Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The True Interpretation of Scripture

According to the Second Helvetic Confession (1566) [As recorded in Him We Proclaim, p111]:

The True Interpretation of Scripture. The apostle Peter has said that the Holy Scriptures are not of private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20), and thus we do not allow all possible interpretations. Nor consequently do we acknowledge as the true or genuine interpretation of the Scriptures what is called the conception of the Roman Church, that is, what the defenders of the Roman Church plainly maintain should be thrust upon all for acceptance. But we hold that interpretation of the Scripture to be orthodox and genuine is gleaned from the Scriptures themselves (from the nature of the language in which they were written, likewise according to the circumstances in which they were set down, and expounded in the light of the like and unlike passages and of many and clearer passages) and which agrees with the rule of faith and love, and contributes much to the glory of God and man's salvation.

Interpretations of the Holy Fathers. Wherefore we do not despise the interpretations of the holy Greek and Latin fathers, nor reject their...treatises concerning sacred matters as far as they agree with the Scriptures; but we modestly dissent from them when they are found to set down things differing from, or altogether contrary to, the Scriptures...

Councils. And in the same order also we place the decrees and canons of councils. Wherefore we do not permit ourselves, in controversies about religion or matters of faith, to urge our case with only the opinions of the fathers or decrees of councils; much less by received customs, or by the large number of those who share the same opinion, or by the prescription of a long time.
While aware that I have a non-creedal heritage, I appreciate that this confession appears to understand its own limitations. I also appreciate that this confession understands the possible pendulum swing created by the Reformation; that when men tell others to study the Scriptures personally to see if the Church is accurate, some will be tempted to come up with "personal interpretations" (which no one else could affirm).

As I mentioned in the previous post, a confidence in the text can be misunderstood by some as arrogance. Some pastors will be tempted to lead their sheep with unquestionable leadership. They will require their sheep to trust their degree, tenure or higher calling. Certainly this can lead to an unapproachable leader and non-Berean congregation. Others, will lead with a subjectivity, almost breeding suspicion and eliminating true hope and comfort. The leader may appear approachable, but the congregation languishes in subjective "but what does the text mean to me" dialogue.

I fear for the soul of the person who simply trusts that an interpretation of the text is true because a noted pastor said so.

I fear for the soul of the person who clings to personal interpretations despite the fact that others do not see their point from the text.

It seems that the answer is not to attempt to strike a balance, but for the preacher (and the congregation) to remember that we must submit our whole selves to the Word of God...even (especially) our interpretations of It.


Keith said...

Check out chapters 11,12, and 13 of Childlike Faith again. The church as a hermeneutical community is the answer to your dilemma. I think this is what you are trying to say. In my opinion, creedalism is far greater danger than privatization.

Darby Livingston said...

No creed but Christ! and maybe the apostle's, and the Nicene, and the Chalcedon, and the Athanasian, and the Thirty-nine Articles,and the Second Helvetic, and the Westminster Confession, and the London Baptist, and the New Hampshire, and the Abstract of Principles, and the Baptist Faith and Message, and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. I don't think we can go wrong standing on this alone.

danny2 said...


yep, that's what i was trying to say...just didn't do it very well.



Anonymous said...

I wonder what brother Ligon thinks about creeds ;-)

Sally Lloyd-Jones said...

Hi Danny

Thanks for stopping by my blog--very nice to meet you and see your great blog and what your doing at Grace. Sounds like a cool church.

So glad you got hold of THE JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE. And, you're right, I do get asked that question about Dr David Martyn Lloyd-Jones quite a bit. So I wrote about it and thought you might enjoy reading it
: }


All the best to you Danny in your ministry!

BTW: there are some cool resources around the Jesus Storybook Bible on my site--including audio and interviews and reviews... FYI (not to mention lots of other cool books for children)

Zach Doppelt said...

Hey Danny,

Haven't read your blog for awhile, but I like the posts. Thank you for continuing to point people back to the authority of the word of God... It is a truth sadly and subtly being undermined.