Friday, February 17, 2017

That's Just Your Interpretation

"That's just your interpretation."

Have you heard or said that before? People sometimes say that when they disagree with how you understand the Bible. Or rather, it is what they say when you disagree with what they believe about the Bible. 

Even when people are not looking for a fight, Bible discussions often reveal contradictory interpretations. Thankfully, most of those differences do not matter, because they are over small things in the Bible. You can each shrug and move on with the conversation.  But sometimes they are over big things, and they spark an argument.  

One way out of the argument is to assert, "That's just your interpretation." The implication is that everyone has a right to their own opinion and no single interpretation is any better than another, so you can't tell someone else they are wrong. 

One reason people say this is that interpreting can be difficult and complex, and many are just not equipped to do it well.  Another reason is they just may not know better.  Perhaps they're not used to thinking beyond superficial levels. Another reason is that it allows some to continue believing what they want without having to face ideas they don't like, which can be very uncomfortable. They don't like to have their settled beliefs challenged.  Preacher Tim Keller once said something like, "If your God always agrees with you, that's a good sign you are just making him up." All of us make stuff up about God.  We like to make God after our image.  Making stuff up is not good Bible interpretation. We don't allow that in other subjects like science, history, math, or medicine. Why should we allow that in Bible study?

I admit that there are no perfect ways to interpret some of harder parts of the Bible (since we are finite creatures on this side of eternity), but I believe there are lots of bad ways. One of the glaring signs that someone has embraced a bad way is a vocal "that's just your interpretation." 

Interpretation is an art and science called hermeneutics. It has some rules. Before you say, "That's just your interpretation," learn about those rules and see what difference they make in your understanding of the Bible.  You don't have to be a Bible scholar to learn the basics of hermeneutics. 

I will post about some of those rules in the next day or so. 

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