Nice Talk

One of the difficulties that confronting those seeking the meaning of a passage of Scripture has to do with understanding the passage as did those to whom it was originally delivered. Having an English translation is helpful, of course, but for in depth study, more is needed. The serious exegete must acquire the skills and tools necessary to mine the intended meaning of the passage. And he must approach his study honestly, without a pre-determined interpretation already in mind.

Approaching verses in the Bible with the intention of proving a pet theological position seems easy to do and the result often is presented as God's truth. It is far too easy to discover purpose-built meanings in a passage of Scripture that can be shown to be false by comparing with other verses addressing the same issue. Examples of this abound in Roman Catholic doctrine and practice and in the cultic teachings of the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. Sadly, personalized theology is not at all uncommon in Protestant communions.

The reliance on eisegesis in the development of customized theology is nothing new. It's been around as long as people have been proclaiming the Gospel. We see in Paul's letters, for example, that he had to deal with Judaizers and false doctrine often. From the earliest days of the Christian Church, right up to today, men and women, some with the best of intentions, have been preaching what seems to be God's truth. More often than not, I fear, what they are proclaiming is a different gospel.

A hundred years ago, a number of Bible-believing educators/preachers at Princeton Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian institution, attempted to fix what was broken in the Protestant Church. They came to be known as The Fundamentalists and the movement they started was known as Fundamentalism..

Fundamentalism, as a movement, arose in the United States starting among conservative Presbyterian academics and theologians at Princeton Theological Seminary in the first decade of the Twentieth Century. It soon spread to conservatives among the Baptists and other denominations during and immediately following the First World War. The movement's purpose was to reaffirm orthodox Protestant Christianity and zealously defend it against the challenges of liberal theology, German higher criticism, Darwinism, and other -isms which it regarded as harmful to Christianity. Fundamentalism, Wikipedia

As I have writtten here a number of times, I consider myself to be a Christian Fundamentalist. Given the strongly negative connotations assigned by the popular press to the term “Fundamentalist,” I believe it would be well to clarify what a Christian Fundamentalist believes:

This movement has been characterized as passionate and unerring in its commitment to core fundamental Christian teachings, biblical inerrancy and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism. The term fundamentalist has come to epitomise strong adherence to a set of beliefs in the face of criticism or unpopularity. The wider usage of the term has led to a need to characterize the original fundamentalism movement as Christian fundamentalists to distinguish from other types. -- Ibid

A century-and-a-half ago, the British preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon delivered expository sermons to thousands of eager listeners, My friend Phil Johnson maintains a collection of his sermons and other teachings/devotionals at his Spurgeon Archives web site. The following is from one of Spurgeon's messages on poor preaching in his day. His words are as valid today as they were 150 years ago.

"...You might go into a Roman Catholic chapel now-a-days, and hear as good a sermon from a Popish priest as you hear in many cases from a Protestant minister, because he does not touch disputed points, or bring out the angular parts of our Protestant religion. Mark, too, in the great majority of our books what a dislike there is to sound doctrine! the writers seem to fancy that truth is of no more value than error; that as for the doctrines we preach, it cannot matter what they are; still holding that 'He can't be wrong whose life is in the right.'

"There is creeping into the pulpits of Baptists and every other denomination, a lethargy and coldness, and with that a sort of nullification of all truth. While they for the most part preach but little notable error, yet the truth itself is uttered in so minute a form that no one detects it, and in so ambiguous a style, that no one is struck with it. So far as man can do it, God's arrows are blunted, and the edge of his sword is turned in the day of battle. Men do not hear the truth as they used to. The velvet mouth is succeeding to the velvet cushion, and the organ is the only thing in the building which giveth forth a certain sound. From all such things, "good Lord deliver us!"

"...Oh! if we had some of the old Scotch preachers! Those Scotch preachers made kings tremble; they were no men's servants; they were very lords, wherever they went, because each of them said, "God has given me a message; my brow is like adamant against men; I will speak what God bids me." Like Micah, they said, "As the Lord my God liveth, whatsoever my God saith unto me, that will I speak.

"...Most churches are shielding themselves behind an ignominious bulwark of extreme caution. You never hear their ministers spoken against; they are quite safe behind the screen. You will be very much puzzled to tell what are the real doctrinal views of our modern divines. I believe you will pick up in some poor humble chapel more doctrinal knowledge in half an hour, than in some of your larger chapels in half a century. God's church must be brought once more to rely upon the pure truth, upon the simple gospel, the unalloyed doctrines of the grace of God. O may this church never have any bulwark but the promises of God! May he be her strength and shield! May his Aegis be o'er our head and be our constant guard! May we never depart from the simplicity of the faith!" – Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The War of Truth, delivered on Sabbath Morning, January 11, 1857

As King Solomon wrote some 3000 years ago:

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 1:9, KJV

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