Conservative Theology

December 29, 2008

The Bible / The "Plain Sense" Meaning of Scripture

JB

Over at Ancient Hebrew Poetry there is a fascinating conversation going on about hermeneutics and the "plain sense" meaning of scripture.  The context is a post about complementarianism/egalitarianism, but I found the general conversation in the comments about the "plain sense" meaning to be much more interesting.

December 09, 2008

The Bible / Modern Pharisees

JB

Wade Hodges made an interesting post about the righteousness of the Pharisees, but I think he has it exactly backwards.

I'll have to disagree here, because  Jesus was explicit about the Pharisees' problem.  At various time, Jesus offered these criticisms of the Pharisees:

  1. They followed man's commands/traditions instead of God's commands, using their own traditions to trump God's commands.  See especially Matthew 15.
  2. They made rules for others that they themselves broke (23:2ff)
  3. They held the outward appearance of righteousness but lacked the heart (Matthew 15:19-20)
  4. They misrepresented what the primary concerns were from the secondary concerns, emphasizing the secondary but ignoring the primary (Matthew 23:23)

Jesus's criticism of the Pharisees was absolutely NOT that they were too focused on scripture, it was that they weren't focused enough, and instead were too focused on themselves.  They used scripture as an excuse for doing/believing what they wanted to do, instead of listening carefully to what scripture was saying.

The discussion about "We keep it simple, we follow the Bible" was almost nonsensical.  It's a matter of epistemological priority - how would we know what Jesus said to follow Him if we didn't follow the Bible?  In fact, I have seen it happen that many try to put words and meanings into Jesus' mouth which clearly are not Biblical.  I think this is a better representation of a modern Pharisee - someone who uses Jesus as leverage to get what they want, self-justify their attitudes/actions, feel good about themselves, and live righteously according to their own self-determined standard of righteousness, rather than submitting to scripture and what scripture says about Jesus and the community of faith. 

This happens from both liberal and conservative ends - conservatives can hold too tightly to traditions which have arisen (which may have even made sense at the time) but which are non-Biblical, and elevated those traditions above scripture's commands.  Liberals tend to take their own sense of morality (whatever it is), then make a general feel-good argument about the kind of things Jesus would do (without actually studying the scriptures to see if this is true), and then claim Jesus' authority for their own beliefs and actions.

I think these are the modern  representatives of the Pharisees - those who favor human tradition and knowledge above God's revelation.

I actually think that this post of Wade's is a bit Pharisaical itself - he could have easily spent the time to study what it is that Jesus did or said about the Pharisees, and then followed Jesus, but instead decided to use Jesus as a means of attacking people and ideas that he himself finds disagreeable.