Bad Hermeneutics

John MacArthur has a good clip from one of his sermons dealing with bad hermeneutics (view source). I needed this reminder because it is so easy to fall prey to laziness and try to preach my mind, not God’s. What’s worse is that both myself and others can claim to have deep spiritual insight talking in platitudes but miss the point of the text. MacArthur’s three key mistakes to avoid are:

  • Making points at the expense of proper interpretation.
  • Spiritualizing the text.
  • Superficial study.

Each of these (at least from my perspective) is unfortunately the common practice within fundamentalist circles. For example, it is proper and necessary to proclaim God’s holiness and total set apart-ness from sin but it is another things to take the pet peeve of a pastor and make that the thing that God’s hates. It would seem that we would de-emphasize the seriousness of sin by claiming things as sinful which scripture does not.

The real mark of the beast

The tradition of identifying symbols in the the book of Revelation is long and interesting with a little bit of frightening thrown in for good measure. Perhaps the most well known as well as vague is the mark of the beast. The standard questions such as “what is it?”, “what does it look like?”, “can a believer receive it?” and others are the standard inquiry.

With the advent of the 20th century, various attempts have been made to identify the “stinging scorpions” as attack helicopters or other such interpretations.

However, this one is hillarious. Read about how one person figured out the mark of the beast in 2012.

So a friend of mine called me on the phone the other day, and while we chatted, he suddenly changed topics and asked me a question.  “Haber,” he started.  “You know Hebrew, right?”

“Yeah,” I hesitated.

“Is it true that the numeric value in Hebrew of a ‘w’ is 6?” he asked.

“Aleph, bet, gimmel, dalit, heh, wow… yeah, the sixth letter is what they’d write to make a ‘w’ sound.”

He looked at me with widening eyes, “As in, double-u, double-u, double-u dot…”

My eyes widened a bit.  I know it’s ridiculous exegesis on soooo many levels, but considering the pervasiveness of the world wide web and its potential as a tool for political power and economic exploitation, it does give me a bit of pause.  After all, what does God care for our exegetical theories? (original source)

There you have it, exegetical proof that the interwebs is none else then the mark of the beast!

 

A good example of bad exegesis

I was doing a little research online and came across this gem. It is written tongue-in-cheek so the author would not actually preach this. However, who would argue that something like this has never been done before?

Original source at http://www.walkwithgod.com/2010/08/women-dancing-in-church-and-wearing-high-heels/

Years ago, I wondered if it was proper for men or women to dance in church.  I searched the scriptures diligently.  My seeking was not in vain.  When I found Psalm 68:16 which reads, “Why leap ye, ye high hills?”  I realized that it was at least improper for women to do so.  We note that the Psalmist clearly delineates between men and women by using the phrase “high hills.”  Men don’t wear high heels.  Women do.  So women should not be dancing (use of “leap” here).

This intrigued me as to another question I had about women wearing those awful contraptions to begin with.  So, I did a further study.  I found a jewel of a scripture, Psalm 104:18 which states, “The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats.”  Wow!  Is that clear or what?  We know that women take great care in their selection of clothing, and this can be a type of refuge for them.  But there is no mistaking the clear intent of scripture here:  only a woman who is a “wild goat” would wear high heels.

If there is any question about that, I would refer you to Matthew 25 where Jesus says that the goats will be separated from the sheep.

So, from a careful study of scripture, I learned that women should neither dance in church or wear those wicked high heels!

Post-Modernism (Part 1)

I am preparing to write my master’s thesis on the topic of Post-modernism but I am narrowing my focus on the theological method of Stanley Grenz, one of the theological architects of the Emerging Church. I just finished reading his Revisioning Evangelical Theology and I must say that taken at the surface level Grenz presents a lot of good correctives to the stereotypical fundy. However, Grenz has some particular aspects of his re-visioned theology that are both alarming and troublesome. Though I plan on making excepts of what I am writing available here as I go through the process, I wanted to take the time to play in the middle of the road for a moment.

Although I am both saddened and frustrated at some of the antics done by so-called fundamentalists (whom I affectionatly call Fundies), the core of what I term historic fundamentalism is ironically obscured by them. One of those concepts defended by the reformers is sola scriptura. By this the reformers meant that the scripture is the only authoritatively preserved message from God. However, the sterotypical fundy obscures scripture when he/she ignores the context of a passage of scripture and instead uses his or her own sense of morality for determining what is right or wrong. In effect some fundies violate sola scriptura by going off into tangents, especially if they do not relate back to the text at hand. This certainly cannot be how we are to interpret the Bible.

The Post-modern side is not much better since Grenz suggests that in contrast to the fundamentalist/reformers view of one source of theology (scripture) and the catholic church’s dual source of theology (scripture and the magesterium), there are four sources that must be involved in determining theology: scripture, culture, community, Spirit enlightenment. ((In the Barthian sense – Scripture becomes the word of God when mixed with my faith.)) At least for the post-modern they freely admit their sources! This is something that the fundy does not do since he is perhaps blind to his slipping in of other sources. Fundies are more post-modern then they would like to admit. ((This is actually part of Grenz’s point. He takes a descriptive view of evangelicalism – an evangelical is one who looks like an average evangelical today. Since a major section of evangelicalism has  abandoned a strict understanding of sola scriptura, it is natural for him to assume that the abandonment of “scripture alone” is a mark of an evangelical.))

My point here is to introduce what I am going to be working on for the next couple months and I am letting off some steam (in a good way.) If I were to give a one word critique of Grenz’s Revisioning, I would say it was perplexing. I found myself simultaneously agreeing with some parts and then within a paragraph saying, “did he really just say that!” His history of the progress of thought from modernism (specifically the outflow of the enlightenment) to post-modernism is a good introduction to the issue. However, his dealing with the concerns of the (historic) fundamentalist is basically negative though he acknowledges their contributions. It was frustrating that he never makes his proposal about what to do with post-modernism clear in the text. It was like trying to pull teeth to get him to tell us what he was proposing. ((I think his purpose was more apologetic then a polemic. He writes as thought it is assumed that post-moderism is the correct world view and is explaining what he believes to be evangelicalism’s shift towards it. )) He also has little if any bad things to say about post-modernism, especially when he contrasts it to modernism. I would like to have seen him cover in this volume more about what he means by community, but he thoroughly covers that concept in other writings such as his “Created for the Community.”

Probably next post I will list some of the issues that I will need to deal with in this thesis. I need to finish up my proposal and get it to the Professor later this week.

 

The Center for Terrible Preaching

For a couple years now I’ve thought about creating a website dedicated examples of bad preaching. The intent was to be something of a warning for guys like me to accept criticism and thus learn from my mistakes. Out of curiosity, I typed “examples of bad preaching” in to google and it returned several websites that kind of hit on this theme, though none of them seem particularly dedicated to the topic. I did however stumble across some excellent blog posts about examples of bad preaching. Thought I would share some with you. It’s a start and perhaps I will add more to the category when I see them.

Bad preaching 101 to go along with my eisagesis 101 

Bad preaching from a Catholic perspective

An short post about how bad preaching led to financial hardship for a church

 

 

 

Worship Part 2

In this post, I seek to define worship in a very rudimentary way. Certainly worship is much larger than can be described in a couple paragraphs, but I want to give a couple thoughts regarding its definition. The Wesminster Shorter catachism summarizes the entire topic of worship as it asks its first question, “What is the chief end of man” ((http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/WSC_frames.html)). The response is simple: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” ((Ibid.)) Thus, worship is expressly tied to God’s glory.

Jonathan Edwards also helps to understand this idea when he writes,

God is glorified not only by his glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. God made the world that he might communicate, and the creature receive, his glory . . . both [with] the mind and the heart. He that testifies his having an idea of God’s glory [doesn’t] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation [i.e., his heartfelt commendation or praise] of it and his delight in it” ((http://www.apuritansmind.com/jonathanedwards/JonathanEdwards-Miscellanies-Happiness.htm)).

At its basic meaning, worship is ascribing honor and worth to the one being worshiped. Worship is not for the benefit of the worshiper nor directed at the worshiper. Rather, worship is the response of God’s people to the person and work of the Trinity. As Frame writes, “worship ‘in Spirit and Truth,’ then is Trinitarian worship – worship that is aware of the distinctive work of the Father, the Son and the Spirit for our salvation.” ((Frame John. Worship in Spirit and Truth. (Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing,1996.), 7.)) Worship is foundational to the vertical relationship between the worshiper and the worshiped and therefore important to the life of believers.

Worship Part 1

When you think of worship, what comes to mind? Probably for a christian two things immediately are given as an answer. The first being music (and by extension the worship service) and second being the time when a bunch of people who gather in a place to hear someone speak something about some book called the Bible. Both of these views are popular, but neither takes into account the teaching of scripture. These next posts will deal with worship begining with the question” what is worship?”

In order to answer this first question, we must first deal with the above misconceptions of worship. First, worship is not limited to music, although music is an important aspect of worship. Rather, Paul indicates in his letter to the Ephesians that they are to build one another up with songs. Second, worship is not just a social gathering. Many treat the Sunday service as nothing more than a social event, even if that event is to hear a sermon.

Both of these events have a singular goal in mind: to build up the believers so that they are equipped for the work of the ministry. Worship is not an activity of a believer, rather it is their total attitude in every setting of life.

Traveling

After graduation at Northland International University, I have been traveling with my parents and sister to her home in South Dakota. While here, I have opportunity to take in the local sights.

This morning, My parents and I visited Mount Rushmore. While not my first time to visit, it was the first time that I had clear view of the enormous sculptures. On my previous visits, it was dark, cloudy, and miserable as my family tried to distinguish the faces of the four presidents.

However, today was an amazingly beautiful day! We were finally able to see the mountain in the splendor of the morning sun.

Among many of the amazing facts about the mountain is that the sculptor Gutzon Borglum chose the exact spot that the monument rests to catch the morning light.  The incredible planing and the multitude of scale models and prototypes is staggering, but through all of the trial and error Borglum created on of the most recognizable landmarks of American history.

While the human race indeed can create works of art that are stunning in complexity or sheer size, God’s created works far surpassing the finite works of human beings.

From Genesis 1 and the creation account, the vast heavens, the masses of land, animals, plants, and everything else is declared to be the direct creation of God. Not only did he create it, but the quality of all of it was “very good.”

Not the least of God’s creation is human kind. In Psalm 139:14, the writer, David, states that he (any by extension every other human being) is fearfully and wonderfully made. In the providence of God, the human being is treasured by God and is special to Him. Perhaps because humans are created in the image of God, He takes delight in these creatures. It is  God’s delight in His creation (though defiled) that we should look back to our creator. And just like a mountain carved to reflect the images of great men of history, we should reflect back the image of the great God who created us.

Theology Matters

What we believe about God dramatically shapes the way that we live. All of us are theologians because we all have thoughts about God. These thoughts shape our lives and mold us into the people we are. The atheist rejects the evidence of a creator God and he or she becomes the ultimate arbitrator of truth and morality. The pantheist sees god  in every object. The polytheist believe that the gods fight petty wars among themselves just as humans do. Each of them however forms the thoughts and actions of the people who hold them.

The Theist alone looks to God’s own revelation of Himself for his or her theology. They contend hard with the words of scripture which claim to be spoken directly by Him.

Theology is not difficult because we don’t have God’s words: we have them collected and preserved in the Bible. Theology is difficult because we are fallen and finite beings. Sin distorts our view of God reflected in scripture and we naturally “suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18) about God.

Our theology must be guided by scripture. This is true, but we must also recognize that our nature makes looking at the scripture correctly difficult. For this we must have the one who wrote the scripture enlighten us to understand what He revealed. This is percisely what Paul prays for in Ephesians 1.

16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come

Ephesians 4:32

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

While many pastors focus on the imperative to “be kind” and its attendant “forgiveness”, often overlooked is that the ultimate motivation for us to forgive other fallible human beings lies in the forgiveness that we ourselves received from God.

Forgiveness is not not found necessarily in words, but is demonstrated. Love for fallen human beings motivated God to forgive us through the work of Christ (Ephesians 4:4-6).  While much can be said about God’s forgiveness, our forgiveness of one another for things mundane or critical should be motivated by that same thing which motivated God: Love!

The apostle Paul used a term that is often translated “tenderhearted” to describe the compassion of a person as he or she looks at the plight of another. That strong, intense focus on the one who wronged us should move our focus to how we have wronged God and yet he still forgave us.

Forgiving others is not our first thought when we are wronged. It is not natural for us to forgive. In fact, it is impossible to forgive another human being in the same way that God forgave us unless we forgive in Christ. It is Christ’s redemption work that provides the foundation for us to forgive one another.

Therefore, since God forgave us much we are able to forgive others much for their inconsistencies, failed promises, and pain they caused us (and hopefully others will forgive us for our own failures as well.)