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Hermeneutics 7 – Dogmatic Interpretation

November 8, 2012

I will not spend a lot of time defining this approach to interpretation, but will spend more time discussing the ease with which we can be guilty of it.

Dogmatic Interpretation’s starting point is a certain theological framework.  It is best seen in the development of the Roman Catholic Church, however we will see that this approach rears its head in modern Protestantism as well.  The Roman Church thought that their beliefs were the lens through which all interpretations of Scripture must bend.  They denounced any interpretation of Scripture that did not accord with what they confessed.  There are other details we could discuss about the Romanist approach the Scripture and truth, however the important point for this post is that they thought the Bible must always say what they already believed to be true.

Immediately I assume that most people reading this blog will protest and denounce this method of interpretation.  On the surface, all of us reject that what we currently believe should be the basis for the interpretation of the Bible.  However, I must ask you to consider, why is it then that we have so many denominations and traditions in the Christian church which all claim that their distinctive beliefs are the right ones?  Of course there are other factors to weigh in to why this occurs, (i.e. a lack belief in the infallibility of Scripture, a poor understanding of how to read the Bible) but the fact is we all tend to think that any interpretation of the Bible that is different from what we have believed must be wrong.

Think for a moment about some of the more “controversial” issues to see if this is true.  What do you currently believe to be true about infant baptism versus believers baptism?  What do you currently believe about the various issues related to election and free will?  What do you currently believe about the second coming of Christ?  Now ask yourself this all important question; how do you respond when someone shares with you a view that differs from yours?  Don’t we normally immediately jump on the defensive and protect the way we have thought about the issue for so long?  In essence, we can  tend to think, “I have believed X for so long, there is no way I could be wrong.”

Let me say that I am not saying that we are all wrong about every issue and should immediately start to believe opposite views because we are all guilty of dogmatic interpretation.  What I am advocating is that we recognize how easy it is to make our beliefs that lens through which all Scripture must bend.  I am advocating that we be cautious about differing view points, aware of the fact that we could very easily be imposing our own tradition on the Bible unknowingly.  We should not be hasty to develop convictions and must be open to the possibility that we have not be thinking accurately about one view or another.

To assume that our current beliefs about God and the Bible are all accurate simply because we believe them is prideful and irresponsible.  We are called to a higher level of holiness.  If we must worship God in truth, we must be diligent, careful and passionate about knowing God for who He is.  We must pray with earnestness, read with vigor, and study  with diligence that our minds be conformed to the Word of God.  We must protect against making the Word of God conform to our already held beliefs.

I will continue on historic approaches to interpretation on Monday.

From → Hermeneutics

One Comment
  1. Lalboi Singsit permalink

    thanks a lot sir for your insights. it is very helpful to be part of my lecture notes. God bless you.

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