Herman Who? Bible Study with Integrity

We watch the sun rise in the east and set in the west, and on this basis alone one could understandably believe the sun must orbit the earth. Of course, Copernicus settled this for us in the 16th-century proving that the earth orbits the sun but isn't it true that our point of view influences what we believe and, therefore, how we behave. What we believe about ideas and the world we live in shapes our worldview. This is true in science (paradigm), in relationships and yes, in our theology. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we see through a glass darkly and that our God is a great big God- so big we cannot possibly know everything there is to know about Him. But we can know in part!

Hermeneutic is a $4 word academics use which describes the process of interpreting. It's about perspective. When we talk about biblical hermeneutics, we are looking at biblical texts (bible study) and attempting to better understand not only the words used but how they were being used. Hermeneutics considers groups of words; paragraphs, chapters, and whole books. It wrestles with context; intended audience, their traditions, history and common experiences, language, the way the author and audience use the language, and the type of literature (allegory, parable, metaphor). Hermeneutic is important, for example, consider "if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off." (MT. 5) I am unaware of anyone who takes this literally. We employ hermeneutics and understand this is a figure of speech; it is descriptive, not prescriptive. We understand God doesn't want us to pluck out our eyes or cut off our hands, it communicates that sin is serious.

We all practice a kind of hermeneutic; some healthy, some not so healthy. Even the claim of a "plain reading of the scripture" is employing a hermeneutic, even if it is only through the bias of one's experience. Historically, some folks have misused scripture to justify slavery, war, violence, economic injustice, antisemitism and multiple other unhealthy postures with tragic results. More information continues to emerge that can often provide us better insight into the biblical texts. Practicing thoughtful hermeneutics allows us to get a little closer to the heart and intent of the words and big ideas being expressed in scripture.

The Spirit to whom scripture points, invites us deeper into the pages of scripture. We are invited into the history, culture, tradition, history, euphemisms and bigger story of the Kingdom of God through scripture. We can be freed from myopic bias' and fears, to be scandalized afresh by the Good News of the Kingdom of God! If we are indeed serious about the Bible, we need to practice prayerful and thoughtful hermeneutic lest we risk making scripture say some things it never intended about people and God; which have resulted in some very tragic consequences throughout history. I contend the best starting place is the person of Jesus, who is the best, most accurate picture of the nature and character of God.

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