Heated Times Call for Hermeneutics
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
If it was not obvious to us before, how critical the nature of understanding our Bible is, 2020 is giving us a good shake down. In the midst of global and national crises believer and non-believer alike are relearning and reevaluating what is true. Heated topics today including but not limited to masks, politics, education, racism, viruses and vaccines have truly shaken many of us to more profoundly assess how we arrive at what we believe to be 'truth' or 'knowledge', this is also known as epistemology . For the Christian, there is no separating epistemology, opinions or beliefs from our fundamental understanding of God's Truth, the Bible. Well, there shouldn't be anyways. Christians' religious, political, and cultural opinions must be formed by and filtered through the Word of God alone (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Galatians 1:8; Acts 17:28; 1 Corinthians 6-13).
How do we do that? We have to start taking our Bible reading seriously. If all of our actions and beliefs are to be birthed out of "Christian principles" we absolutely must know how to read the Word of God for what it is. The process by which we read and develop Biblical interpretation is called hermeneutics. Hermeneutics determines for us how we can accurately interpret the Scriptures and correctly apply them to life.
But why hermeneutics? Well, logically I cannot assert that having proper hermeneutics guarantees all Christians are going to agree on every single issue socially, politically or theologically because they just don't. Even the really 'smart' guys with lots of degrees in theology do not agree sometimes. I also cannot assert that anyone's hermeneutic before Christ's final return, including my own, is ever going to be perfect (1 Corinthians 13:12). But what having solid hermeneutics can do is help us appropriately discern and apply the Scriptures to our lives all to the glory of He who is the living Word (Hebrews 4:12). We study hermeneutics so that coupled with the divine power of the Holy Spirit we bend our will to His Word and not His Word to our will. Here are some accessible and reliable resources that have helped shape my understanding of hermeneutics:
The SimplyPut podcast is slowly becoming one of my favorites. As its name states, this podcast seeks to explain complex theological/Biblical terms as "simply put" as possible. This 5 minute episode is a robust yet concise explanation of hermeneutics and its importance.
Another helpful resource, published by Crossway, is an article series called Bible Q&A: specifically, the short article titled What is Hermeneutics?. This article helps break down "hermeneutics" by using a practical example with a commonly misunderstood passage of Scripture found in Jeremiah 29:11. And yes, it will probably step on your toes like it did mine but I highly recommend this article.
I try to recommend as many free resources as I can, but every once in a while I find a resource that's not free but is profoundly helpful and worth the money. Inductive Bible Study is just that. It is a great base for understanding evangelical hermeneutics through observation, interpretation and application of God's Word. It can be purchased through christianbook.com or Amazon.
Ligonier Ministries has published a twelve part series called Knowing Scripture taught by Dr. R.C Sproul. Each 'class' is about 30 minutes broken down into topics such as: private interpretation, the science of interpretation, literal interpretation, scripture & culture and many more. The fact that this is a free resource right now is amazing to me. This series could practically be an academic theology course at any major seminary, but for free.
Lastly, navigators has published a 7 step Bible study process that can be implemented into daily Bible reading to help keep a solid hermeneutical lens for reading Scripture. This is an extremely practical and useful resource for implementing what you can learn from the previous resources.