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Interpreting The Silence December 8, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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I’ve heard people say: “You can use the Bible to say just about anything, it’s all a matter of interpretation”.  Those of us who have carefully studied the Scriptures in an unbiased manner know this is not true.  But in fact this type of thinking is so pervasive that I usually avoid using words such as “interpret” or “interpretation”.  The Bible speaks clearly and with authority. Then how did the Bible get this widely held reputation?  This brings us to the topic of today’s post: “Interpreting The Silence”.  Often a preacher or instructor would like to speak on a topic concerning something that his listeners would do well to avoid.  This may even be something that the teacher feels strongly about but the particular topic is not specifically spelled out in God’s word.  The teacher then must build a platform of inferences connecting his topic to things the Bible does indeed speak on.  Even though his reasoning may be by and large sound, his inferences are just that, inferences.  They may be correct, incorrect or (and this is the most dangerous) just a little off.  What often happens is that the teacher does not clearly separate his own inferences and conclusions from what the Scripture actually says.  This leaves the listener with the impression that the teachers inference is the word of God.  I’ve seen it happen time and time again.

The problem with this type of reasoning is that over time you begin to add to God’s word, this is just what the Pharisees did and this is what every religion tends to do over time.  Therefore we must make every effort to be as clear as possible.  We must make every effort to separate our body of inferences from what the Bible actually says.  What makes this process so insidious is that often the teacher is indeed speaking out on something his listeners would do well to avoid.  Also sometimes the instructions from God are violated in connection with the offending practice (but only in some applications).  But the teacher oversteps his authority by making a blanket statement that something is sin that God has not declared so.  Let me give you an example of something that I have heard taught that seems very obvious to me.

The “sin” is dancing, the catch phrase often employed is: “it’s a vertical expression of a horizontal idea”.  Now while no one can argue that sexual immorality is very strongly condemned in the Scriptures and indeed sometimes individuals may engage in the act of dancing as a prelude or inducement to sex, this is not always the case.  Dancing can sometimes be an expression of joy or an artist’s expression of a great deal of study, discipline and love.  The point is, the Bible does not say “dancing is a sin” so any teaching concerning this practice is based on inferences that may or may not be correct or perhaps should not be universally applied.  Now the teacher can talk about some of the dangerous scenarios and follow the example of the apostles in Acts chapter fifteen and say: “You will do well to avoid these things”.  But the teacher should clearly identify his own conclusions as his, no matter how firmly based on Scripture he feels his conclusions are.  The apostle Paul was careful to do this.  

Presenting ones own inferences and conclusions as gospel also causes division among those who disagree with the conclusion (wether or not it is with good reason).  Also this practice promotes endless and tedious arguments among believers and non believers alike as they run through applications where the teachers inferences clearly do not apply.  There are many other examples of things being declared as “sin” based on this sort of reasoning.  I’m sure many of you have your own pet disputes with your local religious establishment.  Please feel free to add your comments.  This is a very important discussion and I hope to continue this theme in later posts.  I would especially like to encourage those that disagree with me (some I know personally) to weigh in on the topic: Interpreting The Silence.

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