“Hermeneutics? You want to teach Hermeneutics? Why? Even those in seminary have a hard time understanding that! No, that is not for the church, let’s just focus on practical lessons.”
Have you ever heard a Pastor or an Elder of a church say something along those lines? Maybe you are a pastor who had the same mindset or maybe still have this kind of thinking? Or maybe, just maybe, you are a member of a church who doesn’t see the necessity of proper biblical interpretation?
What Is Hermeneutics?
According to Elliot Johnson, author of Expository Hermeneutics: An Introduction, Hermeneutics is the “science and art of textual interpretation. It uses principles of viable interpretation and develops a strategy for methodical study of the Bible in the use of the principles.”
At least most of us who study in ELI Asia understand the danger of interpreting Scripture according to our own understanding. So I was wondering as a student, why this is not encouraged in the local churches. To me, it is simply unacceptable that we can’t do this in the church because “even those in seminary have a hard time understanding this.”
I was talking to a friend about how his suggestion for his local church to begin Hermeneutics was not welcomed by its leaders, opting instead to focus on practical lessons. A few days after this talk, I found myself in Pastor Nicky’s Church History Survey class. Events in church history tell us that the responsibility for interpreting scripture was taken away from the people and that the reason for this is a noble one.
The first century church leaders feared that if they left the lay people to interpret scripture on their own, they might just misinterpret it. A valid concern considering that they didn’t have the Bible as we have it now. What they didn’t foresee and what I learned from class is the possibility of those responsible in interpreting scripture, to misinterpret it themselves, thus causing false teachings to proliferate during that time.
I believe at present that things have not really changed. We are actually worse than the first century church, because we have the Bible in its entirety. Unlike the first century church where they must rely on their church leaders for interpretation, we at present have the Bible and have church leaders to rely on if we ever needed help interpreting Scripture.
So why is proper biblical interpretation not being taught in local churches?
Proper biblical interpretation will teach the church to grow in discernment
One would think that this should be a no-brainer. Since faithful bible teachers should know why this is essential in the life of the church. But churches neglect this in favor of man-made processes and programs. Often, to make sure people will stay in the church, to keep attendance high, and to become relevant in these modern times. We look to church programs or being used immediately in ministry work while devoid of any doctrine let alone a solid personal communion with God.
We would usually say, “well in time, we will all become mature spiritually…” Those of us who understand sin know that is not the case. A lot of people stay hidden in ministry work without proper understanding of the Scripture.
Sometimes, some churches prefer not to teach proper biblical interpretation because it is easier to control and manipulate people when they are biblically illiterate and this is enough to cause any faithful teacher of God’s word to be broken over this. If you claim to be a teacher of God’s word and are not broken over the biblical illiteracy of your local church members, you must repent and re-examine yourself.
Faithful teachers of God’s word will protect believers by teaching them proper biblical interpretation. We always pray to God for protection against false teachings that creep into the churches. One of the best ways to do this is to teach them how to properly read God’s word.
We undermine the power of the Holy Spirit to teach us the things of God
Pastors and church leaders are called to teach faithfully (2 Tim 2:15). They aren’t called to judge what people can or cannot understand. One who believes in God is anointed by God and this anointing teaches us about the things of God. God causes a believer to learn. We need faithful pastors and teachers to make the truth known. Of course we know our audience, and though some churches tend to make the word of God palatable to the point of adding to and subtracting from the Bible, faithful teachers are blessed by the versatility of being able to explain God’s word not only to those who are learned but also to those who aren’t.
A faithful teacher does not tell the people to just read and read, leaving them to interpret God’s word according to their feelings and circumstances. We don’t always gravitate towards diligent bible study, we do not begin to love God’s word immediately. Such is the sin in our lives.
We lack godly men in the churches
The modern church is being led by men who want what is easy and comfortable. They forget what had happened to the apostles and 1st century church leaders for the cause of Christ. Nowadays it is easy to play church and keep people happy. They fear that if they talk about unhappy things like doctrine and theology, then people will surely be out the door so fast, the church finances will suffer.
For this reason we have members in the church who don’t understand orthodoxy. They believe that God transforms from the Father, to the Son and then maybe tomorrow he can transform as the Holy Spirit, depending on what God needs done at the moment.
Proper biblical interpretation leads us to have a deeper faith in God. We will not be able to worship God as we should if we don’t know Him according to what Scripture teaches us.
If you are a pastor or lay leader and are already doing this in your local church, I praise God for you, for your faithfulness in teaching the flock about God’s word of truth. May you press on and never waver for the cause of Christ.
It is the vision of ELIAsia to see church leaders maturing in their spiritual standing, increasing in the knowledge of the Word, developing leadership abilities and ministry skills and setting an example for their members in growing spiritually.
If you’d like to partner with ELIAsia to develop biblical leaders for the local church, you may reach out to us through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you may send us a message on our Facebook Page.