The Pastor, Hermeneutics and the Clarity of Scripture

What is the point of even having a preacher/teacher?

– To lead people to Christ?
– To teach necessary spiritual truths for growth in Christ?
– To equip the saints for every good work?
– ‘Cause that’s what we do?

Well, no matter which of these we give most importance, it is done primarily through teaching out of the Bible. Whether exegetical or topical, it all comes from an interpretation of scripture. So whether a preacher/teacher is using twelve different versions of the Bible to teach her mega-church about prayer, or whether he is explaining what the verse “really means” in Greek to his small circle of home school co-op’ers (or anything in between) they are both consciously and subconsciously developing the hermeneutical skills of their listeners.

Say what?

Take the example of the pastor who loves to explain what the passage “really means” in Greek, but more importantly is trying to set the context so his audience can understand what the author was trying to communicate to their readers.

– Consciously he is explaining that interpretation can best occur when we understand the context of the author, the reader and most importantly (to him) how the language was used. In doing this he is giving his listeners many great hermeneutical tools to help them interpret their Bible with.

– Subconsciously he is inferring that these tools are the only way to “really” or correctly interpret the text. In doing this he is handicapping his listeners in that the clarity of Scripture is now unavailable apart from a Seminary education (not to mention how many people that now try to understand Greek without any background education).

Now let’s look at the example of the Purpose Driven pastor who uses texts as obscure as the New Guinea Technological Convention Paraphrase of a second hand reading of Jude.

– Consciously she is showing that no translation has a monopoly of contextualizes the ancient language and exposing ourselves to different texts will open up our understanding of the scripture.

– Sub-consciously she is teaching her readers that instead of standing under the text and letting it interpret us, we are to stand over the text and interpret it and use it for what we want.

It is important for those of us who teach to realize that, although it never seems to make it’s way to the list of reasons we have a preacher/teacher, both consciously and subconsciously we develop the hermeneutic of our listeners every time we preach. May this put the fear of God into us as we prepare, pray and preach to both Christians and non-Christians.



2 Responses

  1. I think you are getting at the central issue here Matt. That is do we stand over the Bible and interpret away what we do not like by claiming obscurity, or do we let the text interpret US, and read with a humble posture that lets the Holy Spirit convict and change us. I am guilty of doing the first way too often, especially since I have a some training in the original languages and can point to a disagreement or differing interpretation on just about any passage that seems to challenge me. Oh Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.

  2. Actually, I think that was more of the point of my “Sure Guy/Gray Guy” post. This post focused on how we as pastor/teachers affect the hermeneutic of our hearers. Obviously your point is the goal of teaching, but not the thesis of my post.

    In regards to much of the conversation that has taken place on the blog over the past few days I would say the following:

    It seems that we have convoluted the processes of observing passages, interpreting passages and applying what we have observed and interpreted. Much of what we mean when we talk about what the text “means” we are either referring to what we have observed, or how we think we should apply what we have observed. Interpretation is a LONG DIFFICULT PROCESS that involves many tools and experience. When we talk of interpretation we are really getting to what the author intended the original audience to hear. This is what the text “means”. Therefore it is impossible, as Jake stated previously, for the meaning to be different based on perspective. Now once, through the process of interpretation, we understand what the author meant then we can pull a principle out of that. Now our posture as to what we will do with these truths after we have done the process of interpretation is paramount. It can be applied in many different ways, and will be done so in a godly way, if we first let that truth interpret/work over us.

    I think this is what Jake, and many other well intentioned pastors, mean when they promote a humble “this is what the text means to me” approach. Not all do. Some are lazy and don’t endeavor the the arduous work of interpretation. Those people stand over the Bible in the process of interpretation. So I would conclude that many who skip interpretation still carry humility through the process of observation, and vice versa.

    This might all sound semantic, and it is. But it is important to realize that not all who say, “this is what the text means to me” are teachers who either skip interpretation or believe that interpretation is up to them. Some aren’t trained in how to effectively interpret Scripture and/or don’t have the time to do it justice and so are left simply with the process of observation and application from that. With this to be concluded I still hold that saying such a statement unintentionally creates a hermeneutical slippery slope for the hearers.

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