Evangelicals and the Bible: Spiritual or Rational Interpretation?
How is it that Apostolics can learn from other theologians who deny the Oneness of God, and the new birth as baptism in the name of Jesus and receiving the Spirit evidenced by tongues? If the carnal mind is an enemy of God, and these non-Apostolic theologians have a carnal mind (because they are not yet born again), how is it that they understand the things they do about God? They understand such things like the fall of humanity, the nature of sin, certain things about the nature of God, etc. They know enough that we read their books and we learn from them in their seminaries, and yet they have not been regenerated. So how is it that those who do not have Christ to open up their understanding to the Scripture, understand so much doctrinally?
I think we have often misunderstood the issue, acting as though those who have not been born again have no truth or cannot understand the meaning of Biblical revelation. Let me ask you a question. Were the Israelites regenerated? No. Then how did they understand the Torah? One might say, But they didn't have the ability to receive the Spirit. That does not matter. What matters is that there was a whole nation of unregenerate people of faith who served YHWH and understood spiritual things as revealed in Scripture just fine. Having the Spirit is not necessary to understand Scripture. Whata is necessary is the proper use of one's mental faculties. Scripture is the revelation. We do not need a special revelation apart from Scripture to understand the revelation revealed in Scripture. The Bible is not a secret-coded message so that those who are not regenerate cannot understand it without some spiritual decipher code. Because the Bible is written, to understand it simply requires diligent study of the original languages, culture, history, etc., and those in seminary do just that.
This is not to say that the Spirit has nothing to do with spiritual understanding. Indeed, when we have the Spirit we can understand the experiences spoken of in Scripture because we have experienced them ourselves (tongues, for example). Non-regenerate people cannot fully know what the word of knowledge is because they have never experienced it. What it is to say is that having the Spirit does not give us better insight into interpreting the meaning of Scripture. I recognize that this idea is foreign to many pulpits spanning this nation, who proclaim in error that all we need to do is pray and God will tell us what the Scripture means. No, we must study the Word for ourselves like God commanded us to (II Tim 3:16)! The meaning of Scripture is discerned through the rational faculties of the mind, using the normal methods of interpretation: analyzing the meaning of words in relationship to other words and the cultural/historical setting of the author. Evangelicals are so good at interpreting Scripture because they know the principles of interpretation and apply them to Scripture. They are often better at it than ourselves because we lay so much emphasis on the Spirit's role in interpreting Scripture that it produces academic laziness. After all, why study when all I need to do is pray and wait for God to speak the meaning into my ear? If only it worked like that my life would be a lot easier, but it doesn't. We must study the Scripture to discern its meaning. We could learn a lesson or two from Evangelicals on this matter.
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