I Love Gellies

Mormonism, Evangelicism and Chaos Theory

Interpretation versus Verses

There’s a pattern that I usually go through when I talk with Evangelicals. Usually there is an attack, and you can guess which side is doing the attacking. Next, there is a an accusation of not being Christian. Again, you can probably guess which side it comes from. The argument for not being Christian usually follows an assumption of “You don’t believe X and therefore you don’t believe the Bible and therefore aren’t Christian.”

The problem with this argument, is that in a majority of the cases, the belief X isn’t strictly biblical. That is, the argumentor does solely state the scripture as though it is purely self-explanatory. Instead, the argumentor always adds to the statement, and interprets it. And for some reason, many evangelicals have allowed this practice to continue unchecked. Those of us who know the difference between a paraphrase and an interpretation are often flustered by the conflation of the two. Do not other Evangelicals note the difference between the two? Do not Evangelicals reject interpretations that have historically proven inaccurate? Yet at the time, the Evangelical proponents of such interpretations commonly proclaim their beliefs as “biblical” and denounce those who don’t agree with them as “not understanding the Bible.”

Ever since my mission, when I spoke with a very religious Evangelical, my only message for Evangelicals has been, “I agree with the Bible but not your interpretation of it.”

What can we do to better explain this problem. How have my Mormon friends dealt with this. Have any of my Evangelical friends noticed this, and how have they tried to help their own speak more logically and friendly? Is there anything more prideful than declaring one’s own reading as the only possible, logically correct interpretation?

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May 2, 2009 - Posted by | Religion |

4 Comments »

  1. Is there anything more prideful than declaring one’s own reading as the only possible, logically correct interpretation?

    That really depends on the verses you are referring to. Do you have any specific examples?

    Keep in mind that we see the Bible as our authority. We believe its words have life-transforming power. When sharing the Word of Life, we want to hold it forth to stand up for itself. We don’t want to present merely “our opinion” on it. Sure there are going to be differences of opinion on a number of matters, but there are basics that we agree on where we differ with Mormons (i.e. especially the nature of God and the nature of man). Those verses should speak for themselves. They are God’s testimony to us. We shouldn’t merely give “our reading” of them; we want to let God speak for Himself.

    Comment by Jessica | May 2, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hi Jessica, hope you’re having a great weekend.

    I have been reticent to post examples, because I don’t know if I’m doing it out of charity, yet. Maybe I can invent a situation that shows the similiarities without actually taking anyone else out to task?

    My understanding of letting the text speak for itself would be to quote the context of the scripture, and then the scripture without any personal interpretation.

    Simply stating the scripture will likely not convince someone, it’s a bad argument, and yet it’s the best argument. Because the moment you start placing the text in different words than the translation justifies, you’ve begun to interpret it.

    Letting the text speak for itself is to quote John 1:1-4.

    1 IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

    Now I’m guessing the common “Evangelical” way of interpreting this is to say, Jesus was the Word, and Jesus is the same substance of God, and has never not been God. They would then state Jesus created everything ex nihilo. (If I’m wrong in this contrived example please let me know).

    But any objective outside observer (which I’m trying to be for this) in honesty has to admit that the verse doesn’t clearly teach that Jesus was always God, or that Jesus created everything ex nihlo, or that Jesus is the same substance of God.

    I don’t want to rehash a lot of the discussions we’ve had before, (and I should probably link to it for those who want to read the background), this is my point.

    The text clearly states the following: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
    One can interpret it to mean “nothing exists that wasn’t created.” Or one can interpret it to mean “of all created things, Jesus made them all.” The text doesn’t make any claims at all about the existence of pre-existant matter. That is a matter of interpretation. I can see that Evangelicals choose to interpret the text one way, and that Mormons choose to interpret the text another. But both sides are accepting and rejecting data that the other side doesn’t.

    As I’ve already pointed out, the text doesn’t say anything about substance, and including this verse when talking about defending the inclusion of the word “substance” is either not recognizing the interpretative nature of their argument or to not be able to read.

    I accept and agree with the opening verses of John. I believe Jesus is the Word, that He was God, and that He was with God in the beginning. I believe he made everything that was made, and that in Him is the light and life of men.

    Comment by psychochemiker | May 2, 2009 | Reply

  3. I guess to answer my own question: other’s recognize this problem exists. But do they then act in the same manner by teaching they are the only ones to interpret the biblical data correctly?

    Misinterpretations

    Comment by psychochemiker | May 2, 2009 | Reply

  4. […] says this. Are you in agreement with this, or do we need to discuss the difference between how we interpret a text, and what a text actually says? BTW, I’m NOT trying to be condescending, just complete. I am OK if […]

    Pingback by Trinity vs Monotheism « Psychochemiker's Blog | July 2, 2009 | Reply


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