This question came up in our discussion on Wednesday night dealing with the issue of homosexuality and how the Scriptures speak to this issue. The question is usually how do we relate to the Old Testament? The normal mode of discussion is that if Christ fulfilled the Old Testament is it even relevant to us? Has not the old covenant become obsolete because of the New covenant inaugurated by Christ (Hebrews 7:18-22). Many Christians do not even read the Old Testament because of some of these arguments; other do not read it because the culture and context are so far removed from us they can’t make any sense of it at all. It is a tricky subject but I will try and address some of those issues here and possibly in the weeks to come to provide some perspective.
Analogy of Faith (Analogia Fidei)
Analogy of Faith is the belief that the Bible is a unified whole in what it teaches. It does not contradict itself. So what the Bible teaches in one place must agree (or be in harmony) with what it teaches in other places. Therefore we can use the rest of the Bible and theology to evaluate any theological statement or truth claim. This is based on a high view of the authority and inspiration of the Scriptures, (which is the position I hold but not everyone holds this position). Out of this belief comes an important principle of interpreting the Bible. This principle claims that the clearer parts of the Bible guide our interpretation of the less clear parts or statements. Sometimes there is a distinction made between the Analogy of Faith (more creedal statements which most of would associate with doctrinal beliefs) and the Analogy of Scripture (theological statements).
Hermeneutics is the study of the principles used to interpret the Bible. This method guides or governs how one understands what the writers wrote. The Bible, in some ways, is no different than any other historical document when it comes to these principles. The method or way we would understand the writings of Shakespeare are the same principles that we would use to understand the Bible. For example, context is very important in understanding the Bible. Many, many errors have been made because people pull a verse out of the narrative and make it mean something entirely different than what the writer or speaker intended. Context is important when understanding Shakespeare too. Other things like the style of writing (genre) also is important. Writers or speakers use metaphor, simile, idioms and other styles of communicating where the idea or concept is not literal to every term used but an exaggerated expression for emphasis.
One thing we are seeing is there are different models that are being created to interpret the Scriptures. Instead of using the analogy of faith mentioned above, some are using biblical themes to govern how things are interpreted. So, for example when talking about homosexuality the governing themes are hospitalityand a theology of welcomethat those who develop this model says imitates the life of Jesus. Therefore when it comes to understanding the Bible, these themes take priority even over the context (my opinion) and come up with different conclusions that a traditional interpretation.
Another problem is simply that aspects of God’s Word are hard to understand:
“… just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness…”
– 2 Peter 3:15-17 (NAS)
The first principle of understanding the relationship between the Old and New Testament (Covenants) is the analogy of faith. This does assume the inspiration of Scripture and that God’s Word is the final authority for all matters of life and practice. While some individuals and churches do not hold to these key values this is my premise for interpreting the Scriptures. We will talk more about this next week.
Pastor Brad Little