but you will get very tired, very quickly! You are not using the machine properly. 
However, with a little bit of fuel and a yank on the cord, the machine will roar to life and you will be able to cut down trees with tremendous ease and satisfaction! You will have done a great job, having used the machine properly. 
So proper hermeneutics is essential - and what is proper hermeneutics? THAT will be the essential subject of this article!

For those of you who want to get into the 'nitty-gritty' of this, here is a site that will be helpful to you: Defining Exegesis and Hermeneutics By BIBLE STUDY GURU.

The three aspects of good Bible study are exegesis, interpretation and application. During the exegetical part of Bible study, we want to find out what the text says. In the interpretational part of Bible study, we want to find out what the text means (and here is where our hermeneutics comes into play). In the applicational part of Bible study, we want to find out how to apply what we have learned to our lives. 

All three are vital, but with the objective of application: it does us no good simply to learn and know what the Bible says, and not incorporate such biblical truth into our lives. In fact, there is severe warning from our LORD Jesus Christ regarding this matter:

MATTHEW 7:24-27
24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

To "hear" in this case involves more than just our ears, it includes the use of our mind in understanding. If we hear/understand only - we are founded upon the sand. If we "hear and obey" our LORD - it is then that we are founded upon the Rock: the LORD Jesus Christ Himself. 

Only by being on the Rock are we spiritually safe and secure: please understand me though, this is not to incite unwarranted fear regarding salvation (that salvation is dependent on rules and works, which it is not; salvation is dependent on faith and obedience to the Gospel), for if one is truly saved, I believe God's work of grace in us will work in and through us a heart of obedience, motivated by His love. It is less a matter of (self) effort than it is a matter of (Holy Spirit) efficacy.

PHIL 2:12-14
12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Note that we are to "work out" that which God "works in" - "to will and to do of His good pleasure". The working out is simply that work of sanctification which enables us to "walk in the Spirit" as born again believers in Christ Jesus.

While application is most important, we cannot properly apply biblical truth if we have not accurately exegeted the text and gained proper interpretational understanding of it. Thus, from what we have learned so far: 

1) We must be objective in our exegesis and find out what the Scripture really says (and not what we think, or what the pastor thinks, or what our favorite teacher thinks it says - though if they are biblical, I bet they have rightly exegeted the Word!).

2) Then we must interpret what we have learned what the Scripture says. 

3) We then must apply what we have learned to our lives, by the power of the Spirit of God according to His grace.

Interpretation has to do with our bias (view point) concerning the Bible. Some have a conservative bias, others a traditional/orthodox bias, still others have a liberal bias. How we view Scripture will profoundly influence our interpretation/hermeneutics.

Yet if we would properly understand the Bible, we can do no better than to learn how those recorded in Scripture understood the word of the LORD, based on how they interpreted (hermeneutics) the Word given.

To begin with, let's go to the very beginning of the Word of God, to the book of Genesis and one of the very first words of God given to mankind:

Here we see the Word of God given to Adam:

GENESIS 2:15-17
15 And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.


We may safely assume that Adam understood God correctly, for had he not, surely for such a profoundly important directive, there would be a verse indicating that God clarified the issue for the man. 
In the Garden of Eden, there were actual trees - for God created all of them on the Second Day of creation (GEN. 1:11). The LORD gave complete liberty to Adam to eat of any tree he liked . . . with one exception. 

Now according to liberal bias, this "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" is allegorical, a representation of something other than a literal tree. The temptation towards and partaking of its fruit is likewise allegorical, representative of evil, to the liberal mind-set.

Yet God compared all of the good trees with the one forbidden; it's an unwarranted assumption to think that the former were literal and the latter merely allegorical. 
In fact, according to liberal bias, this entire scene, as well as the first several chapters of the Bible are not to be taken literally. By this way of thinking, these are nothing more than Hebrew poetry!

The hermeneutics of the conservative bias concludes that the events that transpired in the first 11 chapters of Genesis are just as literal as the days when the LORD Jesus walked the shores of Galilee; and we have no one less than the Son of God Himself Who declares these events and the people involved as real (MATT 19:4).
We have in juxtaposition these two opposing views; where the liberal bias bows to the allegorical view of Scripture, in favor of the more 'scientifically accurate' view of evolution*; the conservative view upholds the literal interpretation of the creation account, subscribing to the LORD Jesus' view.

For a great site that proves evolution as a false science, consider this on-line hyper-linked resource!

Then we come to Eve - when the talking serpent* had a dialogue with her concerning "every tree in the garden" - we learn that Eve's understanding of the forbidden tree was skewed; she had not properly interpreted what she was taught (presumably by Adam, who himself may have misconstrued what God taught him on this vital matter). Consider the method of Satan's attack here: he questions the Word of God, casting doubt into Eve's mind - this "dialogue with the devil" - this "cataclysmic conversation" was definitely detrimental and ultimately damning simply because Eve failed to stand on God's Word by faith and instead believed "the lie" of Satan.

* The idea of a talking serpent is often ridiculed by liberal-biased Christians as well as atheists, agnostics and skeptics. How is it that this reptilian creature could actually communicate with Eve? GOT QUESTIONS has a very good answer for us.

GEN 3:1-3
 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.


Where did God ever say that the First Couple should not touch the fruit of this tree? They could have used them to juggle with, or used them as decorations around the house, with no harm done - though providing a temptation by such proximity could pose a problem, I grant you. 
She wrongly assumed that there was something about physical contact with the fruit that was detrimental. And was their something inherently evil about the fruit itself? By comparison was the fruit of all the other trees holy in essence?

Or was it the very act of rebelling against the command of God that made partaking of the fruit evil?
We must be very careful in our exegesis of any verse of Scripture; failure to do so is what led to misunderstanding on the part of Eve, which in turn led to her deception. Had Adam and Eve taken God at His Word, and simply obeyed by refraining from the forbidden fruit, all would have been well! 'Paradise Retained' in fact!

Let's go visit Noah now . . . 

GENESIS 6:5-8
5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
6 And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
7 And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

Here we have the proclamation of the LORD God, that because of the wickedness of mankind and his failure to rightly relate with their Maker, He would destroy them - but not all: "Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD"!

The LORD lays out His plan to Noah; we all know the story. An ark is built which will store and preserve all of the necessary "kinds" of animals (note: not every species and breed, but kinds - which would provide the necessary animals to propagate the derivative species and breeds that we see today). For an excellent video on NOAH and the ark, watch Ray Comfort's short film (30 mins).

GENESIS 6:12-18
12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.
13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.
15 And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.
16 A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.
17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.
18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee.

Note the specifics of God's instructions to Noah - the ark is to be made of gopher wood, from a tree native to that region of the world; it would then be coated inside and out with pitch (tar), an petroleum based material that is also native - in abundance - to that region of the world (in fact, it was John D. Rockefeller, who reading this passage of Scripture, suspected that there could be oil in the Middle East, and after sending out preliminary investigators, discovered the truth; thus the enormous wealth to the Rockefeller empire was secured! See note #4, h, iii on the following site).

The dimensions were specific as well: 300 cubits x 50 cubits x 30 cubits - which translates to roughly the size of the Titanic (except the ark didn't sink!).

Noah proceeded to follow God's instructions and built the ark according to these materials and dimensions. It's an interesting point of fact that these dimensions have proven to be precisely accurate for sea-going vessels, affording the best buoyancy so that it wouldn't capsize in rough waters. Apparently Noah understood and followed through with the command of the LORD, and built the ark, expressing faith that He would open up the heavens and allow rain (something that up to this time, had never happened; irrigation of the world at that time occurred by a heavy mist that would rise up from the soil; see GEN 2:6) as well as the fountains of the Earth to flood the world (GEN 7:10-12). WIth tongue-in-cheek one could say that Noah was a literalist in God's Word!

As with Adam and Eve, the LORD Jesus Christ also acknowledged the existence of Noah, the ark and the flood (LUKE 17:26-27). So, as one eloquently stated, "if you believe in Jesus Christ then you have no problem understanding that Noah was a real man who built a real ark to safeguard humanity in a real flood - - and if you don't believe in Jesus Christ then you have much BIGGER problems than whether or not Noah was a real man"!

And finally let's go spend a bit of time with Abraham . . . 

After waiting for several decades, the LORD finally made good on His promise to the 'father of the faith', Abraham, in granting him a son - not through Hagar the handmaid of Sarah, but through Sarah herself.
It was through his son, Isaac that the blessing of the LORD would be manifest for Abraham, his lineage and ultimately for all the world! Astounding!

I could hardly imagine the shock that Abraham felt on the day when the LORD gave him this command:

GENESIS 22:1-2
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

Did Abraham think that this was merely some allegorical process that God was presenting to him? Why would the LORD give such a gift, along with promises attributed to Isaac, only then to command that Abraham offer up his son as a burnt offering??

We have some keen insight into the mind of Abraham from the book of Hebrews, note especially vs. 19:

HEBREWS 11:17-19
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

Of course we understand that the LORD didn't allow Abraham to go through with this heart-rending deed, but that didn't stop Abraham from bringing his son, along with some wood for a fire to the place that the LORD showed him. He bound his son with literal cords, and took up a literal knife, to literally slay his son. He understood God's command, rightly interpreted its meaning, and followed through with obedience.

We also understand that while the LORD did not allow Abraham to sacrifice his son, He did allow His own Son to be sacrificed for the sins of the world (JOHN 3:15-17). Thus, the entire procedure of Abraham was a model or representation of God the Father, presenting His Son as an offering for the salvation of souls.

Everywhere in the Scriptures, when ever the Word of the LORD came to an individual, that saint responded to said command as something literal and not allegorical or metaphorical. We see this capsulized in the "Hall of Faith" chapter in HEBREWS 11. For a 'homework assignment' make a devotional of this chapter sometime soon and consider how each person recorded responded to the Word of the LORD.

Look at vs 6 here:

HEB 11:6 
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

An acronym that I am fond of is: F.A.IT.H. or "Forsaking All I Trust Him" - and so it is, that we must forsake any and all of man's interpretations that would seek to undermine the Word of God for what it is, and what it intends. We reject any philosophy, bias, hermeneutic and ideas that would portray the Word of God as mere allegory (this is not to say that there aren't passages that are allegorical in nature (such as GAL 4:24); the Bible employs literally hundreds of figures of speech, including metaphors, allegories, analogies - - even puns!).

In today's post-modern world, the idea that we can know anything with a significant degree of certainty is disdained; that nothing is "knowable" including the Word of God. These sort that populate the Emergent Church movement* love to ask questions that lend towards uncertainty where the Word of God is concerned, but they don't like or want any definitive answers of truth.

* For a series of articles that examines the fallacies and falsehoods of the Emergent Church movement, consider reading these, from The TRUTH Under FIRE, beginning with Part One.

One such 'questioner'  of God's Word (isn't that was the serpent did back in GEN 3 which we looked at earlier?) is Rob Bell* who wants to undermine a literal bias of Scripture and replace faith in the plain Word of God with a pseudo-faith complete with a liberal bias according to Emergent philosophy.

* For another article on Rob Bell's book LOVE WINS, visit The RED PILL Consortium and read this article entitled LOST LOVE

We as Christians must express belief in the Holy Word of God, the Bible with faith in the absolute and literal truth portrayed in its pages. We have examples replete throughout this Book of saints who heard, understood, and responded to the Word of the LORD by faith.

We must reject any philosophy of a liberal bias which would seek to cast doubt on the Holy Scriptures of Truth as given by God:

2 TIMOTHY 3:15-16
15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

May the LORD bless and keep us in His grace, as we walk with Him in accordance with biblical faith in His Most Holy Word! AMEN! 

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