Thursday, January 29, 2015

Exegesis, Eisegesis and EiseJesus. Is the Whole Bible About Jesus?

Exegesiscritical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture
Eisegesisthe process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one's own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text

Typically eisegesis is used as a pejorative. It's not a good thing to be guilty of it. You can see this manifested most often in the Steven Furticks and Perry Nobles of the world. They'll read what they want their audience to hear (often what the audience wants to hear and what the speaker wants the audience to hear are identical) into the text or they'll shape the text in such a way that it accommodates the particular application they want understood. 

This inappropriate use of Scripture is often nuanced and difficult to pick up on. The best way to recognize it is to be familiar enough with the context of the passage, patterns throughout Scripture and the attributes of God. So it's not something we can recognize immediately after we're saved. 

But here's the problem: eisegesis isn't reserved exclusively for false teachers. We can all be guilty of it. We don't have to be a teacher to wrongly interpret and apply the Bible. We can each do that in our individual studies. Extrapolate the verifiable meaning before you do anything else. 

So what is eiseJesus? I'm not sure who coined the term but I've seen it around for a while. It hasn't reached ubiquity but if you're a dispensational Calvinist like I am, you've seen it. 

If eisegesis is reading an agenda or bias into a text, then eiseJesus is reading Jesus into portions of Scripture where He is not supposed to be.
"Uhhhh. Tim? Are you saying the whole Bible isn't about Jesus? Are you saying it's wrong to read the Psalms or read Samuel, Daniel and Genesis and think about Jesus?"

Read carefully because this argument hinges on precise language. If you just glance over what I'm writing, you'll miss what I'm saying. What I am saying is that not all Scripture is about Jesus but all Scripture points to Jesus. Dan Phillips graciously and skillfully elucidated the distinction to me the other day on Twitter after he posted a link to "Jesus on Every Page" by David Murray. I've been wrestling over this for a while because when I'm reading the Old Testament I sure do think about Jesus a lot. But Dan put it this way:
It's a friendly disagreement btwn us (he and Murray). He might say, "The text means this." I might take that same text and thought and say instead, "The text brings this to mind." 
We can read the Old Testament and have Christ come to mind. I don't know how we cannot. When we read about Abraham and Isaac, what is impossible to not think about? God sacrificing His Son! That passage in Genesis is enlivened by the New Testament but the New Testament wasn't necessary for us to understand what it meant. Is the meaning of the passage that Jesus died for our sins? No. Because He hadn't died yet and the original audience would not have had that information in the same capacity we do. That means they couldn't have rightly interpreted and then never rightly applied that story. 

One common example of eisegesis is the story of David and Goliath. Are we David and capable of defeating giants when God is with us? I guess that might be an idea you could take out of it. Some of my reformed brothers have taken that passage and made it about Jesus. Jesus is David and we would be the scared Israelites and Goliath is sin. Jesus defeats sin. Okay. David does indeed foreshadow Jesus as The King and Jesus does defeat  sin but is that really what the passage is about? How would the original audience have interpreted it? That is the meaning of the passage. The point of the passage is to affirm David as the new king and that God had chosen him to replace Saul and that God accomplishes His will sovereignly - without human effort.

Eisegesis: You're David and the obstacles in your life are Goliath

EiseJesus: Jesus is David and Goliath is sin
Exegesis: David is David. Goliath is Goliath. God is sovereign and accomplishes every single thing He says He will in the exact manner He chooses using all the people He chose to use.

There are inescapable parallels between the Old Testament and the New Testament. There are vivid foreshadowings of Christ's work on the cross throughout the Old Testament. I mean not to say there aren't. I think juxtaposition is common between the Old and New and serves as a powerful reminder of the detailed providence of God. Along with juxtaposition we also, to some cautious degree, see "types" of Christs. Moses would have been a "type" of Christ in freeing Israel from bondage as Christ freed us from the bondage of sin. I'm uncomfortable with that term. I think it's better to say foreshadow but you're more likely to hear "type" so I wanted to at least make you aware of it. 

Many of my favorite preachers and teachers teach that you can't understand the Old Testament without the New Testament. In fact, most of the guys I listen to teach this! It's not the worst thing a person can do but it does end up influencing how you understand the Old Testament, prophecy and the end times.

It is definitely detailed and subtle. I hope it didn't come across as splitting hairs but it establishes a bad, because of it's intricate and somewhat arbitrary complexity, precedent for interpretation so I felt it worthy to discuss for all 7 of my readers! 

And this song for your edification just because it's my blog and I can post whatever song I want. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

After Their Kind: What Evolution Teaches Us About Abortion

The Genesis account of creation makes it clear that creatures of the sea and of the land and of the air produced "after their own kind." Whales made whales. Lions made lions Eagles made eagles. That's undeniably how the passage reads. 

Interestingly enough, creatures of the sea, land and air are still only producing after their own kind. We don't have any record - of the billions and billions of births - of a whale giving birth to a shark, a lion laying an egg containing a goat or an eagle birthing out a squid. I find that quite interesting. 

Of course, it would take millions and maybe billions of years for a species to change. I'm not trying to debunk evolution. I actually want to base my argument on the idea of evolution as a reason not to abort babies. 

We know that humans give birth to human beings after 9ish months of gestation. Is anyone debating that? We know that the fetus grows more and more functioning body parts as it grows inside the womb. We continue growing outside the womb and developing different essential elements to survival (immune system, intelligence, consciousness, language, etc). Our adaptation to living doesn't end until we die. It's quite fascinating all the work our bodies do. Amen? Oops. I meant praise science and chance!

None of this requires a degree in biology. This is all common knowledge to most people. We all observe this information as we go about our lives. I'm not bringing forth any groundbreaking research. I'm just operating on what everyone knows to be true. 

We know that sexual intercourse causes a woman to be pregnant. We've know this for some time. In fact, that ridiculously archaic book of Genesis even knew that. That's how basic this knowledge is! Even the Bible got it right! Everyone knows that having sexual intercourse is how babies are made. So anyone who has sexual intercourse does so knowing this action may result in a pregnancy. This is so elementary! Why am I even rehashing this basic information? 

Then the woman becomes pregnant! Duh! So at the moment the woman finds out she's pregnant she immediately understands that in roughly 9 months she'll have a really small human being to take care of with the man she had intercourse with. What is this? 6th grade? C'mon Tim! Quit explaining such simple information! I'm not an idiot! 

The mother and father understand that if they fail to take care of the child or harm the child, they'll be held criminally responsible. Even that stupid ole Bible told people to not hurt each other! Stupid Bible! We all agree it's wrong to hurt other human beings! This is a universal truth! Our government even affirms this truth! It's illegal to commit murder in the United States! 

So let's recap what we know:

  • Creatures reproduce after their own kind today
    • Sometimes after millions of years species evolve into a different, more complex species
  • A male and female human being have intercourse
    • Both are fully aware this is how a woman becomes pregnant
  • The woman becomes pregnant and knows that in 9 months she'll have a small human being
    • This human being will need care and attention from both parents to survive
  • Both parents know that harming the child is wrong
    • US laws prohibits the murder of other human beings
Since we know that 2 human beings had intercourse and it resulted in pregnancy and human pregnancy always results in the birth of a human and we also know that evolution doesn't happen in less than 9 months then we know with certainty that the creature that is within the womb of the mother is, from the time it is conceived, a human being. We are 100% certain that the creature inside a female human being's belly has to be one of its kind. 


We all agree with these facts. So now that we know that a human being is what is inside of a woman we then look at what abortion is. Abortion intentionally ends the life of the unwanted creature inside of a pregnant woman. That unwanted creature is, as we all already said, a human being. 

Abortion ends the life of human beings. 

Human beings are created in God's image. 

Abortion is wrong. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Are Ruth and Esther the Only Books for Women?

If you are familiar with my writing (and you probably aren't because no one reads this blog) then you'll realize I am meticulous, or at least try to be, about the words I use and the order in which I use them. In the title of this post you'll notice I used the word "for" instead of the word "about." Contemplate the difference between those two words and you'll see where this post is headed.

Ruth and Esther are not the only books for women. Nor is Proverbs 31 a chapter for women. They are each about women or have women as the main characters. There are some other women playing prominent roles throughout the Bible but for the sake of brevity (something with which I struggle) I'll just stick with the two or three I've chosen. 

There are two very serious and lingering problems among Americans professing to be Christians and each is connected to one gender but both are having impact on the other. 
  • Men are not being the spiritual leaders they need to be in their households. Is anyone debating that? I know I am definitely not where I need to be and my wife has communicated this to me very clearly. I write to you as someone repenting of that and now actively trying to mend that glaring and inexcusable mistake. My problem was that I was not in any real and substantive way playing a role in my wife's spiritual maturity. Oh I made sure we attended church and Bible study and I'm not living a double life... but I'm not feeding her. When Christ commands Peter, "feed my sheep" He's not saying, "don't commit premeditated homicide against my sheep." In other words, Christ was commanding Peter to be active in the growth and maturity of the flock. 
  • The second problem is that women, perhaps more than ever and perhaps not, have no discernment. Logically this is connected to the first problem. If the husbands aren't playing an active role in teaching their wives, in facilitating an atmosphere conducive to spiritual maturity and aren't setting an example of fervent prayer and yearning for God's word then it makes sense women would be susceptible to modern garbage. This doesn't excuse women from thinking critically about teachings but it does help explain it. 

I think where some of today's pervasive problem of women yearning for something more than the Bible comes from is that they're convinced the Bible is 64 books for men and 2 books and a chapter for women. But that's not the case at all! Think about it.

Proverbs 31 is as much for me, a man, as it is for a woman. A man can read Proverbs 31 and learn what a good woman looks like just as a woman can read Proverbs 31 and learn what a good woman looks like. A man sees that's a type of woman worth pursuing and woman sees that's a type of woman worth becoming. 

That passage isn't just for men or for women. It's for believers. 

Ruth isn't even a story that only women can relate to. Do you honestly know a lot of women in those types of circumstances? Isn't the overarching theme of that story God's incredibly detailed care and control? Since Jesus (the ultimate redeemer) came from that line aren't we just blown away at His seeming preference to use imperfect people and imperfect circumstances to carry out His perfect will? To bring order out of chaos? That's the complete opposite of how our world operates. We take order and turn it into chaos.

Certainly there are themes or principles women will draw out of that text that are different than what men will. I can't relate to the mother/mother-in-law relationship. I don't know what it's like to lose a husband and be left kind of alone and without much hope. But that's not my point. The point is that Ruth offers more than just how women should treat their mother-in-laws.

Ruth isn't just for men or for women. It's for believers. 

But what about Esther? She's such a strong and dynamic character. Surely her story is just for women. Surely only women can learn more about God through what Esther experienced. Doesn't it sound crazy when I say that? Doesn't it sound kinda sexist, too? 
"I don't need to read Esther. That's a girly book!" 
That is sexist! It's sexist and it's an attack on 2 Timothy 3... ALL scripture is profitable...And that means it's also an attack on God because I've deemed part of His inspired Word less important or at least less profitable than another part. 

Esther isn't just for men or for women. It's for believers. 

Let's go at this from a different angle. Is 1 Timothy just for men? Is it just for pastors? Is it just for pastors who are planting a new church? I don't think anyone believes that. We all recognize that the veracity of that text makes it as relevant to 2nd century women in Asia as it does to 21st century church planters in Canada. 

1 Timothy isn't just for men or for women. It's for believers. 

The Bible is entirely for believers. It's not a gender specific book meant mostly for men and a couple bits thrown in for the ladies. It's all for the whole church. I can't neglect Ruth because I think it's a book about women any more than a woman can neglect Joshua because it's about a man (or because it's like 10 chapters of land being apportioned).

There's also probably a deeper problem going on among women and that is they are seeking a feelings-based faith rather than a knowledge-based faith. Christianity is very much a knowledge-based faith. 1 John was written as a way to test whether or not you're truly saved. John uses the word "know" 32 times and specifically and explicitly in 1 John 4:13
By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
This doesn't mean only smart people are Christians. It means all we are and all we do is based on the knowledge of who God is, what He has done and what He has told us to do. God doesn't change. Does anything change more often than your feelings and emotions? How then can we base the assurance of our salvation on something so unstable and subjective? God lovingly gives us His Word to edify us. It's all we need. Every single word is profitable.

Can you imagine how uncertain and terrifying it would be if instead of "know" John used the word "feel"? Yikes! What good is our faith if it's resting on something so wobbly? So we can't conduct our lives based on feelings. We obviously have feelings and emotions and they are perfectly fine and normal but they aren't the foundation for our faith and not something on which we base our assurance.

"But Tim, my favorite female author makes me feel really good."

So what? What does that matter? It doesn't matter how she makes you feel. What matters is whether or not you're actively pursuing God. If I only listened to men who affirmed me in my obstinate ways (like not being the spiritual leader for my wife) then I'd be wrong. It's one thing for a fellow dude to say, "Tim, I've been there too. Let's hold one another accountable and fix this. We're both sinning!" and quite another to say, "Tim, you're not alone in this. I know how you feel. I too wish my wife do XYZ to increase her spiritual maturity on her own."

I'd feel better about the second conversation. I'd feel waaaayyy better. But I'd still be wrong and still not have rectified the problem! So what good did my feelings do? In fact, my feelings kept me complacent and kept me from God. Yikes!

There's such a danger in going outside the Bible. Virtually every false religion in the world today is based on some vision, dream or revelation they claim to have received from Jesus. When we go outside the Bible for security and comfort, we're not pursuing God. We're simply not. I know they make people feel good and happy but they're not from God. Ladies, if you hear some woman claim she's received a vision from God or a revelation from God or anything like that, you need to run. There's nothing good that will happen from that point on. You're in the midst of a deeply confused person or an evil person. 

Either Scripture is our authority, or it's not. There's no middle ground. Lots of people will say they believe Scripture is the authority but then they gobble up some sappy devotional written by a woman claiming God spoke to her and she wrote it down and then cling to that book for comfort. Scripture is the authority on heaven until the next con artist lies about his or his kid's trip to heaven and swindles the gullible public out of millions. Scripture is the authority on sex until some nice talking young guy talks about his struggles with homosexuality and then all of a sudden the Bible is outdated. Scripture is the authority on who God is until His word disagrees with you.

I strongly encourage everyone to believe that ALL Scripture is profitable and Scripture alone is the authority. Without a doubt the #1 problem in the American church is the battle over the sufficiency of Scripture.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Sincere Thoughts About Beth Moore

Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement over Mark in Acts 15. It was so bad they had to part ways. Mark had abandoned Paul at one point and didn't continue on in their missionary work. It is safe to assume Mark had repented (at least in word) for this since Barnabas was adamant about him coming along. Paul obviously felt his repentance was only in word and it wasn't worth the risk to let him come along again. Let me ask you this: who was right? Paul or Barnabas?

It is my conviction that both men were right to do what they did. This isn't to read some relativistic moralism into the text - rather, I'm just basing it on what the Bible teaches. We need to look at things objectively and discerning truth from error but we also need to be gracious and charitable. I am certain Paul had his reasons for doing what he did and Barnabas had his reasons. I'm guessing personality had a lot to do with each decision. As much as we need to see the nobility of the Bereans in Acts 17 we also need to look at the wise person described in James 3:13-18 and the Christian described in Ephesians 4:17-30.

Paul and Barnabas would have each been fully convinced in their own minds that their decision was right. It's right to not take people with records of cowardice on trips that require tremendous amounts of courage. It's also right to be gracious with people and give them another opportunity. If someone loaned me their car and I wrecked it being an idiot, would it be wrong if they didn't loan me their car again? What does the Bible teach about making wise and informed decisions? Would it be wrong if they loaned me their car again? Maybe if they did so out of ignorance but if they did so out of conscience and after prayerfully weighing the costs, I don't for a second think it would be wrong.

That all brings us to Beth Moore. There are men smarter than me who are certain she's a false teacher. There are men smarter than me who do not believe she's a false teacher. I respect men on both sides. I see the argument from both. I waver back and forth between the two.

  • She makes me extremely uncomfortable. I'm also not a woman and her audience is women. I recognize that not every teacher is for every person.
  • She teaches a lot about self-esteem when the Bible, to the best of my knowledge, makes no mention of our self-esteem being of any significance. But a lot of women really struggle with self-esteem and it's something worth trying to fix. Again, I'm not a woman so I can't relate.
  • She has claimed to receive direct revelation whether she knows it or not. This is deeply concerning to me because I'm about as much of a cessationist as one can possibly be. But I don't really think many people understand the implications of saying "God told me, I had a vision" etc. I just don't think she's very theologically minded and is probably (this is me being charitable) speaking out of ignorance instead of just being a false prophet.
  • She's partnered with and endorsed Joyce Meyer. Joyce Meyer is indeed a false teacher. I can't defend Beth Moore on this. There is no defense for this. But partnering with a false teacher doesn't make one a false teacher. John Piper partnering with Rick Warren doesn't make John Piper a false teacher. It just means the person lacks discernment or had a lapse in judgment.

I am 100% fine with people wanting nothing to do with Beth Moore. I want nothing to do with her. I don't want her stuff in my house. But I'm not protesting a church or a pastor who endorses her. I think that's a bit dramatic. I would encourage the churches who do permit her teachings to examine the depths to which they endorse her. When most of the women's studies revolve around Beth Moore's material I think it's hard to not implicitly give a tacit affirmation of everything she teaches without some specific disclaimers:
"Hey Beth Moore has some good stuff we think is of value to the women but she also doesn't believe in the sufficiency of Scripture and practices lectio divina. So if you come across that stuff, know that she's wrong and, as always, compare everything with the Bible."

I have yet to hear someone explain precisely how she preaches another gospel (Galatians 1) so I can't in good faith call her a heretic or a false teacher. Those monikers are tossed around way too lightly. Those are heavy, heavy, heavy terms. I've heard people explain her false teachings and why they are so dangerous but that doesn't make her a false teacher any more than it makes RC Sproul a false teacher for baptizing babies or Wayne Grudem a false teacher for redefining the Apostolic gifts. How are covenant guys okay with MacArthur (and me) using a completely different hermeneutic? But maybe I'm a false teacher for not being fully convinced Beth Moore is a false teacher?

I need to be charitable and gracious with people. I don't want people basing their opinions of me on my worst teachings. I want to be impartial in how I evaluate teachers and treat people (James 2). Isn't that a fair, honest and Christ-like way to treat people?

You can finish reading now. That's the thrust of my argument. The following is just to indulge my urge to emulate an Ent in that I believe it's not worth writing something unless it takes a really long time to read.