We’re still in the kitchen, friends. I hope you can stand the heat.
If you haven’t been following the blog, we’re trying to cook up a fantastic smorgasbord of the best approaches to sound exegesis. We want to do the finest job we can of determining what a text of Scripture really means, so that we can teach it right – and live it right.
I want to pause today just to remind you of something very important in the pursuit of solid hermeneutics: Important Bible truths are not hidden, so look for the simplest interpretation.
I know this seems very close to the umbrella principle of literal interpretation that we covered earlier – and it is – but it’s worth spending one day on the priority of simplicity. You and I must always keep in mind that the major doctrinal (and theological) truths of our faith are plainly seen in Scripture, and often repeated throughout the Bible. Theologians sometimes refer to this principle as the perspicuity, or clarity, of Scripture. Leave it to a theologian to choose a complicated word for “clarity!”
Sometimes we’re intrigued by the Bible’s more obscure passages, and indeed those can make for delightfully exhilarating dinner conversation. But, when it comes to the most central truths of Scripture, you can rest assured that these important truths are not hidden in unclear passages. Nor are they hidden in difficult figures of speech.
When it comes to essential Christian doctrine, we never want to major on the minors. Why not? It always gets back to the character and nature of our God. Our Lord should never be charged with trying to hide His truth from all but the wisest and brightest and most educated. God’s purpose in giving us His Word is to reveal truth, not to conceal truth.
The implicit, therefore, should be interpreted by the explicit. That which is assumed to be implied in Scripture is to be interpreted in the light of that which is fully developed and formulated. In other words, interpret the obscure in light of the clear! R.C. Sproul expresses it like this: “The basic rule is the rule of care. Careful reading of what the text is actually saying will save us from much confusion and distortion. No great knowledge of logic is necessary, just the simple application of common sense.”
So if our interpretation of a text does not construe its meaning in the simplest, least complicated, most natural and straightforward manner, then – all things being equal – our interpretation is probably invalid.
Just for your consideration … I’ve heard (and read) multiple times that angels are sexless. Where does the Bible actually say that? Jesus explained that in heaven (“in the resurrection,” technically) there will be no marrying or giving in marriage – that we will be “like angels in heaven.” That implies that angels do not marry, but it does not necessarily imply that angels are genderless.
Is it possible that God could call angels to remain unmarried for other reasons? Of course. So it would be imprudent to build a teaching on a possible implication, especially if that teaching is unconfirmed by the rest of Scripture. Watch out for doctrinal leaps that cannot be proven from the text! “No marriage” does not necessarily mean “no gender.” I could argue that the many references to angels as males flatly contradicts the idea of genderless angels.
Let’s let the Bible speak for itself. Sometimes it’s just that simple.
There are scrumptious riches to be acquired for the diligent student who will humbly and carefully open the Bible as before the Lord, and who will meditate on – and delight in – the major teachings of the Scriptures.
Please stick with me on this journey. Keep a positive attitude, and be willing to study diligently in order to “present yourself to God as one approved” (Second Timothy 2:15). If we always keep the sunny side up, we won’t find ourselves scrambled.