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Gospel Gazette Online
Vol.  11  No. 1 January 2009  Page 1                    powered by FreeFind

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Editorial

Biblical Hermeneutics: God Intended
for Divine Revelation to be Understood

By Louis Rushmore, Editor

Louis Rushmore

Every honest and right thinking person must acknowledge that a biblical hermeneutic is an absolute necessity, because without a valid hermeneutic there is no way to comprehend divine revelation. However, God gave divine revelation (the Bible) to communicate with mankind, and God intended for his revelation to be understood. There would be no reason for God to provide divine revelation unless both God was able to provide discernible communication, and God designed mankind with sufficient faculties to understand it (2 Timothy 2:15; John 8:32). The mechanism whereby divine revelation is the bridge between the mind of God and the mind of mankind is a valid, biblical hermeneutic.

God created mankind with the mental capacity to understand his revelation. Deuteronomy 29:29 clearly teaches that God intends for mankind to assess properly divine revelation in a knowing way. There are some matters about which mankind may muse with an idle curiosity, which God has not revealed and mankind cannot know. Yet, other matters, which God has revealed within his divine revelation, God requires mankind to understand and implement. In order for that to occur, there must be a valid hermeneutic.

These following, astute observations voice the same maxim in other words. “…all men, having been created by God with intelligent minds (able to recognize, to observe and to properly consider the evidence which God has given) are required by God to draw only such conclusions as are warranted by the evidence” (Pugh 121). “God reveals what man needs to know and is capable of knowing” (Carruth 57). “Faith comes as a result of proper evaluation of the evidence God has given to man (Rom. 10:17; cf.: Rom. 1:18-22)” (Warren, “When” 122). Without proper appreciation of biblical interpretation, one cannot have proper biblical faith. Therefore, mankind is obligated to try to understand divine revelation.

Logic or sound reasoning is a necessity to successful biblical interpretation (as well as successful comprehension of anything in this life). Logic or sound reasoning is the necessary and proper effort of trying to understand divine revelation. Logic simply distinguishes between correct and incorrect reasoning, and everyone uses it to some degree from infants through adults.

One must approach study of Scripture rationally or logically with orderly procedure to comprehend communication from God to mankind. “Simply stated, logic is the process of correct reasoning. …It is sound reasoning” (Pugh 112). “The only way to avoid logic is to quit thinking, because logic is the basis for all thought” (Pugh 113). Hence, mankind sometimes opts for dismissal of logic or sound reasoning in an attempt to exempt himself from divine instruction for which he does not care. Yet with the following, one must concur, or else divine revelation must be thought to be incomprehensible and communication from God to mankind must be thought to be hopelessly lost on humanity. “It must be emphasized that of all the various types of statements in the Bible, there is none which can, without the proper use of logic (principles of valid reasoning), be used to prove a thing to be essential (either obligatory or prohibitory) for men living today. Without the proper use of logic, not even commands can be so used” (Warren, “When” 44-45).

Dismissing apostolic example and divine implication while purporting to hold on to divine commands or direct statements is as unfaithful to divine truth as is the theistic evolutionist who on one hand purports to believe in God while at the same time ascribing the created world to evolutionary theory. The latter dismisses the opening chapters of the Bible for starters, and the former jettisons two-thirds of the mechanism for understanding divine instruction; neither proposition is faithful to divine truth.

Sound reasoning or logic is the blood and guts of true biblical hermeneutics. Astoundingly, even the opponent of sound reasoning and logic inadvertently appeals to the principle of sound reasoning and logic in a lame attempt to disprove sound reasoning or logic as the core of biblical interpretation or hermeneutics. Any argument to prove or disprove something acknowledges the place of sound reasoning or logic to decide a matter. Therefore, the objection to sound reasoning or logic to discern biblical instruction essentially betrays the objection itself as invalid. “To hold that the conclusions which are drawn from the explicit statements of the Bible (by the correct use of reason—the principles of logic, the principles of valid reasoning) is mere human doctrine, and thus, cannot be bound on anyone is absurdly false doctrine!” (Warren, “Logic” 21-33).

“Reason, if it is handled properly, can never be a hindrance to the gaining of Biblical faith. Rather, it is a prerequisite to faith” (Warren, “Logic” 119). One might as well be a rock or a vegetable if he subscribes to the notion that reason or logic is beyond human proficiency. “The truth of the matter is: if a man cannot establish Christianity by the proper gathering of evidence and the proper use of reason in the handling of that evidence, then he cannot establish it al all” (Warren, “Logic” 120). It is not the case that generally mankind is unable to understand divine instruction, but rather he understands it well enough to know that in many instances he does not like it.

Yes, mankind is capable of understanding what God determined that man should know and that which He expects mankind to comply. The procedure to understanding God’s Word is essentially the same as it would be to understand anything. “As concerns the truth as to what the will of God is on any matter, one must not only gather the evidence (learn the explicit statements of the Bible) but he must also handle that evidence correctly; that is, he must reason correctly about that evidence” (Warren, “Logic” 71).

The human duplicity is that “…men strive to be logical when logic is ‘on their side,’ but they tend to become illogical (irrational) when rational thought (valid reasoning) shows that the doctrine which they have espoused is false. I plead with brethren everywhere to watch for this sign: when a man is teaching false doctrine, he will reject and castigate the proper role of logic! But logic plays a crucial role in the great task of properly interpreting the Bible. Men who are convinced that valid reasoning will establish (prove) what they are affirming will not turn against logic” (Warren, “Logic” 74). Truly, “…no man turns against reason until reason turns against him” (Warren, “Logic” 4).

To be anti-logic is to be anti-Bible because the Bible not only demands that men reason but that the reason correctly in their study of the evidence which He has given them (1 Thess. 5:21; Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1; 1 Cor. 15:12-19; etc., etc.). Men who believe and teach the truth do not oppose the correct use of logic. But men who have espoused some “go by feelings” philosophy or some “leap into the dark” concept of faith do oppose logic. If a man knows that his position will not stand the searchlight of logic, then no doubt he will oppose logic. The basic reason why men oppose valid reasoning is that they cannot produce adequate evidence for the doctrines which they have espoused” (Warren, “When” 30).

God intended for his divine revelation to be understood. Therefore, he outfitted humanity with sufficient mental tools to understand divine revelation. God did not make biblical interpretation a matter of mastering some superhuman God language or God think, but he opted to reduce biblical hermeneutics or biblical interpretation to the level of common communication between humans (of all ages). One cannot profess to understand anything without implying his acceptance of the very principles that enable him to comprehend the Word of God (and become responsible for making appropriate application of God’s Word to himself). The ordinary tools for spoken communication between humans involves sound reasoning or logic, the basics of which are: direct statements, examples and implication. Mankind cannot have it both ways; either he is well equipped to communicate with his fellows and God, or he cannot communicate effectively with either, and he has the aptitude for communication of a rock or a vegetable.

Works Cited

Carruth, Ted. “The Implication of Proper Principles of Biblical Interpretation for Christian Unity.” Biblical Interpretation: Principles and Practice. F. Furman Kearley and others eds. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986.

Pugh, Charles C., III. “Logic and Reason in Interpretation.” Biblical Interpretation: An Ancient Book Speaks to a Modern World. Duane Warden, ed. Parkersburg: Ohio Valley College, 1992: 112-123.

Warren, Thomas B. Logic and the Bible. Jonesboro: National Christian P., 1984.

- - -. When Is an “Example” Binding? Jonesboro: National Christian P., 1975.


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