New Picture of Bingle in Shower

How we interpret a section of text depends on the mental models we already have in our minds.  This can lead at times to quite wrong interpretations of the meaning of those texts.

In the case of the study of Biblical texts, what usually happens is that a doctrine is taught first – and then the relevant verses or texts from the Bible are advanced in support of that doctrine.  If one reads the texts after having been exposed to the systematic doctrine they do apparently support that doctrine.  However if one has been exposed to another doctrine, those same texts or others seem to support that doctrine.

Is it possible to read the Bible with a free and clear mind, not influenced or conditioned either by doctrines or experiences or wordly philosophies?   If not what can we do to help free ourselves from these influences?


11 thoughts on “New Picture of Bingle in Shower

  1. Isaiah 28:9-10

    “To whom will he teach knowledge,and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk,those taken from the breast?
    For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
    line upon line, line upon line,here a little, there a little.”

    “Interpret scripture with scripture – the best source of interpretation. Nothing in the Bible is so absolutely isolated that you have to interpret in its own context and not beyond. Almost everything in Scripture is linked to verses in Scripture that assist in the interpretation of that particular scripture itself.”

    And read your Bible through over and over, allowing its power to work …

  2. Teddy,
    ‘And read your Bible through over and over, allowing its power to work …’

    I was just thinking about this the other day as I was reading through Exodus 3, when God meets up with Moses at the burning bush. The power of it is wonderfully overwhelming.

  3. Well its interesting that I find this to be an issue that I’m grappling with, but apparently others do not think its much of an issue. I’ve raised this before and it hasnt got a discussion going.

    One example that has come up for me during the week is the Catholic understanding of Jesus words during the last supper “this is my body… this is my blood”. When you think about it the Catholics have taken the plain literal meaning of the text, and the Protestants and Evangelicals have “spiritualised” it. Exactly what most Evangelicals accuse liberals of doing to other parts of the Bible.

    So how do we decide which bits are to be taken literally and which are metaphors or spiritual texts? And what is the authority for this?

  4. I think its a very important issue. More interesting because Jesus chose to teach in this way – so that only those who have eyes to see and ears to hear would understand what he was saying.

    I think the more that we think like Jesus, the more we really understand what He is saying. So at different times of our lives, scripture may open up to us in new ways, if we have not already understood it fully. When this is the case, we can only wait for the Holy Spirit to do His work in us, so that our eyes are opened.

    As well as this though, we can definitely improve our understanding by insisting that we read verses in context, including entire letters if necessary, rather than just a few verses around the item of interest. Otherwise we can misunderstand things badly. Or be misled badly by others.

    Plus obviously there is understanding the historic and cultural context, which can completely change our understanding. The post I put up after this one is an example of that, where according to John MacArthur, the sheep’s clothing was the woollen cloak of a shepherd, not an imitation sheep costume. Another is:

    “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.

    Many teach this verse as an instruction to withhold nothing from anyone who asks something of us, going beyond what is asked. Apparently though, this is an act which exposes the inappropriate nature of the request, since to make someone go naked was a shameful thing, and in Jewish culture of the time, shame would fall on the person making the other go naked, rather than the one who was naked. So it was a clever form of non-violent resistance to an injustice.

    Anyway, I think we need to ask God for His help in understanding scripture and be humble about our understanding of it rather than insisting that we always have it right. I think we need to listen to any niggles we have, as perhaps God wants us to explore those areas further, not be ashamed to ask questions, and definitely be willing to do our own research if an area is important to us, since we now have such excellent resources at our fingertips online.

  5. It’s useful to approach the Word with the attitude of ‘what’s going to be changed today, Lord?’

    If we expect to be changed we can easily see where changes can occur. If we approach the Word for confirmation of our own pre-taught or pre-conceived concepts we are open to delusion.

    Apart from this, over time, as doctrine is formed and matured, whatever we read should add to what we understand and have learned to live by.

    All the same, there are times when I think I’ve finally grasped something, followed by times when I feel I really know nothing, and need to learn more. I think that’s the Holy Spirit at work, drawing us on and into a closer relationship. Intimacy is going in deeper, being more transparent, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in the face of the Word, who sees all and knows all.

    It’s almost as if, when we read the Word, even though we’ve read passages many times before, we, nevertheless, begin again with a blank canvas, and paint God’s portrait of our lives using his pallet.

    Looking into the mirror of the Perfect Law of Liberty.

  6. I felt a niggle when I heard a Christian singer sing an interpretation of the 10 wise and foolish versions.

    It didn’t sit right with me until God asked me a rhetorical question that exposed the interpretation to be wrong. But he said enough for me to get me interested in looking up what it means further.

  7. Wazza: “Well its interesting that I find this to be an issue that I’m grappling with, but apparently others do not think its much of an issue.”

    Personally I think this shows you are in a good spot. An example of “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”. The understanding of the need provides the hunger to work through to the solution.

    The need is that Father has provided few, if any, tangible points of security in our lives other than himself. Included in the list of things he has not provided for us is a rigorously presented, unambiguous theological textbook. Instead we get bunch of stories with a spattering of interpretation. Why is this? I believe it is because it drives us to him.

    On the other hand many people will try to replace this lack of tangible security with lots of other more tangible points of security for us to rely on. I won’t list them, they are the usual religious suspects around concepts of special individuals, special things and special actions.

    People who use religion to fill this need tend to deny issues like perspective because they need the security that certainty brings. For some, being right is security (sometimes their message sounds to me like “I am saved because I am right”).

    There are a whole bunch of very different belief systems that boil down to this sense of security based on being theologically correct. For people in this situation the idea of questioning the foundation of their knowledge is fearful. They just won’t go there.

    Those that can see the issues obviously don’t fear the consequences so their security is not in the tangible things but the non-tangible things – which is where it should be. 🙂

  8. I agree.

    Also, I think Jesus Himself pointed out that knowing scripture alone is not enough.

    John 5:37-40

    Witness of the Father
    37″And the Father who sent Me, (AT)He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form.

    38″You do not have (AU)His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He (AV)sent.
    Witness of the Scripture
    39″[b](AW)You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is (AX)these that testify about Me;

    40and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

  9. The above verse was responding in particular to Heretic’s comment:

    The need is that Father has provided few, if any, tangible points of security in our lives other than himself. Included in the list of things he has not provided for us is a rigorously presented, unambiguous theological textbook. Instead we get bunch of stories with a spattering of interpretation. Why is this? I believe it is because it drives us to him.

    – Heretic

    Some people use scripture (the word) and Jesus (the Word) interchangeably, but they are not the same. The word helps us know the Word, but we can know the word and still not come to Him. If we do come to Him, then we can trust that over time He will correct our understanding of the word where it is important at the time, and open our eyes when we aren’t seeing clearly. But we can’t dictate the timing of that, as some of us here know well. Neither should we judge the timing of that in others, I think, because we may be judging God’s ongoing work in a person.

  10. Heretic, Totally agree but would add that we all attempted to have a system to find security. Most of the time life destroys our system and we came to a crisis of belief. We all need to move from a place of security to a place of faith.

    Raving Pente, also agree with you. We sometimes worship the bible and not understand that our faith isnt on the Bible but on God’s goodness.

  11. I’ve just had time to go back and ponder these comments – thank you all, its great to get another perspective to consider.

    I hadnt thought about security being central to this, but I agree. Its difficult not to look for security in all types of things. Relationships, doctrines, possessions, jobs – all eventually get taken away and hopefully we turn to God instead of desiring security. Its easy to say but much more difficult to do.

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