12 May 2006

Notes on Presuppositions in Hermeneutics

I read this recommendation of Michael Barrett's Beginning at Moses this morning:
I remember in one class a student asked Dr. Barrett why he always found Christ when studying the Old Testament. Dr. Barrett replied that when reading the Bible you find what you are looking for. I have had few statements in my life that have stayed with me through the years as that statement has stayed with me. If you are looking for information about the Bible, that is what you will find. If you are looking for daily inspiritation [sic], that is what you will find. However, that is not why God gave us His written Word. God gave us the Bible that we might know Christ. No book, other than God's inspired Word, can teach us of Christ: His Person and His Work.

The recommendation reminded me of what I read yesterday from [James] Spurgeon himself:
We all have presuppositions when we come to the Bible. The challenge is not to try to dispose of them. Rather, the challenge is to try to make sure our presuppositions are the correct ones, i.e. in line with Scripture.

So how in the world do we come about getting the right presuppositions? I suggest that the answer is at least three-fold.
(1) Genuine conversion is necessary for coming to the Scriptures with the correct presuppositions. One will never interpret the Scriptures accurately who is hell-bent on escaping God's authority. He will do whatever he can to "twist [the Scriptures] to their own destruction" (2 Pet 3:16).

(2) The indwelling Spirit is necessary for coming to the Scriptures with the correct presuppositions. Without him, the continual renewal of our minds (Rom 12:2; see also Col 3:10, Eph 4:23) would be impossible. Paul made this clear in 1 Cor 2:14, "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." The psalmist was also aware that he needed to plead with God for illumination, "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law" (Ps 119:18).

(3) Continual and obedient exposure to the content of the Scriptures is necessary for coming to the Scriptures with the correct presuppositions. Again the psalter aids our understanding, "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple" (Ps 19:7).

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