Sunday, March 07, 2010

It's All about Interpretation | Dr. Bob Payne

Have you ever noticed the many parallels between theological liberalism and political liberalism? Have you ever noticed how many who embrace theological liberalism also embrace political liberalism? Is this all just a coincidence? I don't think so. I believe that both theological liberals and political liberals in the U.S. share a common hermeneutic with regard to their authoritative documents. You see, it's all about interpretation.

The political liberal interprets the U.S. Constitution as a “living document” that was written so long ago that it is irrelevant to today's society. As a result, he believes that the Constitution should not be interpreted so literally. The political liberal also believes that it is acceptable for the judiciary to “legislate from the bench.” Instead of following a strict constructionist interpretation of the Constitution, it is perfectly acceptable for the courts to change or make up new laws as needed. Interpretive principles such as context and original intent are set aside as unimportant. Things outside of the Constitution, such as foreign court cases and foreign laws become influential in Constitutional interpretation. In essence, to the political liberal, the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution is reader-centered, not author-centered.

In a similar way, theological liberals also treat the Word of God as a “living document” that does not need to be interpreted in a literal manner. Making up doctrine, and outrightly ignoring, despising, or doubting what God has clearly written in His Word is the order of the day. Many important interpretive principles such as context and an historical understanding of the text are set aside. To the theological liberal interpretation is not concerned with a meaning rising naturally from the text, but one that is imposed forcefully upon the text. In a similar manner to the political liberal, the theological liberal approaches the interpretation of the biblical text in a way that is reader-centered instead of Author-centered.

Although you and I may consider ourselves to be both politically and theologically “conservative,” we still need to make sure that we completely avoid the liberal man-centered approach to biblical interpretation. We need to approach the Bible with a consistently literal hermeneutic and allow the text to speak to us. Although we may generally adhere to sound doctrine, we must not approach the text of Scripture with an inconsistent hermeneutic so as to confuse Israel and the church, view the kingdom as something that is to be lived “here and now,” or teach that the rapture is anything but imminent. Let us strive for a biblical interpretation which allows the text to be consistently understood its normal sense.

From the February 2010 Review (