Hermeneutics and Discernment

Everyone faces important decisions. Work, relationships, finances, all kinds of things. However, I want to mention just three.

First, I’m speaking at a bible camp in a few weeks. What things should I share with the kids? What will be interesting and relevant, but also (more importantly) God-honoring and true?

Second, I’m getting more involved at church. I want to be a positive addition to the larger church culture, even in the various discussions and (usually minor) disagreements that go on. How will I decide what things to fight for or ignore? How will I help set new directions or explore good ministry ideas?

Third, always looming in the mind of a seminary student is the problem of what to do after school. Though I’m a few years away, I want to prepare well to minister in whatever context God might place me. To do so, I need to ask; what things are NECESSARY and what things are not? Can I be pastor at a church that is dispensational? Charismatic? Egalitarian?

Finding answers to these questions is a matter of finding guidance from God through prayer, meditation, talking with more experienced Christians, and studying Scripture. That last is one I want to focus on here.

There are two interrelated ideas I am hoping to pursue in the coming semester. The first is Direct Hermeneutics. The second is Biblical Discernment.

Watching the complex arguments that are made in various contexts (seminary, the blogosphere, churches, etc.), I worry that we can sometimes become a bit Pharisaical, in that we easily create new, “commandments,” for the church which God did not necessarily intend. Or at least he did not intend the level of severity we sometimes give them.

So then, I want to first investigate how we do hermeneutics. I’m taking a class on the subject, and intend to learn as much as I can. My goal is to learn this; what things can we DEFINITELY say based on Scripture, and what are some things we cannot necessarily prove without a philosophical middle step? For instance, we can certainly prove salvation through faith in Christ alone. On the other hand, we cannot prove whether it is better to sing hymns or praise songs in church. The problem is that a LOT of issues fall in between these two when it comes to provability from Scripture, and we need to learn how to show very clearly what Scripture does and does not say. I call this Direct Hermeneutics because I want to learn to glean guidance directly from Scripture, and avoid governing philosophical systems as much as possible.

After that, I want to develop Biblical Discernment for the issues we face in life. We need to know how to take Scriptural guidelines and teach people how best to fulfill them in a way that is loving, wise, and above all God-honoring. To do so, it is key that we make it our practice to avoid easy answers (such as creating new rules for everything) and learn to construct solutions to confusing problems that stay withing the bounds of Scripture and make honoring God their primary goal, but also do not place unnecessary and unscriptural burdens on the people struggling with these issues.

So, that’s one of my quests for the next several months. Good luck to you, as you work to be discerning with your own life!

As a side note, here is a series of sermons that have so far been a major player in my conception of how we learn from Scripture.

No comments: