There’s a problem in Christendom today and I believe it might just begin with this one question:
What does it mean to you?
It’s all about your experience today. It’s all about your interpretation of things. In fact, even the Bible is all about what you believe it says. Or so it seems that is the approach we take today in Christendom. Your experience trumps my experience and my experience trumps your experience. Your view of Scripture trumps mine and the guy who has the latest and greatest, cool post on Twitter beats mine and Martin Luther’s and John Calvin’s.
Do you know the difference between these two terms?
Exegesis and Eisegesis.
Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text-based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.
Eisegesis is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants. Those who eisegete Scripture are on the “Grace Train” today. The “Grace Train?” That’s the train that everybody who wants to live Christianity “any ole way they like” are on. And the only way to ride that train is to eisegete Scripture the Burger King way (have it your way).
Therefore, in my humble opinion, the word which describes what we see most today in relationship to biblical interpretation? Yep…eisegesis. It’s absolutely the mode and method of what you see on Facebook, Twitter and in many blogs today.
Let me give you an example with this guys blog post…
Being a Christian Doesn’t Always Look Like You Think It Should
The article was written by this man:
Those titles should give you an idea that this guy might just be the conductor of the “Grace Train.” Let me say this…I’m not seeking to beat this guy up. I know someone could take my blog posts and beat me up. But, this is a perfect example of what I’m speaking of…
Here’s the article. Buckle up:
Christian subcultures are an entertaining phenomenon. Multiple brands of Christianity claim the same Lord and read the same Bible, and yet they promote a set of values sometimes as different as apples and orangutans.
I once heard a story about a Christian woman from the East Coast who confronted a West Coast youth-pastor, who allowed “mixed bathing” at youth events. “I can’t believe any so-called Christian leader would allow boys and girls to swim together!” She expressed her concern, all the while puffing on a cigarette. The youth pastor couldn’t help but smile, speechless at the irony.
I attended a conservative Brethren church when I lived in Scotland. Some of the women wore head coverings and none of them spoke in church. When I had our Irish pastor and his wife over for dinner, I asked them what he would like to drink. “Beer please,” the preacher said. “And for you, madam?” “I’ll take a glass of Chardonnay, thank you.” Were they liberal or conservative? I guess it depends on which subculture you come from.
When you try to cut out Christians with a religious cookie cutter, you not only tarnish diversity, but you trample on grace. It’s one thing for Christian subcultures to cultivate unique values. But it becomes destructive when those values are chiseled on Sinaitic tablets for all to obey.
It’s even worse when Christians expect instant holiness from recent converts—holiness, that is, in areas where we think we’ve nailed it.
When you try to cut out Christians with a religious cookie cutter, you not only tarnish diversity, but you trample on grace.
It’s a shame that some believers have scoffed at some of Shia Labeouf’s recent comments about converting to Christianity, pointing fingers at the fact that he still uses bad language weeks after becoming a Christian. It’s worth noting that some are speculating that Labeouf’s conversion may have actually been more of a rather dramatic example of method acting than a true conversion but, regardless, many Christians chose to focus on his language instead of his heart. God only knows the true believers from the false. But to judge a man’s faith because there’s a residue of potty mouth?
Bad language may take years to weed out. Even more difficult to extract is the pride that drives judgmental Christians to mock the Spirit’s work in a man seeking his Creator. That sin could take decades to discover. Grace means that we are all works in progress, and God shaves off our rough edges in His timing. Just look at the thugs God works with in the Bible.
I know we’re programmed to see the 12 apostles as saints with halos and contemplative faces. But actually, they were criminals. These guys were more like prisoners than pastors, and few of them would have been let inside our churches today.
Take Peter, for instance. Peter walked with Jesus for three years, witnessing miracle after miracle, sermon after sermon. Still, on the night before Jesus’s death, a servant girl asked Peter if he knew Jesus. “I do not know the man!” Peter responded. And he even evoked a curse on himself to prove he wasn’t lying (Matthew 26:74).
Can you imagine if your pastor did that? “Good morning, church. I just want to say that I don’t even know who Jesus is!” We have a hard time forgiving pastors who commit adultery. I don’t think we’d know how to handle a pastor who had a public bout with doubt.
Then there’s James and John, whom Jesus nicknames “sons of thunder.” Apparently, they never made it through an anger management seminar. On one occasion, these two hotheads wanted to nuke an entire village because they wouldn’t let them spend the night (Luke 9:51-56). The whole village—women and children. Luckily, Jesus stepped in to prevent the destruction. These two holy apostles would have been better fit as bouncers outside an expensive casino in Vegas owned by a mobster, than preachers of the gospel of love.
My favorite pair is Simon the “Zealot” and Matthew the tax-collector. How did those two thugs get along?
Matthew’s vocation was nothing less than political and religious treason. Tax-collector’s were Jewish agents of Rome, who mediated pagan oppression through taking money from innocent people. Imagine if you found out that your childhood friend was making a living off funneling money to ISIS. Would you use him to plant a church? Apparently, Jesus did.
You cannot sanitize grace. You can’t stuff it into a blue blazer and make it wear khakis. Grace is messy, offensive, and it sometimes misses church.
Tax-collectors were more than extortionists. They were known for living excessively immoral lives and hanging out with all the wrong people. Religious Jews, in fact, believed that tax-collectors were passed the point repentance. Matthew didn’t have a moral bone in his body. But of course, after becoming a Christian, he immediately stopped sinning and never used bad language ever again.
Simon, as a “Zealot,” probably grew up on the other side of the tracks. The “Zealots” were named such not because they were prayer warriors. They were just warriors—Jewish jihadists. The “Zealots” were known for killing their Roman oppressors or other Jews who were sell-outs. They were aggressive, violent, and they did anything but love their enemies. Had Simon met Matthew on the streets, there’s a good chance one of them would have been found lying in chalk.
To build His Kingdom, Jesus handpicks what could be compared to the leader of the Black Panther party and the grand wizard of the KKK. I doubt anyone closed their eyes at that first prayer meeting.
You cannot sanitize grace. You can’t stuff it into a blue blazer and make it wear khakis. Grace is messy, offensive, and it sometimes misses church. To expect God to pump prefabricated plastic moral people out of a religious factory is to neuter grace and chain it inside a gated community. If God’s scandalous relationship with the 12 thugs means anything, then we should expect a variegated spectrum of righteousness and be patient—or repentant—when such sanctification doesn’t meet out expectations. God meets us in our mess and pushes holiness out the other side.
Not anti-mixed-bathing holiness. But the real stuff. The holiness that serves the poor, prays without ceasing, redeems the arts, loves enemies, elevates community above corporate success, and preaches the life-giving Gospel of a crucified and risen Lamb in season and out.
There are many, many things I could say, but I’m going to let my life weigh in on the matter. Pam’s thoughts are brief, but to the point. Here’s her comments:
This article has some valid points. I am not for legalism for sure. He talks a lot about hypocrisy which is definitely a problem. I say read the Bible from beginning to end and then use it to guide, not some random blog. So many don’t do that.
What we do, even if we are a Christian, can mess up our families for generations to come. I don’t want that on my shoulders. The things we do in moderation our children often do in excess (good or bad). Here are two scriptures that address this particular article. Romans 14:21 and 1 Corinthians 10:23. Here is the latter…”I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive.”
And I want to introduce you to a Millennial and give you his thoughts. Why? Because this is a 24-year-old and what he has to say is “spot on.”
This is Caleb Triplett.
He is a Ministry Assistant at church and helps me in various capacities. His thoughts on the article above are excellent.
First off, I just want to say, I kind of get where this guy is coming from, kind of… See, I followed him pretty well for the first, let’s say 25% of this article, then he lost me somewhere around talking about how Shia Labeouf’s “potty mouth” was normal, and the how the “punks” that were the very people Christ handpicked to carry His Gospel and message to the entire world were examples of sloppy Christian living… No biggie right? Wrong….
I agree… growing pains are part of becoming a disciple. Spiritual growth is a process, and not one that happens overnight. All of us who are Christians know that sanctification is a process that ALL OF US ARE STILL WORKING THROUGH. Its one thing to understand that as a reality, and it is another thing to excuse it as permissible and good. There are strengths in this article. I “kind of” followed this guy for part of the article, by “kind of” I mean with skepticism.
The church has long been guilty, especially in the south (Bible belt) of looking down our noses at others, especially in the areas we are “good at”. We’ve been guilty of criticizing others as a way to serve ourselves by patting ourselves on the back. Truthfully, I grew up in the Church, and I experienced those types of painful jabs often before I became a believer. So, yes, we do need to improve in our humility and grace. We do need to be patient with young disciples as they go through growing pains, we do need to bear with the various nuances of each denomination and difference within Christendom with grace, we do need to embrace the world with the love of Christ. But, guys, we are going a little overboard. We can’t allow the pendulum to swing by excusing repeated, and habitual slothful and immature Christian behavior.
There are a couple things I didn’t like. From the get go, I got the impression that I was going to be told how I could be a “better” Christian by not expecting or telling others to be “better”. I got the hint that he was going to use some false humility. False humanity is hidden hypocrisy. It is talking ad nauseam about the importance of humility, and love all the while telling people how wrong they are, and how you’ve got it all together because you are “humble”. The author talked about being humble, graceful, and understanding while at the same time exhibiting very little of it for his fellow believers who have preceded him… after all, he’s young, and has all the knowledge of God at his fingertips…
Why Holiness should be expected and not excused:
While it certainly hurts to be rejected and looked down upon, it also hurts equally (in the long run) to be held unaccountable and to have no one around us that expects growth. That is the worst type of pride and lack of compassion. The kind that notches the belt, and lets you go on your merry way unconcerned about the rest of your life. Eventually we’ve got to come to the realization that while spiritual growth is a process that does not occur overnight, that it is still expected… required… commanded by scripture to all those that wish to follow after Christ. It is not the Church that demands it, or your fellow believers. It is Christ. He expects you to be radically transformed by the cross.
The fact is, it is the duty of the church and your fellow believers to hold you. We don’t use our opinions, we don’t use our own preferences, we use scripture, and we do so in love not in hate, pride, or selfishness. It hurts to be held accountable. Yet, how will we grow if accountability does not occur? We can do two things with accountability. We can be defensive, bitter, and reject it. Or we can embrace it with love and appreciation. We can use it to fuel our desire to honor Christ for His love and sacrifice. That’s the thing. We grow for Christ, not the church. We strive for Holiness to please Him, not others. But, we still grow, we still strive. It’s all in the motivation of it all.
Where and Why he REALLY Lost me:
You know, the thing that irked me most about this article is that it is completely rooted and founded on speculation and assumption. I see no part of scripture that refers to the disciples as “thugs”, especially after they leave behind their nets. The author takes certain passages out of context to give authority and substantiate his claims that the disciples were “thugs” and hoodlums in order to give reason for his thesis that scripture supports and understands fully that the Gospel doesn’t always have to “transform”. Sloppy Christian living is A-OK, so infers the author. The problem is, that is called proof-texting, and it’s not a proper way to interpret scripture.
What about using Matthew as an example. Matthew was a very pagan man before His conversion. Among the most despised of the Jewish community, and highly immoral. To that I agree. Yet, this author claims that basically there was no way that he was immediately transformed and stopped living that way. Well, maybe, maybe not. But, I think we get a pretty good idea of what happened by the fact that Matthew continued to become a very radical and committed follower of Christ. Why is it unreasonable to suspect that Matthew was immediately transformed? Of course its foolish to think he never sinned again, but I do believe it is reasonable to believe that Matthew wouldn’t have supported this idea that the author of this article purports by saying that Matthew is an example of why Christianity can be sloppy and untransformed.
It could be that this author just misspoke, or meant something other than what he said. If he is simply trying to say that we shouldn’t expect all Christians to “look” the same (i.e. fashion, hobbies, social status, color, gender, preferences, denomination, style, traditions, etc), he is exactly right. Christianity is diverse, and it is not “cookie cutter. Trust me, Christ was fully aware and conscious that He was going to be the Lord of the most diverse group of people this earth had ever seen. But, if this author is trying to lay claim that scripture is fully supportive of an habitually sinful, worldly and unrepentant lifestyle, or that Christianity doesn’t really require a “transformation” then He is a little off. Scripture does not support this claim…. Ever… In order to support this thesis, he has to pull out massive speculation and assumption, and even then we are all left having to still convince ourselves to believe a farce.
In short, I agree, spiritual growth is a process, and it doesn’t happen overnight, and we have to be patient with people. Yet, the only way they will grow is if we expect them to. After all, Jesus was awfully hard on the disciples, their lack of faith, and Peter’s crazy ways. He chastised them publicly, and privately. I bet the writer of this article didn’t think of that 🙂 I think he should consider this topic next:
Christianity doesn’t always look like our culture wants it to.
Excellent Caleb!! Simply excellent!
I know it’s been a lengthy post, but I can’t end without giving you the words of Oswald Chambers. I think they will sum up this entire discussion quite well.
What understanding do you have of the salvation of your soul? The work of salvation means that in your real life things are dramatically changed. You no longer look at things in the same way. Your desires are new and the old things have lost their power to attract you. One of the tests for determining if the work of salvation in your life is genuine is— has God changed the things that really matter to you? If you still yearn for the old things, it is absurd to talk about being born from above— you are deceiving yourself. If you are born again, the Spirit of God makes the change very evident in your real life and thought. And when a crisis comes, you are the most amazed person on earth at the wonderful difference there is in you. There is no possibility of imagining that you did it. It is this complete and amazing change that is the very evidence that you are saved.
What difference has my salvation and sanctification made? For instance, can I stand in the light of 1 Corinthians 13 , or do I squirm and evade the issue? True salvation, worked out in me by the Holy Spirit, frees me completely. And as long as I “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7), God sees nothing to rebuke because His life is working itself into every detailed part of my being, not on the conscious level, but even deeper than my consciousness.
Amen and amen!