I always hear from elders to “listen and read critically” to preachers and other commentaries. How can I do that well? (Part 2)
In my last column I was dealing with how liberal approaches start with assumptions that inform the whole task of theology that follows. If we believe the Bible is not God’s inerrant and inspired Word, that assumption informs all that we do afterward.
How do we interpret the Bible as a result of our answering “What is the Bible”? If we believe the Bible is in fact the Word of God, the exegetical or verse-by-verse method of study is how we make sure we are reading the text correctly. There is no “second-guessing” the text where the reader stands in judgment of the text. The reader stands beneath the text and looks to it as his or her authority in interpretation and application.
The method of liberal Historical Criticism (the Bible only “contains” the word of God) then becomes to discover the word of God “hidden in” the other merely human words. This necessarily leads to liberal “historical criticism” because the whole purpose, according to their liberal approach, is to critically judge which parts of the text are the Word of God and which are human words.
The method of study for Postmodern Skeptics (the Bible is merely a “human” document) leads to postmodern readings (or postmodern hermeneutics) which are liberal critical approaches that only seek to find a meaning or “reading” valuable to his or her own life.
The point of these two articles has been to show that how you answer the question “What is the bible?” necessarily leads to the way you will view and read Scripture (your hermeneutical methods). Liberal Historical Criticism and Postmodern Skepticism are trying to find different answers to different questions than our approach because we believe the Bible is in fact the Word of God. Historical Criticism’s methods and postmodern readings were born out of the aforementioned liberal assumptions and philosophies.
This same liberal critical approach has attacked Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. It has created a theoretical construct which claims that behind the present forms of the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings there was an author who created or composed this during the exile into what we now have (the “Deuteronomist”) in 587–586 BC.
The result is that these liberal approaches view the Bible as the result of human constructs, not even authored by whom the Scripture says wrote them. It ends with believing redactors and editors cut and compiled the texts in a human way to “put together” portions of the Bible as we have it today. The problem again is one of authority. The rest of the OT says Moses wrote the Pentateuch. The NT says Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Jesus Himself says Moses wrote the Pentateuch. The NT says the Prophets testify of Jesus, not the prophets, the editors, and/or the redactors. These other claims are based on liberal critical assumptions and the resulting methods of interpreting Scripture are necessarily anti-christian. It attacks the truthfulness of the Bible. Jesus cannot lie. Scripture cannot lie. If so, then we have lost both revelation and incarnation. That is what is at risk if we do not read critically.