Monday, January 25, 2016

The Biblical Text Has Meaning; We Do Not Bring Our Own Meaning To It

This is the third post in my blog series entitled Church, Bible, and Interpretation - It's Not So Simple.

Postmodernism has swept through our society over the past half-century leaving a trail of destruction in its path. Postmodern thought is essentially a rejection of modern thought. Objectivity has given way to subjectivity. Absolute truth has been rejected as old-fashioned. Postmodernists scoff at the idea of meta-narratives. Instead of the focus being outside of self, postmodernity emphasizes personal feelings and opinions.

One critical aspect of postmodernism is the idea that the reader of a book brings meaning to the text. In essence, this allows the reader to determine what any book means based upon the reader's own background, presuppositions, political leanings, beliefs, etc. This doesn't really matter if someone is reading something of little significance like this. However, it's fairly obvious how troublesome postmodernism is when it comes to Biblical interpretation.

Many churches and denominations have happily embraced the idea of the reader bringing their own meaning to the scriptures. This allows them to say that the Bible means whatever they want it to mean. In this way folks who claim to be followers of Christ can reject straightforward scriptural teachings on issues such as the atonement, homosexuality, women's roles, etc.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it reduces the Bible, or any other book for that matter, to meaninglessness.

The Bible is not a postmodern book. The Bible is also not a modern book. The Bible is an ancient book. It is an ancient one that remains meaningful and relevant for today. Its meaning and relevance stem from the fact that the text has objective meaning. A basic reading of the scriptures shows that The Biblical Writers Meant What They Said and The Bible is a Book That is Meant to be Understood. The writers meant certain things that had meaning then and have meaning now.

When we read the Bible at no point is there any suggestion that we ought to bring our own meaning to the text. Frankly, that idea is just ridiculous. God has spoken through the pages of scripture. He means what He means. It is our duty to responsibly interpret the Bible to comprehend what God means.

God gave meaning to the Bible. We do not bring our own to it.

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