I've been asked a few times why CRCC does the things we do and why we hold to some of the positions we hold. It's really quite simple; it's the way we view Scripture! CRCC "madness" flows from our love of the Word of God! We just refuse to allow culture to be the primary interpreter of what God says! In our church, we have learned a few rules:
Three Basic Hermeneutical Rules:
Rule 1: A text cannot mean what it never could have meant to its author or his or her readers.
Rule 2: Whenever we share the same context with the original hearers, God’s Word to us is the same as His Word to them.
- In addition to Context (the “C” in CLIGHTS), at times we must also consider the following areas: Literal principles…interpreting Scripture within the correct literary genre, the need for Spirit-led Illumination, the Grammatical construction, the Historical setting, issues of Typology (especially in the Old Testament), and Scriptural Synergy…how all Scripture works together.
Rule 3: The clear must interpret the unclear.
- Here is the process (and btw, what makes us seem so odd at times!). Keeping all the rules in mind, we start with the most clear: biblical precepts (commands). Then we move to principles and then to patterns…in that order. In the absence of one, we move to the next.
- Precepts inform principles and supersede patterns. The patterns themselves must be considered in light of both precepts and principles. When we have a precept in context, we have God’s Word on an issue and other passages must be interpreted in light of what is clearly stated. This is a HUGE point.
- Harvey Bluedorn has rightly written, “An obscure passage of Scripture is one which does not directly teach on a particular subject with one clear meaning. It is a very fallacious and unsound hermeneutical method to simply choose - with one’s one authority, from among the many possible interpretations of an obscure passage – to simply choose one particular interpretation, to anoint it as the true doctrine, and to use this chosen interpretation to invalidate a contrary teaching found in other clear passages which explicitly teach on the subject. The clear sheds light upon the obscure, not the other way around. To put the obscure passage in control is to stand all methods of understanding on their head. This is a classic method of twisting Scripture.”
- In the absence of precepts we then look to principles, and we do so considering those principles that are overarching. These include God's power (His sovereignty), God's person (His character), and God's plan. This also includes viewing passages through the lens of Christ…His Person, His Gospel, His Work, and His New Covenant. This is especially helpful in understanding the Old Testament.
A Useful Methodology we learned from the Christian Research Institute: C.L.I.G.H.T.S.
- Context - One of the greatest errors we can make is to take a text out of its intended context. It has been said that “a text without a context is a pretext”, which is an incorrect assumption or interpretation. We are commanded to be diligent in Bible study (2 Tim 2:15), and to test ALL things in light of Scripture (1 Thes 5:21). This requires proper interpretative methods. Taking a text out of its context can result in false doctrine, poor decisions, and leaving the will of God!
- Literal Principle - This means that we should interpret the Word of God in its most natural and normal sense, taking into account obvious metaphors and figures of speech. We must be careful not to over-spiritualize passages and therefore compromise the meaning. Also, let me add this very important point: there is a difference between didactic (teaching) passages and narrative passages. They both are different from poems and prophetic passages with apocalyptic imagery. Interpreting a Scripture in light of the literary genre in which it is placed helps us arrive at the truth of its application.
- Illumination - A true understanding of Scripture can only come from the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit, the author of the Bible (1 Cor 2:12; 1 Jn 2:27). It is helpful to ask Him to help you understand the Word in truth as you study. This does not mean that we listen to "inner voices" while we study; it means we trust Him to guide us.
- Grammatical Principle - This principle means that we seek to have a "basic" understanding of the original languages to help avoid mistakes and in order to dig deeper into the text (Mk 12:44).
- Historical Principle - Having knowledge about the customs and cultural themes of the day can also help us to avoid mistakes in learning Scripture and while applying them to today. But care must also be taken here to not throw out tough passages where God may be requiring obedience regardless of cultural norms by saying, “that was for then not now.” Our interpretive rules really help us here.
- Typology Principle - Typology is the idea that people, places, things, and events of the Bible are really just types or shadows of bigger spiritual truths. All the types of the Old Testament find their culmination in Jesus Christ. This one truth really helps us when teaching in the Old Testament.
- Scriptural Synergy - This means that individual passages of Scripture must always harmonize with Scripture as a whole. One text can never be interpreted in a way as to conflict with another passage. The Bible never contradicts itself! Some examples include comparing OT passages concerning forgiveness of sin, ceremonial issues (food, cleansing, etc.), and civil matters with the NT. They appear contradictory if one doesn't understand that those commands were fulfilled in Christ.
Reading the Bible this way in our view allows God to speak into our lives and transform us. It helps strip away our human tendencies to want things our way so we might do things His way. The goal is to remove the fallible (us) so we might hear the infallible (Him) and get to the truth. And this method makes us confront the fact that God might just want a few things that look really odd to us who are immersed in this culture.