Why "Plain?"

Yesterday I talked briefly about a "plain" understanding of Scripture (hermeneutic). The day before that I made the claim that the way we understand Scripture is the most important theological question facing the Church today. Today, I want to give five quick reasons I think we must understand Scripture in a "plain" way - the way the original audience would have understood the same words.

1. It seems to have been Jesus' method.
Just one example: In Matthew 22:23-33, Jesus argues for the Truth of resurrection on the basis of verb tense. God says "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" rather than "I was." When Jesus interpreted Exodus 3, he believed God meant what He said in a plain sense.

2. The Fulfillment of Old Testament Prophecy
When prophecy was made in the Old Testament, it was specific. When prophecy was fulfilled in the New Testament it was fulfilled in light of a plain understanding of the prophecy. As readers hundreds of years before Christ read Micah 5:2, they would have had a specific village in mind when they heard "Bethlehem Ephrathah." Even the Magi from the East pointed Herod in the right direction (Matthew 2:3-6). Micah 5:2 is just one of hundreds of prophecies concerning Jesus which was fulfilled according to the plain sense of the original prophecy.

3. The Proper Use of Human Language in Relationship
If words do not have plain meaning, they are worthless. If I should not or cannot interpret your words in a specific way, you might as well not talk. God chose language to communicate to us and gave us language for us to communicate to each other. Any understanding of words other than a plain understanding makes the use of language pointless.

4. Objectivity Demands It
If words cannot be understood plainly, objectivity is impossible. If every word is up to individual interpretation, words mean whatever the audience wants them to mean.

5. Plain Interpretation is Core to the Gospel
If sin does not really equal literal death (Genesis 2:17), Jesus did not have to die on the cross. In fact, the temptation preceding the fall itself was a temptation from Satan to take God's words in a way that was something other than their plain meaning (Genesis 3:2-5). If a plain understanding of God's words with regard to the consequence of sin is not possible, we cannot be sure that we are understanding God's solution correctly.