2F. Pneumatic and Cognitive Harmony

➡ Average Reading Time: 3 minutes

Our challenge is to find harmony in the pneumatic and cognitive ways of interpreting a text. According to Fee and Stuart, the proper control for understanding what the text means now is to understand what the text meant then.[ref]Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 74.[/ref] God did not speak into a vacuum. His words had meaning to the first folks that heard them or read them. The sacred texts arose from real-life situations from real people’s lives. The message of the text we read today was to them. Hermeneutics helps us read what was written several thousand years ago and finds meaning for us in the present. If we don’t use some way of grounding the text, then the reader, as is common in the “cult of the individual” who is devotionally reading the text, can and often does make the text say something completely different than what it is really saying. That subjectivity reigns is the most often leveled criticism for those reading with pneumatic interpretive eyes or rather listening to the text with pneumatic interpretative ears.

We start with ourselves as the final arbiter for interpretation,…instead of good exegesis of the text.

When we allow a guide, like the one from Fee and Stuart, to help us in our interpretative journey, we will have less of a chance to misunderstand a text thus making a mistake like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which say “Jesus is not God.” Or, that the church “should baptize on behalf of the dead” as the Mormons do. Or, that “healing” and “prophecy” are more important than “caring for the poor, the widows, and the orphans” as some church groups boisterously and festively celebrate today. Or, misreading critical texts about “women in ministry” that is prevalent in today’s church. These are all errors in hermeneutics because we start with ourselves as the final arbiter for interpretation, and we have an arsenal of “prooftext” to prove our point, instead of good exegesis of the text. The end result of following this pattern of individual subjective readings is to realize that the meanings we hold as valid are likely invalid because we simply started with a misguided presupposition.

As readers, we all want to know what God has said so that we can better live into his story today. That’s a righteous concern. However, what could be considered unrighteous is taking the liberty to make the text mean anything that we want it to mean and then give the Holy Spirit credit for that meaning thus giving our readings a sense of authority.

From the quietness of my writing space, I can hear the wailing “moos” of sacred cows as the knife of death is striking them to the ground. I know, I know, I’ve been there and it’s painful. However, to be clear in this section, let me say that I am not saying that we should stop reading our Bibles devotionally. What I am saying is that we need to learn to read with a guideline that says, “what it meant is what it still means” to guide us along and bring some harmony into our life of living into the story. In short, sometimes we should allow the Bible to read and interpret us and not the other way around. We should look for the harmony of cogitative and pneumatic reading of the text and not be dominated by either. Remember, the context of these thoughts is interpreting Scripture. I am not writing about hearing God’s voice as we chat with him and he chats with us. That’s a completely different issue, which is not within the scope of this presentation.

..it is fair to say that a pure individualist devotional reading of the sacred text leads us to some pretty bizarre interpretations.

However, it is fair to say that a pure individualist devotional reading of the sacred text leads us to some pretty bizarre interpretations. You’ve heard them. You may have taught some of them. Ouch, to myself as I write and read those words.

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Read Me First


Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.


I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."


Happy Reading!

Read Me Second


Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.


Happy Reading!

Read Me Third


The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.


Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.


Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers


There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.


(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)