Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Eisegesis or exegesis?

Tom Gilson asks, in the context of one issue but applicable to many, "Are We Making the Harold Camping Error?" "Camping’s prediction wasn’t his first foolishness, and maybe not even his greatest, though obviously it was the most damaging. He went wrong long before that, when he cut himself off from the fellowship and correction of other believers." Gilson:
Once I met a man in Yorktown, Virginia, who had his own novel interpretation of the Bible. He explained to me that there were five, maybe six other people scattered around the world who had it right along with him. I asked him, “Paul, would you tell me how likely it is that God would have allowed everyone in all of church history to have gotten it all wrong until the half-dozen of you came along?” He responded with a look of obvious discomfort. That was it, though. As far as I know he never changed his view.

Yes, it’s possible that the whole church has completely misinterpreted a basic teaching in the Bible for thousands of years. How likely is it, though? To “discover” a new moral teaching in the Bible requires that (a) the teaching wasn’t there before, but it is now, or (b) the teaching was there in plain sight and everyone missed it, or (c) the teaching was there but hidden until something in the passage of time brought it to light.

For anyone who accepts the authority of Scripture and the work of God through the church, (a) is impossible, (b) is exceedingly unlikely, and while (c) is possible, there’s a strong burden of hermeneutical proof on the shoulders of one who wants to make a case for it. ....

When a novel interpretation arises just in time to make some new cultural practice comfortable, that’s at least a yellow flag, a caution notice, an indicator that it might be a self-serving, ad hoc misuse of Scripture. It bears the marks of having been read into the Bible, rather than being read out of it. To use the technical terms, it looks more like eisegesis than exegesis. .... [more]