Monday, January 30, 2006

Exegetics, exegetica, and on and on...

If you meet someone and they say to you, "I'm a an exegete and apart from me, you can have no knowledge of the gospel, of who Christ is, of what salvation is like, and of what the effect is to be when the gospel is applied to the life of the believer", then don't waste your time talking with him. Because I've already done it and it is useless. Exegetics itself is an extremely useful tool. It's the man behind the exegetics that has the potential to make it dangerous. The remark in question was as follows:

"Apart from exegetics, we have no knowledge of the gospel, of who Christ is, of what salvation is like, and of what the effect is to be when the gospel is applied to the life of the believer."

We are apart from God. Exegetics is also apart from God. God brings us into reconciliation with Himself through providing His Son to us for the purpose of bringing us into a relationship with Him that allows us to be in His presence. Let's not forget that exegetics is a man-made science which we use to look back at the words of the church fathers and ascertain, as close as we can, what they said. Or much more importantly what those God inspired authors were told. Even in that way, exegetics is especially limited in rendering an understanding that is complete by itself, in light of these statments of Paul's in 1 Cor. 2:

10[b](T)For to us God revealed them (U)through the Spirit;

. 12Now we (X)have received, not the spirit of (Y)the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,
13which things we also speak, (
Z)not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

1 Cor. 6-7:
6Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are (A)mature; a wisdom, however, not of (B)this age nor of the rulers of (C)this age, who are (D)passing away;
7but we speak God's wisdom.



4and my message and my preaching were (F)not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of (G)the Spirit and of power,
5so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on (
H)the power of God.

I think God just spoke for Himself.

Nothing stated here is suggesting we should discard exegetics. Nor that anybody even wants to. However, exegetics can be right and it can be wrong, depending on it's practice in the fallen hands of any given man.

One of the problems during our practicing of exegetics is, we don't always do our business by doing what God said above, "...combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words".

The apostles could not always refer to, when given the available words in our fallen world, find one to convey God's Spirit-worldly intended meaning. Much of the time the apostles are actually introducing semantic definition and ideas within their message that hitherto did not exist, laying the groundwork for a new dictionary of words which only the bible has the definitions for, and therefore would be beyond the reach of any Greek lexicon or Hebrew dictionary.

In many cases the apostles were semantically incorrect, in our terms, but in all cases, do render their final intended meaning clearly with their surrounding statements.

The main problem in exegetics is that certain issues and meanings will never be agreed upon, within the practice of exegetics. The finest exegetes in the world now and forever will disagree. For that reason, I believe, exegetics, as a science, must fall into a subcategory, in the pursuit of meaning, within a larger body of discernment. It's all about discernment. And prudence. I'm surely not going to do a very good job clarifying those two virtues here, but possibly in some future posts I can have some fun and build on what I can extract from the bible about them. I'm simply trying to remove some roadblocks placed in front of the average believer by poorly done exegetics which may cause that believer to stumble in his efforts to cut through the confusion when seeking biblical Truths. I certainly do not claim to have the whole scheme figured out yet, and frankly I'm sure I never will have it completely, but in general, what I've said here appears to me to be accurate, and a fine starting point to continue from, while proceeding down the bramble infested highway of Christian growth.


The mind of the person in the opening illustration of this post is unduly empowering himself when he speaks,"Apart from exegetics,we have no knowledge of the gospel, of who Christ is, of what salvation is like, and of what the effect is to be when the gospel is applied to the life of the believer". And by assuming power in that fashion it is taking over control of the self contained and self empowered truths of the bible. What we have in this speaker is a very powerful human mind that has not grasped the well seasoned discernment it needs to aquire before it can properly apply exegetics towards biblical Truths.

Exegetics is a critical aid if we are to understand God's word, but poorly done, it can be useless. Dead. Poorly done exegetics can leave people with dangerous man-made conclusions involving the message of God's Word that may hinder the work of the Spirit in them and hinder their understanding of what Christ was sent here to do for them. So be careful.

I'm out of time so here are some proverbs that are truly enjoyable for me to contemplate with regards to the studying of the whole bible, therby allowing the Lord to speak its single meaning to us on His own terms.

Hope this stimulated as much thought in you as in me. Thanks for looking in. Any feedback would be relished, especially more in the way of critical counsel or correction, than in the way of agreement. Some edification please. No desire to debate, just to be corrected, insightfully, and share, and grow and be reconciled, towards the goal "of us all being in the one mind of Christ" which He asks us to strive after.

Those proverbs I mentioned:

God refers to the urtterances of His mouth saying "They are all straightforward to him who understands,..."

"and all desirable things cannot compare with her
(wisdom)".

"On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found"

"Where there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,..." It just makes you pause and
think doesn't it.

"I, wisdom dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion."

"From everlasting I was established...when He established the heavens I (wisdom) was there".

"a false balance is an abomination to the Lord". Watch your perspective.

"The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger". If He is referring to food, then He would feel even moreso about spiritual food. Jesus said "I am the True bread from heaven...", "Those who eat of Me will never hunger."

"But we have the mind of Christ". That is quite a gift.

8 comments:

Susan said...

Amen, Todd!

H K Flynn said...

Great Post Todd!

I'm not formally trained so I'm feeling my way here, praying for wisdom, learning from God's Word directly, learning from gifted people even those I disagree with.

I love how you isolated one thing said over at Veritas and really dealt with it. I especially agreed with:

I'm simply trying to remove some roadblocks placed in front of the average believer by poorly done exegetics which may cause that believer to stumble in his efforts to cut through the confusion when seeking biblical Truths

Exactl right. Infact I'd say sometimes the more people use the word exegetic the less they do it. Reformed books are light on Scriture compared to dispensational and free grace ones.

But I do believe God used the words with their standard grammatical, historical meanings, since he's not the author of confusion.

Anyway, I like how your blog deals with bluster, and am honored by the link :~)

God bless,

Jodie

Todd said...

Hi, and thanks for that sentiment Susan.

Hi Jodie,

Thanks. In my opinion, Veritas is a blog geared towards rhetorical skirmishing as opposed to fruitful Christian analysis. To almost a humorous extent only if the subject matter wasn't so important. Surely, they are a couple of academically gifted fellows but the rhetorical games they play betray their objectivity and their usefulness, well, and their potential too. When I was in college for a year and a half (almost 30 years ago), I thought the furious use of debate tactics was the end all of knowledge. And then I found out that I was winning but I wasn't convincing anybody or making good sense. Which really was no fun.

I think it's fascinating to explore all of the divergent Christian doctrines out there with each other, but to go to slam dunking each other with the same types of old tired exegetical arguements that haven't worked for anybody in the past, must be done in some fresh and new way, otherwise it seems like such wasteful repetative wrangling, incapable of containing any real truth. And even then it's not such a bad thing, you can still learn things but when things get rude and crude then somebody's blowing it.

Seeing all of the theological spin in these blogs just irritated a sort of festering sore I already had going with regards to enjoying the word with other Christians who I'd meet outside of my own church. The more I learn about God's word it seems the more fun it is to talk about it with other Christians. Most of the time, in my experience, other Christians don't even know what you're talking about or don't see things the same way, and so discussion ends. I find that disheartening. I find much of the time a person can't really share in the word and enjoy it with fellow Christians without running into some disagreement or another about meaning. And it's even built into our Christian culture that there are a lot of things we will disagree about and that it's normal. Well that seems very odd to me in light of what the bible teaches throughout itself, so I've just been exploring that and trying to make some sense out of it for myself. It bothers and fascinates me and this seems like a good venue to explore it in. We all have certain quirky areas of interest and that's mine. So I'm glad you can empathize a little with that. If I seem a little single-minded in my blog posts sometimes, it's probably because there is only so much time I set aside for blogging, much less than I'd like, and this idea of the disunity in the body of Christ is what I chose to focus on generally, I guess, given limited time. I love reading your posts.
Talk to you again.

Appreciativley, Todd

Todd said...

And Jodie I forgot to mention, I truly applaud the knowledge and understanding you've shown in all your writings in these blogs as you've been helping to show others what God has told us in His all encompassing word. Thanks. Todd

H K Flynn said...

Todd,

Thank you so much!

I really enjoyed reading your experience with that whole balance of seeking the truth and sharing, for lack of a better word, with Christians about the truth. There IS some sort of chilling effect out there. You said 'built into our Christian culture'.

I actually think it may have came out of the Fundamentalist / Evangelical split of 'Dispensationalism'. Was that in the 50's or something? Have you heard about that? So in Evangelical circles, debate about doctrine, or even soft discussion, is not quite what 'we' are supposed to do. I'm for reunification on that church split.

So what's the solution ingeneral though? ...

Lord bless you!

Jodie

Todd said...

Hi Jodie,

I don't know what the solution in general is. On the one hand I can say that it would have to include being in less of a haste, being temperate, to get rid of all of the useless intellectual pitfalls we've manufactured that are not taking us all the way to where we need to go as Christians. But that's way to inadequate. To me, the problem can be reduced to taking more from scripture than scripture allows.
A hard to control natural tendency. It's always been rampant and I suppose always will. But I'm trying to get it into some perspective, in my own mind, to at least identify the diviciveness for what it is. I think to the outside world, the divided state of Christians is one of our most unflattering defining qualities. So why settle for it.

Well, anyway glad you stopped by.

Thankfully, the Word is the final answer and I'm sure that you, like me, thank Christ continually for that. See you. Todd

H K Flynn said...

Amen!

Thank God for His word.

We need to keep being Psalm 119 people :)

Sorry about my delay in getting back here.

I see things as you do, Todd. The blather out there is silly and sad.

To me, the problem can be reduced to taking more from scripture than scripture allows.

I do things we can use speculation to try get past our blinders, but the trick is to keep in mind the speculative nature and discard it if it isn't truly supported by the Scriptures.

I'm going to link here. I didn't know whether to categorize your blog as grace or evangelical in general.

I'll put it in evangelical for now.

I hope that's ok.

Warmly,

Jodie

Todd said...

Hi Jodie,
Well, if it's any help, alot of us at our bible church are fundamental, dispensational, evangelical Christians. Although I grew up in a First Baptist Church we didn't really take anything home with us so I really come from no tradition. Alot of us at church disagree on some of the details such as, 'two natures', but not on the basics of assurance, means to salvation, doers and not just hearers of the word and etc., constantly testing each other with scripture to that end, and seem to have no problem seeing what comes fully in the bible and what does not. A few gifted study partners at my church, none of whom are very agreement prone but who seem to be able to reach it on all the points that matter.

I wish I had more time to expand on ideas in my blog but much of the time my 6 1/2 yr. old daughter comes out on the short end. But that doesn't mean I can't chip away at them. I'm also trying to develope my piano playing to help me be a worker for the Lord and solid improvement takes much time. So, as I'm sure it is with you, it's a battle for free time, and I have to do blogging in moderation for that reason. I find a different subject on every blog which I would just like to take hours to pour over and study. But can't always and so will have to settle for 'as time permits'. I guess that will work out alright. Nice that you dropped by. Talk to you next time. Todd