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The Science of Interpretation

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
November 8, 2021 12:01 am

The Science of Interpretation

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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November 8, 2021 12:01 am

We are privileged to read the Bible. But with this privilege comes the responsibility to interpret Scripture correctly. Today, R.C. Sproul introduces foundational rules, methods, and principles for drawing out the intended meaning of God's Word.

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There is a sense in which the science of biblical interpretation has provoked a major and serious crisis for the church. Stay with us Renewing Your Mind is next voices of interpretation means that somewhere someone is getting the meaning of Scripture one welcome to Renewing Your Mind on this Monday.

This week we have the privilege of presenting Dr. RC Sproul series knowing Scripture is the duty of every believer, not just read God's word but to study with this privilege comes the responsibility to interpret it correctly. Here's RC we want to concentrate in this session together on the foundational principles and concepts of the science of biblical interpretation, there's a sense in which interpreting the Bible is an art, maybe even would be better to call it a science, but for a moment at least, let's stick with the analogy of art.

We went through a period of art in the last 25 years where there was kind of a freewheeling artistic expression where the artist was asked what did you mean by your painting and his response was I meant whatever you find in it. That is a new rule of interpreting art emerged in some circles of art that said that the artist now has the license to make this statement by paying it you interpret that is a conscious step to embrace a form of subjectivism that says there is no inherent meaning in the art. There is no objective significance to what the artist has painted or has sculpted but rather whatever you find in it or however you respond to it is its ultimate meaning now that his provoked a kind of crisis in the field of biblical understanding, because in that approach to art if we were transferred to the Bible would leave us with no guidelines of objectivity. No rules by which we can discover an objective meaning. I remember the framework that I'm working on. Here is the assertion that I've made that there is in fact only one ultimately correct meaning to Scripture and objective meaning, and it's the meaning that the author of Scripture had in mind and we can look at data to levels in two dimensions. We could try to understand the meaning that Luke had in his mind as he wrote his gospel.

His intention. What was he trying to express what was he trying to say what was he trying to communicate is one level of our search for understanding the Bible I'm coming from that school of thought that believes that the Bible comes ultimately from God and that through the agency of the Holy Spirit, God is the ultimate author and so what were looking for in interpreting the Bible is what does God have in mind here. What was God communicating to his people. When, through the agency of the prophets or the apostles. Certain books of Scripture were set for now. If we take that view of the Bible that there is an objective meaning, then we need to look at the Bible and the whole business of interpreting the Bible not only as an art but as a science, and in fact there is a science, an academic discipline a particular subdivision of theology that is exclusively concerned for looking at the scientific rules and methods and principles that ought to govern our attempts to interpret the Scripture, every science has certain rules and methods that are followed within it, and sometimes there are differences and controversies that arise within a science as to what are the proper rules and what are the proper methods of approaching a certain sides of the field of psychology.

For example there are all different forms of competing approaches of methods to finding the best way to do psychology and that's found even in medical science and astronomy, and virtually every science, there is has its competing schools of thought on what is the best method to approach the field.

One of the most important rules to be followed. Now there is a sense in which the science of biblical interpretation has provoked a major and serious crisis for the church know when theologians discuss this crisis. They talk about it in terms of a technical word for it, which is the word hermeneutics.

Some of you perhaps have never even heard the word. Other ones you let it fall off your lips very casually normal conversation.

The hermeneutical problem here, and so on, and you may be very knowledgeable of the disputes that are involved in that field, but hermeneutics only just take a minute the spell it for you HERNENE you TIC S hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is simply a fancy word to describe the science of biblical interpretation. If you remember your Roman mythology, Mercury, the one with the winged fate had a special responsibility in the pantheon of deities to be the messenger of the God, and that's why he has wings on his feet so that he can fly from Olympus to our third back again and speedily bring the messages that need to be brought back and forth. He is the supreme communicator. He's the FDD of the ancient world. In the Greek pantheon, the corresponding God to Mercury was the God Hermes.

He was the messenger of the gods, and it's the same basic concepts we are trying to understand in the science of hermeneutics. The message of Scripture.

What is it communicating what is it conveying what is it saying, and hence we have this special discipline or science that we call hermeneutics will I said a moment ago that right now in this decade the church is facing one of its most severe theological crises in the whole history of Christendom and it focuses on this very question of hermeneutics of how do we interpret the Bible we could go back in the history forth the basic roots of the problem and there have been different watersheds in church history were hermeneutics is raised. That said, as a serious question. There are many competing schools of hermeneutics vying for acceptance within the church today and I don't have time. In this brief introduction and overview to set forth in detail the various nuances of these many different schools of thought thought just mention three.

In passing, so that we can get at least a taste and a flavor of some of the agitation that's going on out there in the churches in the colleges in the seminary so that we can understand what's up with respect to biblical interpretation. The first method, which I will call the classical Orthodox, Protestant method of biblical interpretation that which was formulated by the 16th century reformers and maintained itself.throughout the ages and is still maintained in conservative schools of thought is known as the grammatical historical school know there's another technical term and will see if I can spell out the top of my head GR a MMATICO – historical grammatical historical school that school of hermeneutics takes its name from the idea that the proper approach to biblical interpretation is to try to study the historical situation in which the Bible was written, the use of grammar, syntax, language, and all the rest that was being used at the time the documents were written and by studying carefully word meanings of the first century and before coming to an understanding of the original meaning of the texts. What did Luc mean when he wrote the gospel of Luke to first century people. How could we reasonably expect his writings to be understood at that time in history. What was there grammatical and historical understanding of the text and the grammatical historical view says that's the way were approach the Bible and that's the way we are to understand the Bible. Now, how it was written and we still have the problem of applying it to the 20th century, but we recognize that the documents themselves are high are trained are tethered if you will, to the historical context in which they were originally written, and that's the context in which we should seek to reconstruct if we want to have an accurate understanding of them at the same time, we recognize that as interpreters when we come to the Bible. We also have a historical situation and our historical situation is the 20th century. I live in an age of atomic bombs in automobiles and television and all that and there's a sense in which my whole way of thinking my whole way of understanding is very much conditioned by my cultural setting and were going to look at that in more detail with some of the problems that it raises later on but yourself for the moment. We understand that we as interpreters live in the 20 century and is a sense in which work tethered to our own day so there is a gap between the 20th century and the first century and earlier in the science of hermeneutics in the grammatical historical method seeks to bridge that gap by having us go back and try to reconstruct the first century. Other approaches say we don't have to do that. What we'll do is we'll take our 20th century concepts in our 20 century standpoint. I go back and rewrite the Scriptures. According to 20th century. Think that's a different school of thought which will get at a little later, but the classical method is to seek the objective meaning of the past.

That's number one. Then after we understand what it meant. Then then we face the question of applying it to our present-day situation, but is much as possible. We try not to let our present-day situation color or distort the original meaning of the text of the second method, which was developed in the 19th century is called the religious historical method. The religious – historical method. Now that represented an approach to Scripture that grew out of a whole sweeping movement of philosophy and changing of thinking and method that was characteristic of the 19th century there was a buzzword in 19 century intellectual thought it was the word evolution. Everybody is aware of the impact of evolution in biology but it wasn't just Darwin in biology.

The concept of evolution was made felt in other areas in philosophy and emerging philosophies of history like Karl Marx, for example, like Hegel, for example also informs of political theory like Spencer, social Darwinism ideas that the whole process of history, art, economics literature, everything is involved in a process of emerging and the basic governing idea is that history and art and everything else moves biology from the simple to the complex and the governing assumption was that religion does the same, and that all religions emerge from primitive types of animism and polytheism and then as it gets more sophisticated moves to monotheism and to a more highly structured ethical abstract system and that system was imposed on the Bible saying that we got to understand the Old Testament, for example, is simply an early primitive historical development.

Just like any other religious things and that really Abraham was probably a polytheist he believed in many gods and so on that you don't really have ethical monotheism until the time of the seventh century prophets, and so on. Now that viewpoint made quite an impact on the church when I went to seminary. It was standard operating procedure. You were considered a backwoods idiot. If you did not accept the documentary hypothesis of the Old Testament. I'm sure most of you heard about that the first five books of the Bible were not written by Moses, but they were written by various sources of varying periods of history and their sources are indicated a number J TED and P and then it got more sophisticated J1J2 P1 so one or multiple authors over many many centuries. Read change the revised and finally came up with the books that are attributed to Moses, but they were relatively of late origin and that governed biblical interpretation as if it was an absolutely gone conclusion incontestable established that no the theories of evolution that underline those approaches to the Bible have pretty much gone by the boards. Although some still hold them in smaller circuits, but some of the interpretive principles are still very much alive. The documentary hypothesis J EDP that kinda stuff is everywhere to be found as established, proven fact that Sulla's written article were some Hebrew scholars not Christian but 54 Israeli scholars subjected the five books of the Pentateuch to the most rigorous linguistic syntactical evaluation that any portion of the Bible is ever been submitted to by computer. 54 scholars gave the most radically sizable amount of data that could be fed a computer to analyze objectively authorship of the first five books of the Bible and wouldn't you know the computer spewed out the results according to the computer that there was no question about it. Statistically that the first five books of the Old Testament were written by a single I predict right now little take 40 years before the scientific proof of that will be accepted in the theological world because it smashes an idle of the religious historical school of multiple authorship of the Pentateuch, but not here to debate that point, but simply to illustrate you that there are different schools of thought. The third one and the one that is most influential in our day. I'm going to call broadly the existential school next essential school of thought which is given us the so-called new hermeneutic says that were not really interested in the original historical situation because it doesn't relate to us today. What we need is a theology that is timeless is not bound to the first century or even bond of the 20th century, but transcends that all that redemption is something that doesn't happen along historical lines, but happens vertically directly from above where I come to the Bible and the way I interpret it is existentially in my own existential situation.

God can speak to me out of the blue cyclic bone open directly from above the blue and that somehow the Bible in an instant, becomes the word of God to me as God speaks to me through it.

But the Bible civilly becomes a vehicle for this existential experience that takes place.

So in this sense, we are approaching very rapidly. The idea of the Bible being what modern artists. Luke wrote it, but we interpret freewheeling, according to our own existential situation with their friends.

I am convinced that does radical violence to the text of Scripture not only violence to the text of Scripture, but it does violence to the church and it does violence ultimately to the truth of Christ, and so I for one contend against it with all of the strength that I can bring about in this debate we sing the same problem of the intrusion of relativism and interpretation, not simply in the religious realm, but in our own National Heritage, the Supreme Court of the United States is by historical appointment, primarily a hermeneutical agency. What does that mean that means that the function of the Supreme Court is to interpret the Constitution of the United States of America and measure it against existing bits of legislation of Congress passes a law and you don't think it's constitutional. You can appeal it all away the Supreme Court for a ruling the court. It was originally designed to do was to look at the current law.

Look at the Constitution and see if the two are in harmony.

And if they're not the loss thrown out is unconstitutional. But that requires interpretation and interpreting the Constitution and the traditional method in the courts was to interpret the Constitution according to the grammatical historical method until recent were a whole new approach has now been embraced that says we can reinterpret the Constitution not does this law really fit with what the fathers thought about in the 18 century. But does this law really meet contemporary community standards, watch sports, watch morning news watch for the legislative additions. The governing principle of constitutionality has become consistency with contemporary community standards which change and change and change because we bought into view of relativist. There are no absolutes. There are no law-abiding principles. And if that's the case, then the Constitution itself can no longer function as an objective foundational guide for future behavior and so you can actually change the Constitution, not by constitutional amendment. But by simply re-interpreting. That's the kind of crisis we have in the Christian faith in the Christian church and that's why the science of hermeneutics is vital because if the new hermeneutic prevails that we will have a Jesus who is not the same yesterday today and forever, but a Jesus who goes through as many changes as the theologians who are interpreting were going to be searching for an objective method ever going to be examining ways to establish it throughout the rest of this and we look forward to hearing more messages from the series. The rest of this week as Dr. Spruill pointed out the if there is no objective truth and we have no confidence that Christ was raised from the dead through which the apostle Paul replied we are of all people most to be pitied. Thank you for joining us today for Renewing Your Mind and that this week we are featuring messages from Dr. RC Sproul series knowing Scripture in 12 messages. He provides a solid foundation not only for a published study Scripture but why we can trust Scripture, we like to send you the full series contained on four DVDs simply contact us today with a donation of any about the litigator ministries.

Our phone number is 800-435-4343 you can call us with your request or you can go online to Renewing Your Mind.org.

Our study today is yet another reminder why we must return to Scripture in every area of life is why the church is reformed and always reforming constantly tracking the plumb line so to speak. Dr. Spruill always emphasized the importance of understanding the foundational doctrines in Scripture. You've probably heard us talk about reformed theology. Dr. Spruill was unapologetically reformed and is teaching and here's why. Recently we had a board meeting because linear ministries sit for 20 years this ministry has focused on teaching outreach on addressing the Catholic questions of Christianity the doctrine of God. The doctrine of the authority of Scripture the person and work of Christ, being careful not to give too much emphasis to the distinctives of the theology that I personally embrace the reformed faith because we want to minister to the broad evangelical audience because we understand that the church is being torn apart. In this day not over issues of predestination or not, but over issues of whether or not God exists, but at this meeting I said look we done that we produce materials. Now it's time to go to phase 2 on the boards of what you mean by face. So I said I'm tied up was the fourth because I don't think wherever you see a healthy evangelical church until the evangelical church is reformed solidly before were takes seriously biblical Christianity and its concept of a sovereign God because unreformed Christianity has failed in our culture.

It is been pervasively antinomian. It is been pervasively liberal in its trends and tendencies away from Scripture because there's not a basal commitment to the sovereignty of God is on like a playwright anymore or people tell me that they don't believe in predestination on the grandmother from, say, why not. The Bible teaches that said enough of your humanistic clinging to your concept of free will… Foreign from the biblical doctrine of the bondage of sin in the heart that you can find. Nevermind that the majority report of evangelicals is Arminian. I'm not and I think Arminianism's death to Christianity in the final analysis, the heart of reformed theology at the heart of the loser struggle at the heart of Calvin's awakenings at the heart of Knox at the heart of Edwards were men who were awakened to the greatness to the Majesty to the holiness of the sovereignty of God, and finally by contemplating the holiness of God and the sovereignty of God favored Crippen to develop their doctrines of the grace of God because until you face a God who is holy and who is altogether sovereign. You don't know what grace means for most Christians really never get outside of the temple experience of the Pharisee who says I think I will pray God. I thank you very much, but that miserable sinner over there Pharisee parade. He went to church and expresses gratitude acknowledging that to some degree, and in some measure the owed his righteousness to God.

Second elective miserable sinner over there where the other man can even with the said Lord, be merciful to me a sinner's controversies.

Roland will continue his series knowing Scripture tomorrow.

We do hope you'll join us and see addresses the wrestling match in the church regarding how to interpret Scripture. He'll explain why it's critical that we interpret the Bible literally. I hope you'll join us Tuesday for Renewing Your Mind


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