Redemptive and Grammatical Interpretive Hermeneutics are Both Primacy of Consciousness (Platonist) Models: Continuing to look at the “plain meaning” of Scripture

How the interpretive approaches to Scripture are used–to what epistemological objective or purpose, as valued against the standard we choose to make the yardstick of what is epistemologically “true” or “false”, “good” or “bad”–must utterly inform the interpretation.  And this is the problem.  For neither the Redemptive Historical Hermeneutic or the Grammatical Historical Hermeneutic assumes the standard to be human life/existence.  Further, in my studies, I have yet to see either one define any standard beyond its own assumptions.  This means that the interpretation is right merely because it is the interpretation chosen.  Neither claims to validate the veracity of its interpretive conclusions against any standard other than “it means what it means”, so to speak.  Thus, the “plain meaning” of Scripture is an argument both use.  Again, the interpretation is valid because of the conclusions it draws, not because the conclusions it draws comport with an objective and external-to-the-interpretation standard of TRUTH.   The conclusions must support the interpretation because the interpretation is already assumed to be correct.  Therefore it is impossible for the interpretation to reveal anything that does not bulwark its self-assumed monopoly on interpretive truth.  This of course, in turn, makes it impossible for anyone or anything, be it man or God or Scripture or anything else, to gauge the accuracy of or to even remotely question the interpretive approach.  It is right simply because it is what it is and says what it says.  Therefore, the interpretive approach is not informed by God and certainly not the Bible.  On the contrary, the relationship is quite the opposite.  The interpretation is the standard of all TRUTH to which everything else in the universe must agree.  If anything does not, then it is both epistemologically and metaphysically non-existent…without any definition.  In short, the interpretive approach becomes the “lens” of the primary consciousness by which one decides what the Bible (and God, Himself, is the implication) “plainly” says.

It is not necessary, I am assuming, to point out the irony here.

Do you see the conflict of interest then?  The circular logic?  And of course this makes the “intellectual” root of each interpretive approach exactly the same:  the interpretation speaks for itself, and it must necessarily by default then draw conclusions out of the text of scripture which are “plainly seen”; and “plainly” verify that the interpretive approach is, indeed, infallibly veracious.

In both cases, the Primary Consciousness approach to existence is assumed and remains indefatigable.  Man is incapable of deciding truth on his own, due to the absolute insufficiency of his material existence in essentially all matters (moral, physical, metaphysical, epistemological, etc., etc.), and thus requires an external, abstract/conceptual “intelligence” to explain everything for him…and this “intelligence”, this divine gnosis, is accessed by specially enlightened individuals who have been, somehow, chosen as God’s emissaries; His chosen vessels to bring enlightenment–by any means necessary–to the masses, who are only different from rank animals in that they are morally culpable for their mindless existence and thus will get hell and torment should they resist God’s chosen priests…even though they cannot help but resist because they are mindless animals by nature, but anyway…

In the face of this epistemological rape, the only alternative of course of action is for man to assume that his conscious existence is not only sufficient for apprehending and organizing his reality/environment but is, being the singular and infinite constant frame of reference for anything and everything he sees, knows, and/or does, the only standard of TRUTH which can be credited as reasonable…and as such, valid.

And this is what Christians, in the death-worshiping, mystical, philosophical smorgasbord that has become Christian theology (and has been since at least Augustine, if not earlier) will never, ever, ever concede.  They would rather play Russian roulette with interpretive approaches and hope–out of naked blind and utterly vacuous faith–that they will somehow be spared the requisite death and destruction which must follow mankind when he decides that his own mind is actually antithetical to his life…that his very own created SELF is perpetually in God’s way, and that if he would just lay down and roll the fuck over and die (intellectually/psychologically is preferred…that way you can still tithe; but physically?  Just as good in the end….).  Yes, they would rather do this than concede the standard of truth which stares plainly at them in the mirror every day of their lives, begging and screaming to be accepted as God’s gift to man–his very SELF–but is brushed aside with about as much rational sense as one would brush aside a rocket ship whilst planning a trip to the moon.

And here is the sad little lie.  There is no such thing as an interpretive approach to Scripture which can be said to use God or the Bible as the standard of TRUTH.  This simply isn’t possible, and if we spent more time studying Old Testament philosophy as we do attempting squeeze all of our theological understanding out of a very few, very short epistles from Paul, who is about as easy to drag a “plain” thought out of as…well, as Paul, then we’d understand the futility of putting the plumb line of TRUTH outside of the human ontological context.

The whole point of the Law was to do what?  To point to itself as the standard of TRUTH and morality?  Of course not…for if that were the case then what is the point of Christ?  What is the point of the incarnate Messiah?  What is the point of the death of the new Adam to satisfy the Law?  Why have a perfect, flesh and blood human being as the conqueror of death?  For if the Law itself is the standard of TRUTH, then death is man’s purpose.  It hardly seems logical that God would come as that which the Law decries and condemns (in service to its own absolute TRUTH) in the interest of proving that the Law as the standard of judgement and TRUTH.  I mean, where is the sense in that idea?  It is completely self-contradicting.

On the contrary, Jesus Christ affirms–as does even a cursory look at at the Old Testament and its linking of the morality of the Law to the preservation and affirmation of human LIFE–that human beings are the point of the Law.  It is not their death it demands, it is their life.  And if it is their life that the Law is in service to, then to what is man’s life subordinate?  It cannot be the law; it can only be itself.  Man’s life is the ruler of man’s life.  

If the point of God’s Law is to preserve, persevere, and perpetuate human life then only one inexorable conclusion can be drawn:  man is suppose to exist as he does, in the form he takes, with the mind he has, and with the bone-stock senses with which he integrates and organizes his world to himself.  And the implication then is that it is this form of man which is perfect alreadyYOU are who and what you are supposed to be.  Your goodness and perfection is NOW, not after you DIE…as if death is, again, the panacea for all ills.  No, that is the easy, weak, and intellectually lazy approach to life:  “Well…[shrug], when we DIE it’ll all make sense; when we DIE our infinite depravity will be done away with; when we DIE we can finally be good for God; when we DIE then we will live; when we DIE there will be no more pain or suffering or evil or…er, death.”

Yeah…no fucking shit, Sherlock.  It’s funny how death works, isn’t it?  Just seems to take care of everything, huh?  How marvelously convenient.  What a fucking a-okay theology.  Please, tell me who to make my check out to…I gotta have more of this “good news”.

But God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.  And it is only through your life that you have Him.  Remember that.  If you die, you will by no means see God.  And that is the whole point of Christ.  To defeat death, not to worship it.

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34 thoughts on “Redemptive and Grammatical Interpretive Hermeneutics are Both Primacy of Consciousness (Platonist) Models: Continuing to look at the “plain meaning” of Scripture

  1. In the end it must simply be admitted that Paul’s interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve is inadmissible as a valid interpretation on several grounds, and that without it almost all of his theology falls to the ground.

    Most people can see how Paul’s interpretation of Adam and Eve is wrong. But they don’t want all his theology to fall to the ground, so they try to unsee it.

    According to Paul, Adam brought death into the world by sin. Yet, clearly, even before the fall, Adam had to eat to live. Otherwise, why did God bother to give him fruit-trees?

    Adam could die, then, even before the fall. So Adam did not bring death into the world by sin. Death was always part of the creation. Indeed death would have to be, because otherwise, if you dropped a fruit on the ground busted open, it would sit there forever. It would not decompose without the agents of death being operative. Are we to suppose that fruits didn’t decompose before the fall? Surely not. Well, then, death was already operative.

    Nobody reading the story of Adam and Eve can fail to notice what is missing from the story that ought to be there on Paul’s reading, and later on Augustine’s. And this is the stuff Calvinism is made of. There is no mention of hell. There is no mention of a transmission of ‘original sin.’ There is no mention of Adam and Eve having been immortal before.

    “But if we can’t interpret Adam and Eve Paul’s way, how shall we interpret it?” We could opt to not interpret it, even as the Jews don’t interpret it. It is treated as a cautionary tale for “obey God or be punished” but not used as a basis for a theological system. Isn’t that the wiser way to go? Its obvious the story is not historical; it features a talking snake. And not that snake is not Satan in disguise, not in the story itself, since Genesis 3:1 says plainly “the serpent was the most cunning BEAST OF THE FIELD that the Lord God had made.” Not until Paul does the serpent become a fallen angel rather than a beast of the field. That’s part of his invalid interpretation. The story is just a parable for “do what you’re told kiddies” not a foundation for all of theology as Augustinianism treats it.

  2. “For if the Law itself is the standard of TRUTH, then death is man’s purpose.”

    This statement is based on following Paul’s interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve.

  3. Ok, I am Sooooo glad you wrote this as I have been thinking about this a lot lately. And I speak as someone who spent many years digging into scripture, doing the Greek/Hebrew, etc, etc.

    I keep having this reoccurring thought. What if starting tomorrow there are no bibles. They are confiscated or something. What would we as believers do? My guess is we would pray more, for one. And what would happen is we actually prayed more. And when I say “pray” I mean actually talking to God and listening/seeking throughout the day? What would happen to Christianity? How would we KNOW Christ as opposed to knowing ABOUT Christ though the bible? How would we KNOW right from wrong? How would we operate as believers? How would we interact as believers? What would we do when we get together as believers?

    I would love to hear from others on this because I think about this all the time. It seems most of what passes for Christianity evolves around arguing about what scripture teaches instead of living as believers. I have some other thoughts MORE provocative but will wait to share them. I will share this: The more I studied the less I lived out the Kingdom now. But the more I sought Christ/listened the more I live out the kingdom now. the MORE I really “see” people where they are and can respond to “where they are now” as a believer. It is really strange and hard to explain. And sounds heretical to many so I usually keep it to myself

  4. “If you die, you will by no means see God. And that is the whole point of Christ. To defeat death, not to worship it.”

    Bingo!

    Now as to the law….I think folks make way too much out of it and misunderstand the references to it in the NT. Can we all agree the law came when they had just left pagan Egypt and when things got tough they started making idols and such?

    Read http://www.commonlaw.com/Hammurabi.html (Code of Hammurabi) for example. I realize the time frame is a bit different but it gives us insight into pagan codes in that era. Sounds somewhat familiar, doesn’t it. I sort of look at it like this. They eventually begged God for a king and that made God angry because HE was their king. As for the law— they were reverting back to pagan type of law so they were begging, in a way, for God’s law. The law would not have been needed if they had faith in God. this fits with why the law was a tutor. The pagan law had been their standard by osmosis…living among it for so long. So God gave them HIS law.

  5. David,

    It does seem clear to me that a different understanding/definition of “death” is warranted. I have thoughts on this…too long for a comment (hey…no snarky remarks about the length of my previous comments!:-) )

  6. You do not sound like a heretic here because here we do not confuse the Bible and it’s authors with God. How many “authorized” Bibles were there when the apostles were being martyred. There were exactly zero. How many “accepted canons” were in the hands of the disciples were there when they cried “repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”! I think maybe, approximately…ZERO.

    Guess they are all in hell, right?

    Great comment.

  7. Again, great insight. The problem is when you take humanity out of the equation, man has to “fit” into every conceptual abstraction we run into in the Bible. Law? Good? Evil? Up? Down? We are defined by those ideas instead GIVING them their meaning by appealing to our own existence/life as the standard of TRUTH. When that happens, all philosophy becomes enigma on top of contradiction.

  8. “I keep having this reoccurring thought. What if starting tomorrow there are no bibles. They are confiscated or something. ”

    I have thought about it as well. We studied the Gutenberg printing press this year. Before that, Bibles were painstakingly hand-written, each one over a long period of time & the few were in the hands of church leaders. Were the leaders perfect in their interpretation then? Heck no. The people had their consciences, the Holy Spirit, observation, etc. to guide them. And throughout history, some disagreed with the “interpretation” AKA agendas & were right & were murdered for it.

    I do believe it comes down to interpretation. And doctrines are supported, without love, understanding, wisdom as the guide. I see a lot of regurgitation. And swallowing camels while straining gnats, IMO. The greatest command, love God, love yourself & others is hard to argue against. Or maybe it has, but I don’t think I’ve seen it yet. I dare someone to teach doctrine is greater than Jesus’ greatest command. Wait, that is being taught now. Just had a light bulb moment. Ah ha, doctrine is the “gospel”. And the “gospel” AKA salvation AKA life after death is more important than Jesus’ greatest command for life. No matter how many sides you examine, it’s a doctrine of death. It’s no good news.

    Question: When most are speaking of law, is it in reference to Ten Commandments and/or Mosaic law, purity law, food law, etc? As for the ten commandments, they bring life, not death, IMO. They are life-affirming & life-giving. To disobey brings hardship & death in some cases. To obey is life. The 10 commands honor life. I just don’t see how they bring death. I see the opposite.

    “If you die, you will by no means see God. And that is the whole point of Christ. To defeat death, not to worship it.”

    I agree Christ defeated death. We live rejoicing in His resurrection & life-affirming commands. I get the goal & purpose of us is God-breathed life. Can you explain what “If you die, you will by no means see God.” means? I confess, I’m not following on this.

  9. Sure, A Mom. Since none of us have a frame of reference for death, all we know is life…obviously. All we know, including ourselves and God is a function of our self aware consciousness. If this consciousness is transient then what does it say about what we know? Is it real or is it an illusion?

    Think about that.

    But again, since it is impossible to reason an existence after “death”, we are left with a reasoning of death by our life, which as I said is impossible. The only rational definition of death then is to view it as that which is mutually exclusive to our life now. And what is that? A complete removal of our SELF from ourselves by denying that which the living consciousness observes and knows. Death then gets defined as man’s efficacious epistemology (his living conscience) being done away with.

    The point I am making is that if we deny the reality of our existence and thereby deny our ability to see and apprehend TRUTH and GOOD and to make right distinctions between truth and lie, good and evil, we will by no means ever see God. For if yourSELF, NOW, is utterly incapable of apprehending goodness and God, as the Calvinists teach, then by what rational argument do they claim they see Him when they die? They make man’s death then the doorway to seeing God. This is not only a logical possibility, it is a full on moral atrocity. It makes murder and suicide the key to understanding God.

    If you die, as I said, you will by no means see God, because death removes you from yourself, making God meaningless. You see and commune with God through LIFE, and life is and always was intended to be everlasting. You cannot see God if you are dead.

  10. “The point I am making is that if we deny the reality of our existence and thereby deny our ability to see and apprehend TRUTH and GOOD and to make right distinctions between truth and lie, good and evil, we will by no means ever see God. For if yourSELF, NOW, is utterly incapable of apprehending goodness and God, as the Calvinists teach, then by what rational argument do they claim they see Him when they die? They make man’s death then the doorway to seeing God. This is not only a logical possibility, it is a full on moral atrocity. It makes murder and suicide the key to understanding God.”

    Thanks for the help there, Argo. I 100% agree. It’s not logical & beyond that it is a doctrine of death, no matter how much good believers of this doctrine do. Each time they do a right action, their body acts against the doctrine, as a matter of fact.

    “If you die, as I said, you will by no means see God, because death removes you from yourself, making God meaningless. You see and commune with God through LIFE, and life is and always was intended to be everlasting. You cannot see God if you are dead.”

    Are you saying you can’t get to God thru / by death? If so, I agree. Are you saying the time to see & commune with God is NOW, thru life, & to do so is life everlasting? If so, I agree.

    True experience. I once attended a church where a lady said she prayed to God to get cancer. She said God blessed her with it & shared this to the church made up of many late teens, early 20s, attending a Christian college in the area. It’s a mega church. It IS her testimony. She was picked to speak to be an example to all.

  11. “They make man’s death then the doorway to seeing God.”

    Let’s not forget about suffering. They also make suffering the path to seeing God, even before you get to the doorway of death. Suffering is a blessing in this doctrine.

  12. A Mom…yes and yes!

    And that story? I am positively shuddering!!

    The distinctions between good and evil have vanished. People are praying for death.

    Wow.

  13. A Mom,

    I am on the verge of years after hearing that story. It is worse than I thought. And I thought it was pretty bad already.

    God help us.

  14. That is the message to the students attending this major Christian college which has leaned reformed in hiring their leaders in recent years. Not just pumping out pastors, but educating students in many academic areas, one biggie is the nursing field.

    I see it. There is so much more that I won’t go into. Argo, this is reality. And why speaking up is so important.

  15. Suffering & cancer are considered blessings. Their interpretation of “as we are weak, He is strong”. Refocused & spending much time in prayer with God. Truly relying & fully depending on Him. At peace. This is what suffering produces according to their doctrine. This is just one instance taken to it’s logical theological conclusion.

    Which is why it’s a doctrine of death. It’s beyond teaching contentment in wrong circumstances, which is bad enough. Suffering is key. Death is the answer.

    I believe this “sovereign suffering” teaching is coming directly from SBTS. My family has ties to young seminary grads coming from there within the last few years. SBTS is just one source, there are probably others. From what I understand, SBTS is now pretty much Calvinistic.

    I am connecting the dots.

  16. And I have come a long way in a short period of time, as you & John have observed. Both your blogs & Paul’s have helped. And the TTANC videos as well. There’s so much in them. I hope they keep producing them, they speed up the dot connecting.

  17. Yes you truly are. Your insights are deep and profound and right on. People like you, Lydia, and a handful of others are what give me hope that these ideas have not been found utterly wanting in this evil world.

  18. A mom, I have heard similar but not that bad. I am shuddering, too. Piper taught similar to this with his “Don’t waste your cancer” deal he was marketing a while back. Problem was his cancer was very prostrate caught early and not really life threatening. But he made a nice profit off it. I find it all strange. Think about it. these are the same folks who are very pro life when it comes to babies in the womb but the minute born then death/suffering is the goal!

  19. This is a HUGE concern. This thinking in the medical field? I am already very concerned about all the Muslims practicing medicine. Yes, I am politically incorrect. Especially as a woman who is considered sub human in their religion and their views on life are very similar to Calvinism.

    we need believers in the medical field who fight for life. Who seek cures for cancer, etc. God help us!!!

  20. Uh no. SBTS is Totally Calvinistic of the worst sort. They are not even the frozen chosen types which are not bad at all in practice. SBTS has become a bastion of hateful thinking. I have many ties there going back years. It has become a repugnant place churning out little Driscolls, Mahaney’s and Piper’s. It is an indoctrination center. There is no education going on there. These young men can only spout what they have been taught. They cannot think or analyze anything. And they don’t do well when they are questioned by people who get it or disagree with them. They are not prepared. All they can do is ad hominen responses after spouting their proof texts and clever responses they are taught. They NEVER think past what they have been taught to it’s logical conclusions. So when you engage them they resort to whining unless they have power. If they have power, you are gone.

    Their students and grads have been tearing churches apart now for years. The SBC is dead spiritually and mostly because of ONE man. Al Mohler who has grabbed power and taken over almost every entity with his loyalists.

  21. A mom, when did you notice something was wrong? What made you start to seek truth? For me it was very gradual and it was in the seeker mega movement, not Calvinism. That came later. I was not familiar with Calvinism at all before 10 years ago.

  22. Paul is on a mission. He & his wife care deeply for others. I don’t think he’ll ever quit either. He’s very focused.

  23. I really enjoyed his evaluation o the evolution of Platonist influence on Christianity. I disagree with most of his conclusions as still not quite rooting out the heart of the matter.

    Good read. Thanks!

  24. It is interesting to find others who see the connection to Greekvpagan philosophy. ESP those written in 1920.

    I found an interesting sermon by Catherine Booth Of Salvation Army fame there was preaching against the popular ” oh what a wretched person I am” religion. She was preaching that we must be and live the kingdom now.

    It is interesting to read her preaching the exact opposite of John Piper. From a while back.

  25. Yeah. That was interesting, too. A great rejection of the obvious rational larceny which is Calvinism-qua-Augustine.

    My only contention was the re-definition of predestination. Predestination (otherwise known as determinism) is absolute. There is NO way to logically equivocate it. Predestination can have NO meaning with respect to individual human beings. If it must be defined, it must start with this premise.

  26. BTE, I have MANY forthcoming posts. Problem is that where I am this week does not provide me with great internet access for my computer. I am going to try to get connected tonight, however. I have some stuff I am just itching to address; most prevalently my response to a neo-cal named Ken who made some reference to “parallel truths” a while back on Wartburg Watch. Parallel truths being the new “paradox”. Anyway…his doctrinal tyranny just begs for a beating.

  27. Okay…was able to connect to my computer from my parents house here. I guess I was just being lazy in asking for the wifi key. Oh well.

  28. The Catholics claim this is why they have “icons” and passion plays; so the people who couldn’t read or couldn’t afford a Bible could see the gospel in pictures. I suppose its the same reason we have Jesus movies. Amazingly, this means Paul is not the gospel…..which Protestants can never accept, and neither can Augustinians. But what is a Protestant but an Augustinian? The Catholic church had abandoned Augustinianism by the Reformation. It was the meddling of an Augustinian monk (i.e. Luther) that brought it back, not only as Protestantism, but brought it back to Catholicism in the form of the counter-reformation (i.e. the Catholic church seeking to be like the Protestants to win some back).

  29. Started reading the article. Don’t have time to finish at moment, but wow! One rarely finds much from the past refuting Augustine’s and Calvin’s writings.

  30. Lydia, It’s a long story. I grew up in a small baptist church that loved kids. Some of my best memories in church were there. It was the opposite of the reformed baptist of what I see today. The short version:

    As an adult, I spent most of my time at a mega seeker church. I felt stagnant, like I wasn’t growing. I wanted more. I was looking for answers to deeper questions.

    Three things led me to this great doctrine of Calvin, although I didn’t know then that’s what it was. One, why suffering? Two, why do some people believe, say they believe, yet do as a habit the opposite without any remorse? Three, an SBTS student who had the answers. It was a perfect storm.

    This doctrine seemed to make sense: Suffering/death was determined by God but he’s in control, remove focus on me & loved one & focus on His bigger plan, okay good. Why do some seem so disconnected from their beliefs? Election/predestination is the answer, okay got it. Again, I don’t think I’d ever heard of Calvin before that or within the church. What I knew was I was again attending a baptist church & it was completely different than my childhood, but it seemed they had plausible answers to questions.

    What I noticed. Even with the “correct” doctrine, there seemed to be much moral chaos there, I’d say even more than in the seeker church. WAY more than in my childhood church. Why come listen to such strong preaching? I initially thought non-election was the reason. No matter how hard you try, if it’s not to be, it will never be, right? I wasn’t the only one who was troubled by the moral chaos, BTW. Some left. I now realize the moral chaos was a result of knowing there is no personal responsibility for actions… it’s ordained. Their action was logical based on the doctrine.

    I gagged on the doctrine when I realized institutions (& there are numerous sacred institutions/calves in churches *not just in reformed churches*, besides the church itself) were more important than people to them. People weren’t their focus, hierarchy was. Actions from leadership shocked me like a lightening bolt. I knew a good God could NOT be happy or pleased & I NEVER waivered from that. From then on, I was back in touch with God who is love. There’s more, but ultimately I began a quest for answers. Thank God for these blogs. I’ve connected many dots. I’m free! Thank God I am out!

    So you know why I am completely against Calvinism, or any doctrine, that maintains a spiritual hierarchy of authority over others & requires submission of individuals. I don’t see it as a minor matter.

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