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Does the Bible Have A Wax Nose?

Does The Bible Have A Wax Nose?
Jay Gallimore
Can Scripture be twisted to say anything anyone wants it to mean? For Seventh-day Adventists the answer to that question is found in Fundamental Belief number one. “The Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history.”[1] In addition, the Church Manual urges believers to “devote ourselves to God’s Book. . . If we cease to be the people of the Book, we are lost, and our mission has failed.”[2]

Paul declares that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete. Peter states, “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.[3]

If Scripture holds the believer accountable to its instructions, then it stands to reason that the Bible writers were writing for all members. Certainly the Apostles had an expectation that the reader or listener would understand its meaning by using their plain common sense. In the day of judgment will anyone be able to argue, “But my priest, or my theologian, or my pastor interpreted it for me?” Each believer must “work out his own salvation with fear and trembling.”[4] Each of us must prayerfully and humbly read the Bible and take it seriously because in its pages we find our Savior. He alone can save us. It’s not Christ in your pastor, priest, or theologian that saves you. It’s “Christ in you the hope of glory.”[5]

Both Peter and Paul insisted that the epistles they wrote be publicly read to the churches. Nevertheless, the papacy long ago abandoned the idea that members could understand the Bible without the Pope interpreting it for them. When the Protestant Reformation provided the common person access to the Bible, suddenly the whole world woke up out of the Dark Ages.

Today, many blindly depend on scholars or clergy to tell them what the Bible means. But is the Bible that mysterious? If the plain teachings of Scripture are locked up in the dungeon of theological interpretation, will the members really know what it teaches? Much of mainline liberal Protestantism have done the same thing as Rome, only in a different way. Utilizing what they call “higher critical scholarship” they have insisted that the plain reading of the Bible is too simplistic and may not mean what it states at face value.

They assume that the inspiration of Bible writers were conditioned by their culture. Consequently, they argue that its plain teachings are not pertinent or timeless or applicable for our day. In plain language, without their help, they do not believe that the average person can understand Scripture and apply it correctly in our modern world.

In 1968-1979, Krister Stendahl, a Swedish theologian and New Testament scholar, served as the dean of Harvard’s Divinity School. He led a reform movement on women's ordination, gay and lesbian rights, and the ordination of LGBT persons for church office. He pushed for the ecumenism of various denominations and other religions.[6] In 1997, he had a discussion with six theologians and religious leaders, and argued that the sin of Sodom was a folk story and stated that to make a Biblical ethics story out of it was not very wise.”[7]

Regrettably, Stendahl’s methods of Bible study—or hermeneutics—have gained traction with some Seventh-day Adventist theologians and leaders. Ekkedhardt Mueller, recently retired from the Biblical Research Committee of the General Conference states, “Stendahl has discussed and defended the concept—that we must clearly distinguish between what the text meant in its original setting and what the text means for us today. This has also influenced Adventist theologians, pastors and church members. Some have suggested that such issues as homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, and the wearing of jewelry, must be interpreted in light of the present cultural situation rather than the context of the ancient texts of Scripture.”[8]

Stendahl’s hermeneutics departs radically from the standard approach of Seventh-day Adventists. In 1986, the Annual Council voted a document called “Methods of Bible Study” (MBS). It clearly rejected the higher critical methods of liberal Protestantism, which places man as the judge of the Bible instead of the Bible the judge of man.

One crucial statement from the MBS states: “Human reason is subject to the Bible, not equal to or above it. Presuppositions regarding the Scriptures must be in harmony with the claims of the Scriptures and subject to correction by them. God intends that human reason be used to its fullest extent, but within the context and under the authority of His Word rather than independent of it.”[9]

The hermeneutics of liberal theologians have given Scripture a wax nose. This makes it possible for them to assume biblical support for whichever way the cultural winds of society are blowing. It’s always popular to tell people that their sins aren’t really sin.

Ministers twisting Scripture to maintain their status is not new. I grew up in a tobacco economy where few Sunday keeping ministers would dare speak against the evils of tobacco. Similar logic was used by the Sadducees and Pharisees to crucify Christ for the “good” of the nation. Sinful societies have always hated the prophets who reproved them and always appreciated theologians who afforded them the theological grounds to stone them.

Ekkedhart Muller continues with a brilliant insight. “Oftentimes behind this question lies the idea and the agenda that the biblical text must be reapplied to our present situation in an absolutely new way. When this is done, biblical vocabulary is still used, however with a completely new meaning. . . By following this approach we would replace God’s original intentions with the authority of the human interpreter and would open the text to innumerable interpretations, running the risk of replacing truth with relativism and pluralism.”[10]

Today, it is not unusual to hear of liberal Protestant ministers marrying same sex couples. Some are in such relationships themselves. Many also deny the virgin birth, the miracles of Christ, the six-day creation and openly endorse evolution.[11]

How can so-called Christian ministers embrace such beliefs and practices? It’s simple really. They have adopted methods of Bible study that give the Bible a wax nose. With their humanly devised hermeneutics, they are able to dismiss the clearest statements of Scripture and even twist it to condone the grossest sins society.

Certainly, we want to always understand the grammar and the historical context of Scripture. These elements are important to produce accurate translations. But to construct cynical human devices, which undermine the clear and timeless teachings of the Bible is to impose a new satanic element in our modern culture.

Every person, nation, and generation comes to one fork in the road. Will we trust God when He speaks? In the Bible He’s not simply speaking to the Israelites at Sinai or the Ephesians in Timothy. He speaking to all of us! Today.

As a church, we’ve chosen to trust God’s Word as true and timeless. Its enduring truths unite us to our Savior. Knowing the Bible is crucial. Critical temptations will continue to confront us individually and as a church.

Let us determine not to permit our faith in the timeless truths of Scripture be seduced by cunningly devised hermeneutics.
[1] SDA Church Manual, p. 156, 2010 edition.
[2] Ibid. p. 137.
[3] 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21.
[4] Philippians 2:12.
[5] Colossians 1:27.
[8] Ekkedhardt Mueller, “What the Biblical Text Meant and What It Means,” Biblical Research Institute, https://adventistbiblicalresearch.org/materials/bible-interpretation-hermeneutics/what-biblical-text-meant-and-what-it-means. Accessed January 10, 2017.
[9] General Conference Committee, Annual Council, “Methods of Bible Study,” https://adventistbiblicalresearch.org/materials/bible-interpretation-hermeneutics/what-biblical-text-meant-and-what-it-means. Accessed January 10, 2017.
[10] Ekkedhardt Mueller, “What the Biblical Text Meant and What It Means,” Biblical Research Institute, https://adventistbiblicalresearch.org/materials/bible-interpretation-hermeneutics/what-biblical-text-meant-and-what-it-means. Accessed January 10, 2017.
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