Last night I was sorting through some memorabilia and found the folders full of letters Billy and I wrote each other during out courtship, along with the journal I kept. I spent about an hour traveling down memory lane, and in all honesty I could have spent a lot longer than that!
Anyway, I discovered a written disagreement we had about a scriptural issue, and for the first time in my life, he introduced me to the term "proof text" (a term I used in this post about the book So Much More). I can't believe I had been a Christian for so long and no one had told me that there's a right and wrong way to interpret scripture, but I know I'm not alone in this. I have to chalk it up to the lack of personal discipleship in a lot of churches. Stuff like this is important. So if you're interested in the ins and outs of biblical interpretation, Billy is our guest blogger today (unbeknown to him *g*). Here's what he wrote...I hope you enjoy the conversational tone...Remember, this is from our correspondence.
...The real problem is with the Interpretive Principle...It is called proof-texting. [The people we're discussing] are finding Scripture to fit and match their lifestyle and choices. They find a text (Biblical passages) that "proves" what they believe. This is a dangerous principle of interpretation and is absolutely wrong. If there were Scripture passages that deal with [our issue of disagreement] then those passages need to be exegeted to determine God's word on the matter. There are no such Scriptural passages. This form of interpretive principle is wrong every time. It is just like what situational ethics says: "Your choice depends on the situation." [If you approach the Bible like this, the meaning of] each Scripture passage can very with each person. The Bible says Scripture is not of any private interpretation. There is a certain meaning for each passage of Scripture. Following are just two of the many passages that deal with interpretation.
(Gen. 40:5NKJV) Then the butler and the baker of the kind of Egypt, who were confined in the prison, had a dream, both of them, each man's dream in one night and each man's dream with its own interpretation.
(2 Pet. 1:19-21 NKJV) And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
The use of "proof-texting" can lead to any kind of doctrine. This is the way cults are formed, with private interpretation. I could use this method and come up with a doctrine of education in which a Synagogue system would be God's chosen way. A doctrine of clothing--we should only wear the type of clothes God's people wore in the Bible--it is God's chosen way. A doctrine of healing--let's forget modern medicine and just trust God, He is the Great Physician--you are not really trusting God if you use modern medicine, [because it's not] in the Bible. Just trust God, He will heal you. (Those that die didn't have enough faith, poor them.) A doctrine of drinking only water or wine at meals...A doctrine of wealth...You can see where this can lead...
By the way, we resolved the issue of disagreement quite nicely, and here we are today!
I have to say, since this was all new to me, and I was already a tiny bit intimidated by his pastoral position, I felt a little...How shall I say...At a disadvantage against his seminary training. What I didn't understand at the time is that you don't have to go to seminary to learn how to interpret scripture. A couple good resources:
How to Study the Bible by Kay Arthur (I must admit with some consternation that Billy go this for me and I haven't read it yet. Shame, shame.)
The Christian Research Institute also has some excellent resources for learning to interpret God's Word for yourself. I like what Hank Hanegraaff says, "You can do it as well as I can and probably better." CRI ministered to my family in a wonderful way as we recovered from errant "Christianity" prior to my marriage.