Who’s Up for (the exciting conclusion to) An Honest Reading? John 6:37-40

Theological discussion in various venues often pits one position of belief against its opposites. Supporters of one position or another like to issue proposition statements of the form ‘If they would give _____ an honest reading’, ‘once I gave ______ an honest reading’,’ you can’t read _________ honestly and still believe’ or various other permutations that are meant to couch the idea that your position is unsupportable in the light of clear interpretation. In other words, the veiled inference is that theological presuppositions have colored your interpretation of the text and if you would put them aside and engage an honest reading of the text, you would certainly see the validity of the opposing position. Let’s see if that’s a valid argument…

image Before we jump into the conclusion of this series, let’s have a look at how proof-texting works so that the danger in the practice becomes apparent. Suppose we want to ‘prove’ the horrible doctrine of infanticide exists in the Bible. [Atheist polemics use this argument all the time.] The proof-texter searches the Scriptures looking for individual verses or passages that appear to support this abhorrent practice so that they can proclaim the ‘truth’ that God approves the killing of children for pleasure or sustenance and they find these passages:

Psalm 137:9 -  he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

2 Kings 6:28-29 – She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we’ll eat my son.’ So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him,’ but she had hidden him.”

God killing the first born, the Flood, etc. Okay, a quick show of hands. Who believes that God advocates or even suggests a doctrine of infanticide?

No one? Why not?

Because we know the dishonesty of pulling a passage from its context to try to make it match our desired meaning. We know that we are not free to dismiss the surrounding circles of context in the process of developing doctrine and yet, we continue to do so.

The Honest Reading

In the previous post we looked at the importance of making sure that the language we are reading (in this case English) holds the same meaning in the text as it did in the author’s original language. In the passage we are studying, there weren’t any surprises for the honest reader but the reader who wants to load a theological presupposition into the passage might find a bit of difficulty.

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Who’s Up (today) for An Honest Reading? John 6:37-40

image Theological discussion in various venues often pits one position of belief against its opposites. Supporters of one position or another like to issue proposition statements of the form ‘If they would give _____ an honest reading’, ‘once I gave ______ an honest reading’,’ you can’t read _________ honestly and still believe’ or various other permutations that are meant to couch the idea that your position is unsupportable in the light of clear interpretation. In other words, the veiled inference is that theological presuppositions have colored your interpretation of the text and if you would put them aside and engage an honest reading of the text, you would certainly see the validity of the opposing position. Let’s see if that’s a valid argument…

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  (Jn 6:37–40)

It’s All Greek to Me

Yesterday we looked at the various contextual levels in which the reader encounters a bible passage. To avoid mishandling a text or inappropriately proof-texting out of context we need to recognize the material that surrounds the passage to varying degrees of immediacy. We close by turning our attention to the language used by the original author and how well our modern translations accord to the original meaning of the words used. This will come as a shock to some but the Bible was not delivered in Elizabethan English. God elected to transmit His truth through authors in Hebrew and Greek for the most part and if we are going to delve beyond our English (or whatever translated language we read) we need to dive into the original texts. Caution is advised here; words in Greek and Hebrew often have ranges of meaning just like their English counterparts and it is easy to manipulate the interpretation of a passage

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Who’s Up (again) for An Honest Reading? John 6:37-40

image Theological discussion in various venues often pits one position of belief against its opposites. Supporters of one position or another like to issue proposition statements of the form ‘If they would give _____ an honest reading’, ‘once I gave ______ an honest reading’,’ you can’t read _________ honestly and still believe’ or various other permutations that are meant to couch the idea that your position is unsupportable in the light of clear interpretation. In other words, the veiled inference is that theological presuppositions have colored your interpretation of the text and if you would put them aside and engage an honest reading of the text, you would certainly see the validity of the opposing position. Let’s see if that’s a valid argument…

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  (Jn 6:37–40)

A Text Without a Context May Be a Pretext

We closed our discussion yesterday with a brief discussion of the necessity for recognizing context in interpreting biblical texts. In all cases, we want to avoid the interpretive error of proof texting which, unfortunately, has become a substitute for sound exegesis. In our pursuit of an honest reading, let’s have a look at the context in which this passage occurs, starting from the immediate and moving outward.

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Who’s Up for An Honest Reading? John 6:37-40

image Theological discussion in various venues often pits one position of belief against its opposites. Supporters of one position or another like to issue proposition statements of the form ‘If they would give _____ an honest reading’, ‘once I gave ______ an honest reading’,’ you can’t read _________ honestly and still believe’ or various other permutations that are meant to couch the idea that your position is unsupportable in the light of clear interpretation. In other words, the veiled inference is that theological presuppositions have colored your interpretation of the text and if you would put them aside and engage an honest reading of the text, you would certainly see the validity of the opposing position. Let’s see if that’s a valid argument…

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  (Jn 6:37–40)

Given the earlier promise of Jesus recorded by the Evangelist John in 3:16-17, the power of the good news that brought many to believe in Samaria recorded in 4:39, and his repetition of the earlier promise for any who believe spoken in 5:24, an honest reading of this passage leads the reader to two conclusions.

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Lent 2009 – 24 Steps to the Cross

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When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16)

Of many moments between Jesus and Peter, this confession of belief and faith is one remembered by the majority of Christians. When Jesus asks of the disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”, He must already know the answer. The responses—John the Baptist, Elijah, even Jeremiah—reveal the spiritual sense of the time. People were looking for a savior but perhaps, not for their souls. Their vision of the anointed one would be like David, a king who would lead them back to national prominence as befitted the people of Yahweh. Jesus asks those closest to Him the same question; do they hold the same nationalistic views? It is here that Peter steps forward as the spokesman to proclaim how the disciples view Him, He is the Christ, the anointed Son of the Living God, someone far beyond the human leader that many others craved.

Jesus asks us the same question. Who is Jesus to you? An insurance policy? A gift giver? Someone to be used as a theological hammer against those who understand Him in a different way? Has this question popped up in your prayer life?

Who is Jesus to you?

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Life With God 3g – I AM The True Vine

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In the last allegory that we will examine in this series, we find ourselves once again meditating on one of the fundamental truths of our lives; the primary and most important relationship that we must maintain as disciples is with Jesus Christ.

I am the the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

The image of the vine is sufficiently vivid as to fire our imagination. We receive the life giving nourishment only as we remain connected to that vine. To be separated is to die. It is the vine that has roots deep into the earth, drawing everything it needs from the creation. Some of the branches will make the most effective use of their junction with the vine and bear glorious fruit. Other will only see the connection in the most cursory terms, not drawing on it and simply surviving.

Dead wood is ruthlessly culled by the gardener. It harbors rot and danger to the healthy plant. Pruning of the live branches is nothing to be feared. Without this practice, energy can go into developing the branch’s wood rather than into bearing fruit. Cutting back the branch reorients its growth into the important task of bearing fruit, painful at first but beneficial in the end. Sometimes the branch that appears to have received the harshest cutback can produce the greatest fruit.