Sound Biblical Doctrine
How does one determine what is the truth of Scripture?
Let the Bible speak for itself, allowing Scripture to explain Scripture. You do this by first understanding that you have come from a situation where an organization or overbearing person has told you what the Bible says and how to think. Now you must ask God Himself to teach you.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God…handling accurately the word of truth.” (II Tim. 2:15) “…when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and he will disclose to you what is to come.” (John 16:13)
So Who is our Guide and Teacher in understanding God’s Word?
The Holy Spirit! Before you read and study, ask Him to guide you into all truth. Ask Him to preserve you from error. Psalm 119 provides a beautiful example:
“Blessed art Thou, O LORD [YHWH]; teach me Thy statutes…open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from Thy law…make me understand the way of Thy precepts…make me walk in the path of Thy commandments, for I delight in it.” (Ps. 119:12, 18, 27, 35, NASB)
The following are 11 items to keep in mind and to utilize while reading and studying the Bible:
- When plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense.
- Theological “pre-understandings” — doctrinal opinions we have previously formed — should not bias our interpretation of Scripture. All should be in harmony with scriptural teaching and be subject to correction by it. Only “pre-understandings” that are compatible with Scripture are legitimate.
- Pay close attention to context. Verses do not exist as isolated fragments, but as parts of a whole.
- Make a correct genre judgment. Genres in the Bible include history (such as Acts), dramatic epic (Job), poetry (Psalms), wise sayings (Proverbs), and apocalyptic writings (Revelation). A parable, for example, should not be treated as history, nor should poetry or apocalyptic literature (both of which contain many symbols) be treated as straightforward narrative. When the Psalms refer to God as a rock, this is not literal, but as a symbol of God’s sturdiness.
- Consult history and culture. We must step out of our Western mindset and into a first-century Jewish mind-set. Detailed historical information helps us to understand the works of biblical writers and so interpreting the Bible correctly becomes a much easier task.
- Interpret the difficult verses in light of the clear verses.
- Interpret the Old Testament in light of the New Testament. As the centuries passed, God provided more and more revelation that became progressively full so that by the time the New Testament was complete, God had told us everything He wanted us to know.
- Distinguish between the descriptive and the prescriptive: Is the verse merely describing something that took place, or is it prescribing something that Christians should be doing for all time?
- Realize that some biblical truths are explicit (fully and clearly expressed, leaving nothing implied); others are implicit (that which is implied or understood though not directly expressed. Contrast the explicit biblical teaching of creation with the implicit teaching of the Triune God.
- Distinguish between promises and principles. Here we must be cautious, for example many of the wisdom sayings of Proverbs are not intended to be promises.
- Affirm the benefit of proper interpretation. Since God is the ultimate author of Scripture, we should do everything in our power to make sure we understand it rightly. Join us in resolving to make every effort to correctly understand every verse in the Bible.
(Adapted from Ron Rhodes’ book, Commonly Misunderstood Bible Verses, pp. 7-11, Harvest House Publishers, 2008)
“Outside religion as well as inside it, faith and reason are roads to truth.”
“ Truths of faith alone are things revealed by God but not understandable or provable by reason (e.g., the [Triune] God or the fact that Christ’s death atoned for our sins.)
 Truths of both faith and reason are things revealed by God but also understandable, discoverable or provable by reason (e.g., the existence of one God, or an objective moral law, or life after death).
 Truths of reason and not of faith are things not revealed by God but known by human reason (e.g., the natural sciences).
If this is the correct position, it follows that the Christian…has two tasks: to prove all the propositions in” number  “and to answer all objections to the propositions in” number . “We cannot prove the propositions in” number  “(e.g., the [Triune God]), “but we can answer objections to them.”
(Kreeft, Peter and Ronald K. Tacelli, Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Intervarsity Press, 1994, pp. 15-16)
Clear principles are used by Bible scholars. Here are a a few of important terms and their definitions:
“Hermeneutics – The science (principles) and art (task) by which the meaning of the biblical text is determined.
Exegesis – The determination of the meaning of the biblical text in its historical and literary contexts.
Exposition – the communication of the meaning of the text along with its relevance to present-day hearers.”
(Zuck, Roy B., Basic Bible Interpretation, David C. Cook, Publisher, 1991, p. 20)
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