Learning ObjectivesWWhen you finish this session, you should be able to:
- Know what a Worldview is
- Understand paradigm shifts
- Understand that thinking like a Hebrew is not all that difficult
- Think about paradoxes from a Hebrew point of view
- Know how to respond to the idea of the plain meaning of Scripture
We begin this session by asking the question: What is a Worldview? Next, we move to the concept of thinking like a Hebrew. Then we provide you with some illustrations to help you begin the journey of thinking like a Hebrew. Next, we present the concept of biblical paradox. Finally, we will share the concept of the plain meaning of Scripture.
Where We Are Going
The Western Worldview
What Is A Worldview?
Young Lady-Old Hag
Thinking Like A Hebrew
Hebrew Thinking: A Summary
Which Worldview Is Correct?
- Plain Meaning
- Systematic Theology
- Biblical Theology
The Western Worldview
The worldview we hold determines the way we believe and view the First Testament and everything else for that matter. We all operate within a worldview, often without being conscious of it. We assume that the way we view life is the way everybody views life. Our assumption is that what we see is a reality. In fact, however, it is our worldview which determines what we see. Our worldview is our control box.
All worldviews have blind spots, and the Western worldview is no exception. As an illustration, the Western worldview keeps most Westerners from dealing with or understanding problems related to spirits, ancestors, or anything that has an origin in and continued dependence on the Creator God.
Understanding the First Testament often calls the reader to shift his or her worldview. Shifting means being prepared to have your own worldview challenged by beginning the process of realizing why you think and feel the way you do.
What is a Worldview?
What is a worldview? Do I have a worldview? Is it a valid one? Am I trapped into keeping what I have or can I change?
James Sire, in The Universe Next Door, says, “A worldview is a set of presuppositions (or assumptions) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously) about the basic makeup of our world.”[ref] James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1976. p. 17).[/ref] A more technical definition is given by Dr. Charles Kraft in his book, Christianity in Culture.
Cultures pattern perceptions of reality into conceptualizations of what reality can or should be, what is to be regarded as actual, probable, possible or impossible. These conceptualizations form what is termed the ‘worldview’ of our culture. The worldview is the central systematization of conceptions of reality to which the members of its culture assent (largely unconsciously) and from which stems their value system. The worldview lies at the very heart of the culture, touching, interacting with, and strongly influencing every aspect of the culture.[ref] Charles H. Kraft, Christianity in Culture, Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1979. 53. [/ref])
Both authors are saying the same thing. Their point is that our starting places for viewing things are different. Even though we may possess the same reasoning process, we end up with different conclusions. Worldview is imposed on us in our youth by means of our culture. We don’t learn it as much as absorb it.
To illustrate this, ask yourselves some questions: What do I focus on? How do I see or conceive of reality? It is true that we do not see everything we look at. We see selectively. Here is an example. Every year in America, people are blown to bits by an empty gas can. Why? We have been taught that the can is empty because there is no fluid in it. Empty is our focus. Another equally powerful focus is to see the can as full of gas fumes. If we light a match around a can we perceive as empty; the result will be a big boom! We accept that which confirms what we have been taught and usually reject what contradicts what we have been taught. As an example: Warning: Scientists say gas cans carry the risk of explosion.[ref]NBC. “Warning: Scientists say gas cans carry the risk of explosion.” Published Wednesday, December 4, 2013, 11:31 AM EST and Updated Wednesday, December 4, 2019, @ 12:07 PM EST.[/ref]
Acts 14.8-18 demonstrates this taught focus. Luke tells us that Paul and Barnabas healed a lame man in Lystra. A commotion in the city arose because of the man being healed. The people of Lystra had a basic assumption, a starting point, which led them to a conclusion which for them was a reality. Their assumption: only the gods could affect such healing. Therefore, when they saw what had happened, they concluded that Paul and Barnabas were gods for which they had names. They began to worship and offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas as gods. On the other hand, Paul and Barnabas’s basic assumption was that they were only carrying out what they were commissioned by Christ to do, which was to heal the sick and bring the rule of God into the world. Each viewed the same event, but their starting points or focus led them to different conclusions.
Learning that others think differently than we do and that it is not a matter of right or wrong, only different, can be painful. It conjures up many questions about how we read and understand Scripture. This process is often called a paradigm shift. Although painful, a paradigm shift may have to happen in order for one to operate with a First Testament mindset. A paradigm is defined by Webster as an example or pattern. A shift indicates moving from one model or pattern to another.
The shifting process can be demonstrated with the picture of the young lady–old lady. As you look at the picture, the lines of the drawing do not shift. However, as an observer, your perception can shift, and you can see either the young lady or the old hag. As you look at the picture, the visual patterns seem to shift. This, on a small scale, is similar to a paradigm shift or worldview change. As you go through this fairly simple procedure, which is necessary to see these realities differently, try to imagine the complexity of a paradigm shift that leads to a radically different understanding of reality. Even though it is complex, it can be accomplished.
Thinking Like A Hebrew
One of our basic problems is that we think that everyone must think just like we do. When we look at Scripture, we feel that everyone should see it the way we see it. Our view is based on our assumptions, and our assumptions come from our worldview. There are several patterns of reasoning. Cultural Anthropologists tell us that the reasoning processes of humans are culturally defined.[ref]This anthropological idea has been around for a long time. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_anthropology and “What is Culture? http://www2.palomar.edu/anthro/culture/culture_1.htm[/ref] They affirm that all people are logical in ways that are suitable in their culture.
Interdependence thinking is a way of thinking wherein a person thinks of himself/herself not as an individual, but as a member of a tribe or family. This is the thinking of the First Testament characters. We, however, view them as great individuals, because our pattern of thinking comes from a different mindset. Because we approach the First Testament with a different mindset, we often may make the great characters of the First Testament, something other than who they are.
Today, in USAmerica, we have developed “identity politics.” Political parties press this way of thinking as a way of controlling certain groups of people while suggesting that they are just looking out for them. Individuality is the game of the present culture here in the first part of the twenty-first century and has played a great part in the development of our culture. See the article listed in the footnote. [ref]”Types of Thinking.” http://thepeakperformancecenter.com/educational-learning/thinking/types-of-thinking-2 [/ref]
The Bible (especially the First Testament) was written in a Hebrew thought-form. Thus, it becomes necessary to approach the First Testament with a Hebrew (Eastern) way of thinking. This is especially important since our way of thinking is basically Greek (Western) in orientation and background. If we can get a clear understanding of the difference between the two thought patterns, we will be helped, and our understanding of Scripture (especially the First Testament) will be greatly enhanced.
The Westerner’s pattern of reasoning has been called empirical or experimental logic. It is called formal logic. Formal logic was developed by the philosophers in the Greek culture. Formal logic introduced abstract thinking and the art of deduction. The classic example of a syllogism from Aristotle is:
All men are mortal
Socrates is a man
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
| Syllogism |
syllogism (sîl´e-jîz´em), in logic, a mode of argument that forms the core of the body of Western logical thought, consisting of a sequence of three propositions such that the first two imply the conclusion. Aristotle’s formulations of syllogistic logic held sway in the Western world for over 2,200 years.
The categorical syllogism comprises three categorical propositions, statements of the form all A are B, no A are B, some A are B, or some A are not B. A categorical syllogism contains precisely three terms: the major term, which is the predicate of the conclusion; the minor term, which is the subject of the conclusion; and the middle term, which appears in both premises but not in the conclusion.[ref] “syllogism.” The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. Encyclopedia.com. 21 May. 2019 [https://www.encyclopedia.com] [/ref]
The Westerner makes the assumption that the abstract Aristotelian way of thinking is not only the best but the correct way of thinking. The First Testament, however, was not written by individuals with an Aristotelian pattern of thinking. The revelation of God came to them, was understood by them, and communicated by them in a Near Eastern or Hebraic thought pattern.
We must realize that Scripture was given to people living in another time frame who thought differently than we do. There is a vast difference between the Hebrew thought-form of the ancient Hebrew and the Greek thought-form, which we have inherited in the Western world.
- Greek thought and much of Western thought is abstract and theoretical. It works with words and concepts like love, hate, heaven, hell, saved, or lost, which are defined in order to be understood. It uses the ear gate for understanding.
- Hebrew thought is concrete or optical. It often defines things by action and pictures. It uses the eye gate for understanding.
Hebrew Thinking: A Summary
The late Jack Rogers in his book Confession of a Conservative Evangelical summarizes this way of thinking:
First, it is contemplative — Second, Near Eastern thought is poetic. Anything worth saying is worth saying beautifully. Psalm 1 gives a poetic picture of a righteous man. Third, Near Eastern thought uses vivid picture logic. A Semite did not argue from premises to a conclusion. He painted a word picture, and his hearer became involved and convinced himself. When Jesus was asked questions, he typically replied by telling stories vivid in the person-involving pictures they painted. Fourth, Near Eastern thought loves symbolism. Metaphor and simile abound in Biblical language. The words of institution at the Lord’s Supper use symbols related to our physical senses to speak to us of invisible realities. Fifth, there is the near Eastern propensity for paradox. That which appears contradictory is often a sign of the divine. For example, God is both wrathful and merciful. In Isa. 45.7, God is asserted to be the author of both good and evil. Attempts to use Western logic to explain away the paradox usually result in denying one or another part of our experience of God. Sixth, Near Eastern thought demands sincerity – within the framework of fundamental assumptions about the nature of life. For instance, the Semite is obligated to be honest in his dealings with his own people, but he has no such obligation to those not under Semitic law. Finally, Near Eastern thought emphasizes religion as “the way.” Religion is not an ideology, a system of thought, or a code of ethics, but a way of life in fellowship with God if one is truly religious. Jesus announces that he is God by saying, “I am the way the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) [ref] Jack Rogers, Confession of a Conservative Evangelical, Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1974, 34). [/ref]
Therefore, any study of the First Testament seems to me to call for a look at our worldview or way of thinking. This does not mean that the Western way of thinking is evil or bad. It does mean that the First Testament Scripture came through and to people whose thought patterns were different from ours. We need to understand Scripture from their thought-form and translate it into our culture’s thought-forms. To care about both thought-forms seems to be the harmony we need when looking at the First Testament in depth.
The following are some simple illustrations that might serve our point well.
The Hebrews always thought from an opticalized point of view. Let’s contrast. In describing a fear-filled person, the Westerner might write the following: Ahaz was immobilized by terror. The dilemma imposed upon him by the irrefutable evidence of things at hand, and the sheer consternation of the moment, calcified his spirit and turned him into a being incapable of either sane analysis or rational action. The Hebrew, on the other hand, would depict fear in a word picture form. He might say, …his heart and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind” (Isaiah chapter 7 verse 2b RSV).
One writer analyzes the situation while the other draws a word picture. To literalize the word picture would do damage to the message. To decipher and then communicate it to the Western thought pattern, would serve the purpose of hearing the message being communicated versus trying to determine the vehicle in which the message is carried. Therefore, our encouragement to the reader/student is to listen with your “eyes” and see what is being communicated. Don’t be too quick to literalize every jot or title. When you hear what is painted for your eyes, then communicate that message in the thought patterns of your own culture.
In a Hebrew thought pattern, Ezekiel says, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezek. 18.2). The Westerner might say, “If the parents fail in their responsibility, you will see the evil effects in the waywardness of their children.”
Jeremiah wrote, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots” (Jer. 13.23)? The Westerner might write, “Man is unable by himself to effect a change in his being or character.”
Human emotions are also described with vivid word pictures. To the Hebrew, anger can be seen as “the fire that burns.” Desire is “the thirst that cannot be quenched.” Pride is the “lofty look.” Obstinacy is “stiffness of the neck.” Uncircumcised can be “out of a relationship.” We must remember that the vehicle does not affect the validity of the truth which is being presented.
The Hebrew would never ask the question, “Where did Cain get his wife?” That is a Greek or Western question. Incidentally, if we believe that what the Holy Spirit inspired is what is intended by God for us to know, then asking a question that Scripture does not answer only means that there is something wrong with the question, not Scripture itself.
The Hebrew mindset also accepts paradox because a paradox is true to life and experience. As an illustration, Scripture teaches that God is sovereign while at the same time, it teaches that humankind has freedom of choice. Both are Biblical. Both touches need in our life. It remains, however, a paradox. Any attempt to side with one against the other does injustice to the inspired text of Scripture. Sometimes Scripture places the sovereignty of God in the same passage as humankind’s free will. (Mark 14.21, Acts 2.23, 4.27-29). What is so remarkable about the Acts passages is that they were written by a Greek (Luke) who had been trained by a Hebrew (Paul). So Scripture addresses a human as a free moral agent who is responsible for his/her choices, while at the same time speaking of God as sovereign, as having a plan and purpose which will be carried out.
To the mind of the Westerner, these two truths seem to contradict each other. It is not logical. It is inconsistent. To resolve the conflict, the Westerner emphasizes one aspect over the other. Thus, we become Calvinist or Arminian.
Calvinism: John Calvin was the “Father of Calvinism” who organized the Reformation in Geneva. He wrote many commentaries and is most remembered for the Institutes. Calvinism is best known for TULIP, the Five Points Calvinism.
Total Depravity of Man
Perseverance of the Saints
Arminian: Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609), A Dutch Reformed theologian; born Jacob Harmenson. In 1603 he became a professor at the Univ. of Leiden; there he developed his teaching, called Arminianism. As fully formulated after his death by Simon Episcopus, it opposed the Calvinist doctrine of predestination by asserting the compatibility of divine sovereignty and human freedom and by denying the irresistibility of God’s grace. The teaching was later adopted by John Wesley.
Scripture has no problems with what appears to be a contradiction. The writer can stress both positions, and in the same sentence, with no qualms about it. It is Paul who places great emphasis on God’s sovereignty. Yet it is also Paul who was the great missionary addressing people everywhere as free moral beings and their need to turn to Jesus.
The Hebrew can accept a paradox without it being a problem. He simply accepts the two truths and holds them in balance. Each has an important truth for life. Each must be held as a balance and check on the other.
When we think like Greeks, we try to resolve the problem logically. We, as Greek thinkers, want a rational, coherent system of thought. This is the difference between Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology. To think like a Greek is to put everything together systematically. This is a practice of Systematic Theology. To think like a Hebrew is to hold opposites in tension with each other, a practice of Biblical Theology with the following definition: the discipline which sets forth the message of the books of the Bible in their historical setting. Biblical Theology has the task of expounding the theology found in the Bible in its own historical setting, and its own terms, categories, and thought-forms.[ref]See: Five Things Bible Scholars Mean When They Use The Term “Biblical Theology” http://www.zondervan.com/p/biblical-theology/five-ways/ [/ref]
Which Worldview Is Correct?
There has been an abundance of material being written and spoken concerning our western worldview. When being exposed to the concept of worldview, the reader or hearer often gets a feeling that the western worldview is something to be scrapped; however, that it is not the correct view of the world.
The Western worldview is not incorrect and the Eastern worldview correct. It is simply that we need to understand that God decided to reveal the way he acts on behalf of his children to an Eastern mindset. In order for us to come to grips with how he works, it is imperative that we begin to understand the mindset to which he first revealed himself.
It is true that the Western mindset will often cause us to respond in a way different than the Eastern mindset would have ever dreamed of responding. Remember, two-thirds of the world think differently than we do today. From baby boomers to millennials, there are differences in today’s Western society.
Here are a few general illustrations:
- When the missionaries in the northern Congo required the native women to wear blouses to cover their breasts, they were met with opposition by the elders of the church. These elders responded that they were not going to have their wives dress like prostitutes. In that part of the Congo, the fully-dressed African women were often prostitutes because they could afford clothes to wear.
- A missionary in the Philippines became upset when his first guest dusted off their chairs and then sat on their handkerchiefs. Later, when they sat down to eat, the guest took the napkin and wiped off the dishes and silverware. The missionary was disgusted because, in his mind, this was an insult to his wife’s housekeeping. He soon learned that this was a culturally accepted behavior.
- Each culture has a different set of values, which is recognized as successful. In America, Bill Gates is recognized as a business success, and Americans approve of his success by trying to imitate him. In China, a scholar is recognized as being successful while in America, the scholar is seen as a nerd. In India, the ascetic philosopher is embraced as successful, and many people endeavor to follow such a person. In America, this kind of person is looked upon as an odd-duck.
- It is as simple as understanding that different cultures select different things to value. That can be illustrated by watching people eat breakfast. Some like their eggs fried, others desire them to be scrambled, while others may not like eggs in any fashion! A national delicacy in the Philippines is the balot. This is an egg that has been incubated by the mother hen for ten days and then boiled, cracked, and eaten. For most of us, that is a disgusting thought. [ref] Nida, Customs and Cultures: Anthropology for Christian Missions, 1956. William Carey Library Pub; 2 edition (June 1, 1975). 37-38).[/ref] Who wants to eat a half-formed baby chick?
In Confessions Of A Conservative Evangelical, the late Jack Rogers told a story about his stay in Egypt during the six-day war in the ‘60s. In some ways, the modern Egyptians are much like the ancient Hebrews. During this heated time an Arab general roared that he was sending 500 tanks into the Sinai Desert. Both the people of Egypt and Israel knew that he did not have 50 tanks much less 500 tanks. To the Semite mindset, numbers are often meant to signify quality versus quantity.
These illustrations should point out to us that others are different from us. The issue is not a matter of right or wrong, divine or not divine, just different.
There is plain meaning to most texts, but it is not always the same plain meaning. This is because of the many things we bring to the text when we begin to read.
Here are some roadblocks. The right of individual believers to interpret Scripture for themselves is the root cause for a lot of stress which accompanies believers in today’s church. It is true, we all have the right to interpret the Bible, to hear from Scripture the message which God wishes to deliver to us.
However, there are some important things that are sometimes overlooked as one comes to the task of interpreting Scripture. I believe the most important is this: Scripture came to different people in a different time-frame and with a different mindset. The careful reader and interpreter of Scripture should be mindful that Scripture was written to a people who understood it. Whatever the meaning was to them, it still means the same today.
In short, to understand what the first hearer understood is one of the highest goals in the interpretation of Scripture, which is often interpreted by people in the church in a purely subjective way. I have often heard more than once in sermons such things as, “In our study, we are going to put the Word of God first. We are not dealing with what we think it says, but with what it actually says.” The implication of this statement is that any interpretation which differs from the one being taught is based on what people think, while the one being taught is the plain and only meaning of the text. This ongoing interpretation procedure is a bane on Scripture and on the one who inspired it.
While the plain meaning of the text is the goal of interpretation, what we often arrive at is not at all the plain meaning. Plain meaning should be understood as being the author’s original intent, which would have been plain to those to whom the message had originally been given.
The plain meaning has nothing to do with how someone from this culture in the late twentieth-century reads his or her own cultural values back into the text through the distorted prism of seventeenth-century language.
Here are a number of texts that folks often suggest are to be understood as plain meaning.
Women should keep silent in the church: (1 Cor. 14.34-35).
There are certain parts of the church which teach that women should not have any say in the church, as the plain meaning of this passage of Scripture. These same churches deny that speaking in tongues is for the church today. Yet the passages about women keeping silent are found in the same context as speaking in tongues. Here my thoughts about “Women in Ministry” here
It is all right for men and women to pray and prophesy in church based on: (1 Cor. 11.2-16).
This is plain from the text. The ones who teach this, however, deny that this practice should be done with heads covered which appears in the same passage.
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots, Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, If anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourselves into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11.20-24).
Within the Charismatic arm of the church, there is an emphasis on teaching concerning “faith.” There is a movement that has been designated as the faith movement, which has popularized teaching concerning “faith.” The teachers in this movement are doing an important and essential task of stirring the church concerning “faith.” However, I question their method of interpretation.
The verses which we quoted above are used to support the idea in this movement of positive confession. They say that if you claim what you have asked God for, God will surely give it to you. The assumption is that faith is supported and illustrated by the activity of claiming now what is not yet fulfilled during the same dimension of time. This often puts us in a position of being foolish by stating in present language something which is not yet fulfilled. The late Kenneth Hagin, the founder of this movement, is fond of saying, “God works through us by his word as we speak it forth.”[ref] Kenneth Hagin. How to Turn Your Faith Loose. Faith Library Publications (January 1, 1980). 18. [/ref] One of the verses in the quoted passage from Mark is used to support this belief. The question which should be asked is, “Does this text teach that we are to say and by saying or claiming that we will receive what we have claimed?”
Here is how I understand this text. Mark 11.22 should be translated: “You have the faithfulness of God.” We might note that I have translated the passage with the words of God instead of in God. This verse should be understood as an exhortation based on Habakkuk 2.4, where we are told that the righteous ones will live because of the faithfulness of God. Paul built his books of Galatians 3.11 and Romans 1.17 on this concept. The footnote of the New International Version offers an alternative translation: but the righteous will live by his faithfulness. This means that the righteous man lives because of God’s faithfulness to the covenant.
The assurance which appears in Mark 11.23-24 is grounded explicitly on God’s faithfulness and not on the ability of man to banish from his heart the sin of doubt. That is to say, the exercise of faith is not necessarily a contest in which we prove our faith by resisting doubt and therefore gain faith’s goal. The issue here is God’s faithfulness to respond to us, not our ability to control doubt.
Mark 11.23 is an allusion to the coming of the Messiah who will set up his kingdom. Mark used Apocalyptic or symbolic language from Zechariah 14.4, 10. These sentences in Zechariah are prayers for God to set us his kingdom rule. It is like the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, which is recorded in Matthew Chapter Six.
What is being affirmed is God’s readiness to respond because of his faithfulness to bring about his kingdom rule in this present evil age.
In Romans 4.13-25, there is a clear example of the teaching of Jesus, which is found in Mark 11.20-24. Abraham believed in the faithfulness of God. God had demonstrated his faithfulness to Abraham on more than one occasion. It is his belief in God’s faithfulness and not some misguided belief that one must muster a quality of faith before God moves (Romans 4.21).
The text nowhere states that Abraham claimed what God had promised to him. He did not run right out and start telling everyone that he was a father and that Sarah was pregnant because neither was true. He considered his own body and the body of Sarah as being dead (somewhat older) but believed in the faithfulness of God to do what he had promised.
When the whole story of Abraham unfolds in the First Testament, we discover that he tried on more than one occasion to help God fulfill the promise. He tried through buying a servant. He tried by following Sarah’s advice to have a child with Hagar. Scripture is plain that when Abraham and Sarah were both beyond childbearing age, God brought to pass his promise: Isaac was born.
Our responsibility is not to muster up some kind of faith by banishing doubt but resolve to become acquainted with the faithfulness of God as demonstrated in Scripture. When we see how he is faithful to his children, we will understand how he will be faithful to us.
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word concerning Christ (Romans 10.17).
This is another favorite verse quoted by the teachers in the faith movement. In teaching on faith, the movement puts a heavy emphasis on the belief that one can muster faith by quoting the word of God, understood by them as being the Bible. This passage is used to support this teaching. The difficulty is that Romans 10.17 is translated poorly in the King James Version from which the quote is made. The Good News Bible has the best translation of this passage. So then, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through preaching Christ. This verse clearly does not teach that one can get faith from quoting Scripture. It does teach that one may become a believer through the preaching of Jesus.
This kind of misappropriated use of Scripture which chooses a belief and then tries to support it with a hodgepodge of Bible verses is inadequate and may even be unchristian.
Is anyone of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is anyone of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. (James 5.13-18).
The subject of the prayer of faith often brings more heat than light. The context of this passage centers around the ministering of Jesus followers one to another. In regard to sickness, James does not conceive of sickness and suffering being of the same substance. He offers different remedies in James 5.13-14 (see RSV for more clarity). The Good News Bible gives the most accurate translation of these verses when it says, …This prayer made in faith will heal the sick person; the Lord will restore him to health, and the sins he has committed will be forgiven. So then confess your sins to one another, so that you will be healed. One must note that the confession of sins is important in the process of healing. There is nothing in this passage, which implies that if one only has a sufficient degree of faith, then one can receive healing. Rather, the passages draw attention to what is emphasized—there is no circumstance of life where faith is impossible. Therefore, there is no situation in which one cannot resort to prayer.
By the way: can you see this practice happening on any given Sunday is a morning meeting at the corner of walk and don’t walk, Anytown, USA?
Should a believer be baptized by immersion or sprinkling? Should infants be baptized? All of these are taught by different groups of the church as the “plain meaning” of Scripture.
Both eternal security, i.e., you always have salvation once you receive it, and losing your salvation by sinning, are taught as the “plain meaning” of Scripture.
These are only a few of the plain meanings which the church has taken different stands on. Outside the church, this same problem can be seen within cults. The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Christ is not God based on several Bible verses. The Mormons teach that one can be baptized for a dead person, based on a passage of Scripture.
Just reading can be more complicated than one might believe. What is the answer to this dilemma? I believe that the solution is not to just read with the false assumption that reading is not interpreting; the solution is to strive for good interpretation, which at a bare minimum includes historical background and a grasp of the kind of literature that one is reading.
My assumption is not that if you agree with me, you have the right interpretation, and if you disagree with me, you have the wrong interpretation. My goal is not to persuade you to believe like me, but to inform you as to why there are different opinions on the meaning of Scripture and to assist you in determining what might be correct or incorrect.
Community Discussion Questions
➡ |CDQ Info|;
- Can you communicate what your present worldview is?
- How do you perceive the universe around you?
- What color are your glasses?
- If the First Testament is working from a corporate logic pattern of thinking and you are working from an individual pattern of thinking, how would your understanding of some of the First Testament stories change if you changed to a corporate logic thinking pattern?
- Have you visited a foreign country and been faced with a different cultural system of belief?
- How could this understanding of numbers change your perspective about the use of numbers in Scripture, especially in the book of Revelation?
- Has your subjective learning of Scripture caused you to accept a meaning as the true meaning of a text? Which text? What is the meaning of that text?
- Have you or any of your friends practiced positive confession with such language as: “I’m going to claim that promise?” Are you aware of the foundational roots of this teaching?
- How have you quoted this Scripture in your ministry life?
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