Plain Understanding

Yesterday I mentioned that I think the question of how to understand Scripture is the most significant theological question that will have to be answered by the Church in the coming years. Although in a real sense our faith is in God, not the Bible, the Bible is one of the primary ways God reveals Himself to us. So, it's important that we understand it in the way God intended.

I believe in a "plain" hermeneutic (understanding of the Bible). That is, I believe our goal should be to understand the Bible in the way it would have been plainly understood by the original audience. This takes into account literary genre and figures of speech but tries to understand Scripture the way a carpenter in the first century would have understood it so that we can apply the principles to our lives.

I don't say I believe in a "literal" method because misinformed people take that claim literally. There are figures of speech, hyperbole, and poetry in Scripture that we should understand like we would understand any other figures of speech, hyperbole and poetry. The plain understanding of the poetry in Psalm 17:8 is not that God is a bird. The plain understanding of Jesus' use of hyperbole in Matthew 18:9 does not tell us all to become surgeons but does challenge us to take drastic action in avoiding sin. Jesus clarified Nicodemus' misunderstanding of his figure of speech in John 3:4 - "born again" does not mean we go back in our mother's womb.

When we interpret and apply Scripture our goal is to understand what the author intended us to understand.

The Bible doesn't contain some hidden secret code. It is not subjective. The Bible does not change with time, culture, or emotions. It is not primarily an allegory, illustration, or fable. It is God's revelation of Himself containing propositional Truth claims. We don't get to evaluate Scripture in light of our emotions, beliefs, and cultural trends. Scripture was written with a specific "plain" meaning for a specific "plain" purpose and our decisions, feelings, emotions and beliefs should be based on that.

Tomorrow I'll try to give you 4 reasons I think we have to use a "plain" hermeneutic when we interpret Scripture.


Catherine Banks said...


I'd love your comments on this: