17 Jun Why Every Church Needs To Prioritize Hermeneutics Training
“If Christians don’t have a firm grasp of biblical truth, is it any wonder that the world misunderstands the Bible?”
One of my degrees is in Church History. As I studied the worldwide Christian narrative across time certain things begin to stand out. One particularly noteworthy shift was the empowerment of the laity that occurred following the Reformation. While, in many ways, there are still unhealthy clergy/laity divides, the Reformation was followed by, among other things, increased access to Scripture from lay men and women.
The Catholic Church had, and still has, a sharper distinction in its practices related to who is and who is not allowed to interpret Scripture. Prior to the Reformation and particularly prior to the invention of the printing press, if you weren’t clergy you probably weren’t reading the Bible and you definitely weren’t going around teaching other people about the meaning of Scriptures. While access to the Bible (esp. in one’s own language) has had many positive results, problems exist as well. In the increasingly immortalized words of Spider-Man comics, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Unfortunately, while the general population has been empowered, these past several hundred years, to read and interpret the Bible for themselves, they rarely are given the necessary training to do so.
The result is chaos. Further frustrated by the individualistic pride of the Enlightenment, continuously confused by postmodernism’s relativistic values, and exponentially empowered by the advent of the social media era, the state of biblical interpretation has never been more loosely assembled and more dangerously unchecked. Our culture values individualism to a fault. Truth is no longer grounded in reality. It is the opinion of the individual that we hold as the measurement of truth. Pertaining to interpretation this means that the individual can make the Bible say what they want it to say with little concern for the original intent of the passage.
Today, anyone and everyone can read the Bible. Anyone and anyone can share their interpretation. Anyone and everyone can present themselves as a representative of Christ and the teachings of the Bible. These shifts are not inherently bad. In fact, there are benefits to them. However, if that great power is not buttressed by great training and buffered by great reverence for said power, then we are doomed to misinterpretation, misrepresentation, and misguidance of the Scriptures.
We live in interesting times. We have so many voices bombarding us daily through various Spheres of Influence. How can the average person decide which voices to believe? Even within Christianity, there are so many different voices saying so many different things. What hope is there of properly filtering all of those divergent interpretations? By not preparing the general population to filter and critically analyze conflicting data, we are setting entire generations up for failure. We are not equipping them to rightly divide the Word of God. What is the result of this?
It may (or may not) surprise you that up to 70% of the USA claims to be Christian, yet somewhere in the vicinity of 5% have beliefs aligned with basic orthodoxy. That means 65% of America (upwards of 200 million people) are going around claiming the name of Christ, but not understanding basic biblical doctrine. In turn those 65% are misrepresenting Christ and Christianity to the remaining population and to one another. This leaves our relationship with the Word of God and with one another confused and divided – and a house divided against itself cannot stand.
If Christians don’t have a firm grasp of biblical truth, is it any wonder that the world misunderstands the Bible? A great many atrocities could have been/can be avoided by carefully and accurately interpreting the biblical text. Misrepresenting God, by misrepresenting His laws, principles, and promises, is one of the most harmful things we can do.
Please, whether you are an individual, or you are a community/church leader, prepare yourself and those around you for the great responsibility of representing Christ and His Word.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Should all individuals, churches, and communities prioritize the study of interpreting the Bible? Leave a comment below and share to get your friends in on the conversation.
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