(This series was presented to the Ezzo Debate Board at iVillage by Pastor Mike Mahurin, or "Metochoi" as he was known by his screenname. Mahurin pastored a Baptist church in a small town in Texas. On the Ezzo Debate he put his teaching skills to use to acquaint participants with principles of logic and standard Protestant bible interpretation. Although he passed away in 2009, his clear and helpful writing is a gift he left behind.)
HERMENEUTICS #1 --- INTRODUCTION
It has often been said that, for any particular passage of scripture, there is only ONE interpretation, but there are MANY applications. But how do you set about to apply a scripture that you have misinterpreted in the first place? If the interpretation is wrong, then the odds are pretty high that just about ANY application will be erroneous, as well. This is why a proper hermeneutic is crucial in any discussion of doctrine, interpretation, application, etc.
"Hermeneutics" is a word used by theologians to refer to the science of biblical interpretation. It is a foundational building block of good theology and good practice . In fact, the major streams of theology within confessing Christianity differ largely because of the distinctive hermeneutical methods they use.
In Luke 24, on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection, Jesus "explained" to his walking companions the OT scriptures relating to his own life and ministry. That word translated "explained" is the Greek word "hermeneuo" -- meaning "interpreted". Jesus was "interpreting" the scriptures.
Although there are many seminary graduates who seem to ignore what they were taught in this area, the fact is that virtually all evangelical seminaries teach the same basic methods of biblical interpretation. There are several standard texts that are used in most of them. These principles have been developed throughout the history of the church by godly, learned men, and they have formed the foundation of what is considered sound doctrine since the days of the reformers.
The problem of our day is that so many Christians -- including many who would consider themselves quite conservative -- have been infected with the notion that just about any personal interpretation is as good as any other -- that one opinion is as valid as another -- and that one application is as solid as any other. The truth is that, while everyone has a right to his own opinion, NO ONE has the right to have his opinion accepted as valid, or even respected, without showing some evidence FOR that opinion. The same principle applies to scriptural interpretation.
So -- how are we to go about testing competing interpretations? How are we to test Ezzo's assertions about the biblical evidence concerning "spanking," or "order," or "first-time obedience"? How would you go about testing MINE -- or any other Ezzo-critic's? That is what the whole topic of hermeneutics is about.
IMO -- any serious Christian should strongly consider taking a course in hermeneutics from a local Bible college or seminary -- or even by mail order. It is too large a topic for this discussion list, but I will summarize a few of the more important principles that any of us should and could use in our Bible study, and when we hear anyone preaching anything from the Bible.
There are several "do's" that are important to learn. By practicing these methods, the serious Bible student should be able to at least learn to discern the major errors and departures from sound doctrine. There are also several "don'ts" -- things to avoid. And by learning about these wrong methods, and learning to notice when a teacher is practicing one of these wrong methods -- one can protect himself from falling for serious error.