December 18, 2017

This is How We Know

Webster defines hermeneutics as “the science of interpretation; esp[ecially] the study of the principles of Biblical exegesis.” Nevertheless, a well-educated person may 2012.6.coverhave no understanding of hermeneutics. In a conversation with a college professor from a well-known conservative (non-Christian) college, he challenged a clear interpretation of Scripture with the charge, “That’s your opinion.”

When I countered, “I agree that personal opinions should never overrule the science of interpretation, but honest exegesis leads us to what you are calling an opinion,” his mind was closed. His final word was, “It is absurd to refer to Bible interpretation as a science.” In other words, he argued that we cannot have objective knowledge about the meaning of the Bible, just subjective opinions.

More disappointing than the wrong opinion that Bible interpretation is a matter of opinion is that many Christians, even Biblically literate believers, fail to appreciate the importance of hermeneutics. In a recent meeting of Fundamental Baptist leaders, an extended discussion of controversial trends repeatedly led to the root problem: hermeneutics. This issue is critically important. Fundamental Baptist Churches and families are distressed, even divided, over matters of interpretation, particularly over matters of application.

Although that distress can lead to utter frustration, there is hope. Ronald Reagan’s oft-quoted words have been applied to Bible doctrine and the state of Fundamentalism today.

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.

By substituting the word “Fundamentalism” for the word “freedom,” when remembering “what it was once like in our movement where men were true separatists,” nostalgic appeals are made to relieve distress. But nostalgia may serve merely to compound our distress. After many years of preaching and teaching truth, it may be tempting to say, “This is what my teachers told me and I trusted them, and now I’m telling you and you need to trust me.” No. Our task is to say, “This is the truth, and this is how we know.” To help our readers, the authors of the articles to follow have fulfilled that task well.

  • John C. Vaughn

Hermeneutics is the study of how people understand or interpret books, drama, art, music, architecture, and any number of other aspects of life. Biblical hermeneutics is the study of how people understand or interpret the Bible. Often Biblical hermeneutics is used to describe how people ought to study the Bible. This issue of FrontLine highlights some practical methods for Bible study. It includes articles about how to do word studies and book studies. It also includes articles that highlight some of the bigger issues of understanding Scripture: Why should Scripture be interpreted literally, and what does that mean? Is there a place for mystery in our understanding of Scripture? Can we apply the Bible to issues it does not directly address? It is our hope that this issue will help us all learn how to better understand Scripture, so we can better hear and obey our Lord.

  • Brian Collins

The contents of the November/December 2012 issue of FrontLine:

The Relevance of Scripture: A Hermeneutical History

Brian Collins

  • The way forward is to embrace the belief that Scripture, in its literal sense, interpreted contextually, remains God’s relevant Word for people of every age.

How to Do Word Studies (And How Not to Do Them)

Mark Ward

  • Dictionary editors make a wise comment that, believe it or not, can help you in your Bible study.

Book Studies: Mining Scripture for Thematic Gold

Greg Baker

  • A student at any level of expertise can prepare and present a book study.

The Role of Genre

Bryan Smith

  • The genre of a passage will determine how a person approaches that passage.

The Thunder of His Power Who Can Understand?

Joel Arnold

  • The Trinity is only one of the challenging doctrines we encounter in Scripture.

Beyond Chapter and Verse: The Authority of Biblical Application

Ken Casillas

Is Israel the Church?

Charles Phelps

  • Is Israel the Church? Your hermeneutic determines your answer.


Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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