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By Beth, Jan 8 2018 10:52PM


(This is a paper that I wrote for my graduate degree in Christian Ministry.)


Who was Pelagius?


Pelagius was an ascetic Christian from the British Isles who withstood Augustine of Hippo’s doctrines on free will, human nature, and salvation, causing a firestorm of persecution toward Pelagius by prominent Roman Catholic bishops and leaders of the time. Pelagius was eventually labeled a heretic and excommunicated from the Church.


Born circa 354 AD, Pelagius, in his twenties, “became a highly regarded spiritual director for both clergy and laymen” in Rome. The moral permissiveness he saw demonstrated by the Roman Christians around him offended his moral sensibilities, and his scrupulous standards for Christian behavior and virtue became a thorn in the side of many Roman Christians. Pelagius attributed the moral negligence he saw to doctrines propagated by Augustine at the time, including the notion that continence (or self-control) came only from the grace that was allotted to humanity by God at any given time. Pelagius believed that this way of thinking afforded humanity a means of escaping accountability for their own lack of temperance (by attributing it a grace that could be given or not given at random by God.) He “feared that people influenced by such teaching tend to dismiss any responsibility for their own actions.” Though he “agreed with Augustine that God has made us free, and that the source of evil is in the will,” he believed that “this meant human beings always have the ability to overcome their sin.”

Pelagius’ objections to Augustine’s teaching “on the grounds that it imperilled the entire moral law” attracted enough attention to gain a foothold in the city of Rome (and a follower who was an attorney named Celestius). As Pelagius’ influence grew, so, too, did his circle of critics. His most vocal and prolific opponent became Augustine of Hippo, whose own doctrinal power and sway with the Church had the potential of being undercut by Pelagius’ teachings. Jerome also had a negative opinion of Pelagius’ teachings and wrote against him in 415.


Though most of Pelagius’ writings are now strangely non-extant (whereas we have volumes of Augustine’s work,) much has been asserted about what Pelagius believed and taught. Indeed, it seems Augustine constructed an entire doctrinal empire simply out of his refutations of Pelagius’ teachings. Some scholars have even suggested that, were it not for Pelagius, Augustine may never have solidified his doctrine of Original Sin.


However, since there exists at least one document attributed to Pelagius’ “own hand,” let us examine Pelagius’ beliefs in his own words (from his “Letter to Demetrias in 413”.)


On Free Will


Pelagius addresses the free will of the “rational creature” to do good:


It was because God wished to bestow on the rational creature the gift of doing good of his own free will and the capacity to exercise free choice, by implanting in man the possibility of choosing either alternative, that he made it his peculiar right to be what he wanted to be, so that with his capacity for good and evil he could do either quite naturally and then bend his will in the other direction too. He could not claim to possess the good of his own volition, unless he were the kind of creature that could also have possessed evil. Our most excellent creator wished us to be able to do either but actually to do only one, that is, good, which he also commanded, giving us the capacity to do evil only so that we might do his will by exercising our own.


In this passage, Pelagius asserts that, in order for God to give humanity credit for doing good, humanity must also be capable of doing evil. Later, he will go on to argue that God would not have asked humans to do righteously if they were not capable of doing so.


Moreover, the Lord of Justice wished man to be free to act and not under compulsion; it was for this reason that he left him free to make his own decisions and set before him life and death, good and evil, and he shall be given whatever pleases him. Hence, we read in the Book Deuteronomy also: I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you may live (Dt.30.19).


Here, Pelagius addresses the true nature of choice: if humanity was not given free choice of the will by God, they would be acting “under compulsion” to do good. To this day, we do not “give credit” or assign accountability to a soldier who “was only following orders.” Therefore, no reward, nor any consequence, would be properly assigned to a human race that was acting under a compulsion to do either good or (as Augustine will later assert,) evil. Pelagius affirmed that “men had been endowed by God with free will, so that they should follow His law and live perfect lives” in Christ.


On Human Nature


Augustine taught that human nature was already fallen, or defiled, by the Fall of Adam and Eve. Here, Pelagius very plainly refutes that teaching:


First, then, you ought to measure the good of human nature by reference to its Creator, I mean God, of course: if it is he who, as report goes, has made all the works of and within the world good, exceeding good, how much more excellent do you suppose that he has made man himself, on whose account he has clearly made everything else? And before actually making man, he determines to fashion him in his own image and likeness and shows what kind of creature he intends to make him.


Pelagius argues that if everything else God made was good (and he emphasizes that all of it was distinctly made for humanity’s sake,) how much more would God ensure that humanity was made “excellent?”


Furthermore, he contends that even the pagans are capable of showing Godly behavior and attributes:


For how many of the pagan philosophers have we heard and read and even seen for ourselves to be chaste, tolerant, temperate, generous, abstinent and kindly, rejecters of the world's honours as well as its delights, lovers of justice no less than knowledge? Whence, I ask you, do these good qualities pleasing to God come to men who are strangers to him? Whence can these good qualities come to them, unless it be from the good of nature? …But if even men without God can show what kind of creatures they were made by God, consider what Christians are able to do whose nature and life have been instructed for the better by Christ and who are assisted by the aid of divine grace as well.


Indeed, Pelagius’ contention is supported by the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 2:14-15:


For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness…


Pelagius also recalls Old Testament individuals who were described in the Scriptures as righteous, blameless, or perfect. Noah (Genesis 6:9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God,) Enoch, Job (Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil,) Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are all mentioned by Pelagius as saints who kept the Commandments of God (pre-incarnate Christ) and upheld His righteousness out of their own volition and knowledge of the good.


On Salvation


Pelagius continues on with this theme in this section:


Even before the law was given to us, as we have said, and long before the arrival of our Lord and Saviour some are reported to have lived holy and righteous lives; how much more possible must we believe that to be after the light of his coming, now that we have been instructed by the grace of Christ and reborn as better men: purified and cleansed by his blood, encouraged by his example to pursue perfect righteousness, we ought surely to be better than those who lived before the time of the law, better even than those who lived under the law, since the apostle says: For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (Rom.6.14).


This again echoes Paul’s sentiments in Chapter 2 of Hebrews:


Hebrews 2:2-4: For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?


Perhaps this next section is the most brilliant and effective refutation of Augustine’s assertion of man’s natural inability to incline toward good (and hence, keep the Commandments of God):


Nothing impossible has been commanded by the God of justice and majesty…. Why do we indulge in pointless evasions, advancing the frailty of our own nature as an objection to the one who commands us? No one knows better the true measure of our strength than he who has given it to us nor does anyone understand better how much we are able to do than he who has given us this very capacity of ours to be able; nor has he who is just wished to command anything impossible or he who is good intended to condemn a man for doing what he could not avoid doing.


Clearly, God would not have given us commandments we couldn’t possibly keep; otherwise, Jesus, who was given all things under his feet to judge, would never have taught that “if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”


Echoing James’ exhortation (James 1:22: But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves,) Pelagius charges his reader to:


Read the holy scriptures in such a way that you never forget that they are the words of God, who commands us that we should not only know his law but also fulfil it; for it is of no advantage to have learned what has to be done, if we then fail to do it.


Pelagianism


At the heart of Pelagianism is the belief that humanity can “avoid sinning, and can freely choose to obey God's commandments.”


Diane Leclerc, Ph.D. writes: “From Augustine, we get the idea that we are born depraved; we inherit a carnal nature that is completely incapable of God. Pelagius believed that the only effect of the original sin of Adam and Eve was mortality. In this, Pelagius is not saying anything different than what was understood prior to Augustine’s invention.” Author Michael Lodahl argues that:

"Pelagius did not do justice to the reality of our solidarity…the world into which we come is already a history filled with sin, manifested in war, bloodshed, slavery, abuse, torture, fear, and a thousand other nightmares. It is this reality, already there before us and into which we are thrown at birth, that Pelagius apparently failed to appreciate.”


However, in his letter, Pelagius deals with this very topic when he writes:


Noah is said to have been 'a righteous man, blameless in his generation' (Gen.6.9), and his holiness is all the more to be admired in that he alone was found to be righteous, when literally the whole world was declining from righteousness, nor did he seek a model of holiness from another but supplied it himself. And for that reason, when the destruction of the whole world was imminent, he alone of all men was found worthy to hear the words: Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation (Gen.7.1).


(One has to wonder how much worse of a world a child could be born into than the one into which Noah was born – which necessitated the flooding of the entire earth to eradicate such an entrenched evil! And yet, somehow Noah managed to maintain his righteousness before God.)


In 411, Pelagius’ friend and follower Celestius was bidden to appear in Carthage to answer for six theses attributed to his writings which were deemed heretical by the bishop Aurelius (and later condemned by the Church.) According to New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, though they were penned and defended by Celestius alone, these theses “clearly contain the quintessence of Pelagianism.” The theses are as follows:


1) Even if Adam had not sinned, he would have died.

2) Adam's sin harmed only himself, not the human race.

3) Children just born are in the same state as Adam before his fall.

4) The whole human race neither dies through Adam's sin or death, nor rises again through the resurrection of Christ.

5) The Law is as good a guide to heaven as the Gospel.

6) Even before the advent of Christ there were men who were without sin.


When Pelagius was confronted with these doctrines, he denied originating them and even refuted them in testimony at a synod of fourteen bishops held in Diospolis in December, 415: “Of other doctrines with which he had been charged, he said that, formulated as they were in the complaint, they did not originate from him, but from Caelestius, and that he also repudiated them.” He was exonerated of the charges of heresy brought against him by Orosius and others, and, at this point, “the Orient had now spoken twice and had found nothing to blame in Pelagius.”

Eventually, however, Pelagius would be ex-communicated from the Church and his doctrines condemned by the Council of Carthage (which was sanctioned by the Council of Ephesus in 431.)


The Council of Orange


Pelagianism, having already been condemned at the Council of Carthage in 418, nonetheless continued on in a form labelled as “semi-pelaginanism,” which rejected Augustine’s doctrine of predestination. “An outgrowth of the controversy between Augustine and Pelagius,” the Council of Orange convened in 529 (long after the deaths of both of its original subjects.) They argued over the degree of responsibility a person had for their own salvation and the degree to which the catalyst was the grace of God. Because the Pelagians rejected the doctrine of Original Sin, they believed that “children have no sin until they, on their own free will, decide to sin.” This belief (along with an Old Testament laden with examples of those walking uprightly according to God,) led them to conclude that sinless perfection was attainable in this life. “The Council of Orange dealt with the Semi-Pelagian doctrine that the human race, though fallen and possessed of a sinful nature, is still ‘good’ enough to able to lay hold of the grace of God through an act of unredeemed human will.” Rejecting this premise, the Council held to Augustine's view, renounced Pelagius, and was well on their way to the formation of the doctrine of Total Depravity.


Wesley on Pelagius


Through his doctrine of “entire sanctification,” Wesley echoed some Pelagian-esque sentiments of man’s ability to achieve sinless perfection. However, Wesley did hold to Augustine’s doctrine of the fallen state of humankind. Addressing this, he pioneered a doctrine of “prevenient grace,” which teaches that “it is only God’s holy, loving presence in human life that enables us to choose against the chains of sin.”


In Wesley’s own words:


I verily believe, the real heresy of Pelagius was neither more nor less than this: The holding that Christians may, by the grace of God, (not without it; that I take to be a mere slander,) ‘go on to perfection;’ or, in other words, ‘fulfill the law of Christ.'


Conclusion


Though he was persecuted, condemned, and excommunicated, clearly Pelagius had a very good sense of the “whole counsel of God” and offered Scriptural interpretations that are valuable to consider even to this day. After reading his actual letter to Demetrias, I feel certain Pelagius was unfairly maligned by the Church and its Councils. Of course, he is not the first to be persecuted and condemned by the religious leaders of his day. Perhaps -- as he charged us to do – Pelagius was just walking in the very footsteps of Christ. In his words:


You will realise that doctrines are the invention of the human mind, as it tries to penetrate the mystery of God. You will realise that scripture itself is the work of human recording the example and teaching of Jesus. Thus it is not what you believe (in your head) that matters; it is how you respond with your heart and your actions. It is not believing in Christ that matters, but becoming like him.


Indeed, from James 2:19:

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.



BIBLIOGRAPHY


Brown, Peter. The Body & Society. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.


Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics. “About the Council of Orange.”

Available at http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/canons_of_orange.html. Accessed December 20, 2017.


Eds. of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Pelagius: CHRISTIAN THEOLOGIAN.” Available

from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Pelagius-Christian-theologian. Accessed December 19, 2017.


Epistolae: Medieval Women’s Latin Letters. “A Letter from Pelagius (413).” Available

from https://epistolae.ctl.columbia.edu/letter/1296.html. Accessed December 20, 2017.


González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity. New York: HarperOne, 2010.


Leclerc, Diane. "Lecture 6: Moving West..." Lecture, CHIS 6560: History of Christianity

1, Northwest Nazarene University, December 5, 2017.


Lodahl, Michael. The Story of God. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City,

1994.


New World Encyclopedia. “Pelagius.” Available from

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Pelagius. Accessed December 19, 2017.


Rees, B.R. “The Letters of Pelagius and his Followers.” Suffolk, UK: The Boydell Press,

2004.


The Holy Bible. King James Version. Nelson Bibles, 2014.


Wesley, John. "The Wisdom of God's Counsels." Sermon #68. Available at The Wesley

Center Online: http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-sermons-of-john-wesley-1872-edition/sermon-68-the-wisdom-of-gods-counsels. Accessed December 20, 2017.



By Beth, Aug 7 2016 12:34AM


Hebrews 11:24-26 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;


Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;


Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.


Esteem: v. - to set a value on; appraise.


Reproach: n. - blame or censure conveyed in disapproval; a cause or occasion of disgrace or discredit.


To esteem something is to value it, to appraise it as worthy, to regard it highly.


Reproach is “censure given with an attitude of faultfinding and some intention of shaming.”


Moses had a place in the Pharaoh’s palace. He was established; he was accepted; moreover, he was in a position of honor and authority as an adopted son of the Pharaoh.


But he gave it all up. He traded it in for the shame and derision and disappointment of his family, his peers, and his kingdom.


Why?


To seek the truth.


To live the truth.


And ultimately, to guide others in the knowledge and understanding of the truth.


The Scriptures say he esteemed “the reproach of Christ” as greater riches than the treasures in Egypt (and this was generations before the physical appearing of Christ, yet Paul identifies Moses’ reproach with what Christ would suffer.)


According to the Bible, Moses valued the shame and disapproval that came with pursuing righteousness and truth (as Christ Himself faced) more than all the riches in Egypt.


This is not an easy concept!


It is so hard to face and accept others’ negative opinions of us, particularly people who we care about. And because we are accountable to each other, and we are expected to sharpen one another, it is difficult to be sure when it is the right time to dismiss the opinion of a respected peer, family member, or fellow church member (or leader.)


Yet, somehow, by faith, Moses and all the people Paul lists and describes in Hebrews Chapter 11 (commonly called the “Hall of Faith”) manage to do it. By faith, they each cast off their own doubts and the doubts and aspersions of others and followed God wholeheartedly and in the Spirit.


It says that Moses chose to suffer affliction because he had “respect unto the recompence of the reward.”


He knew it was for a greater good. He knew that the eternal reward he sought was greater than the luxury of living in the palace, and greater than the comfort of remaining somewhere that was familiar to him, and greater than the high regard he received from citizens of Egypt because of his position.


He knew that the truth that he sought was more important even than the people he called his family.


Taking a stand for truth in the face of mockery and disdain and shame from those we care about is so excruciatingly painful and lonely.


Turning our backs on all that is familiar and dear to us for the sake of righteousness causes us indescribable sorrow and mourning.


Isn't it a lonesome and weary path?


Isn't it a seemingly insurmountable wilderness of thorns and barbs and anguish?


And yet... God wants us to rejoice.


1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.


He wants us to “leap for joy!”


Luke 6:23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.


And God continually reminds us that we are blessed to be in that position:


Matthew 5:10-12 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.


Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.


If it seems a lot to ask that we “esteem reproach” when we make a stand for truth, may we remember that doing so numbers us with Moses and the prophets.


What a remarkable group to accompany us down our personal walk of shame.


May we remember that the shame and reproach is only for a season...and the rewards are for eternity.


Isaiah 54:4 Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.


Praise God.




By Beth, Jan 13 2016 10:37PM


Exodus 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.


Exodus 20:9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:


Exodus 20:10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:


Exodus 20:11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.


My family and I had a lovely day this past Sunday. We prepared for Sunday by doing everything that needed to be done on Saturday (including tidying the house and cooking meals only needing reheated on Sunday.) Then, after worshiping God at church, we were able to enjoy His goodness and blessings the rest of the day without too much hassle. It was so refreshing for my family to spend the day focusing on good, lovely things and not on errands and bills and housework! We all agreed we felt so much more prepared to face the week ahead on Monday!


I’ve mentioned the importance of the Ten Commandments (the LORD God’s covenant with His people) on this blog in several posts. And it seems natural, doesn’t it, that if one is truly a follower of God, one wouldn’t want to kill anyone, or steal from them, or tell lies about them, etc… but one commandment that seems largely neglected and almost entirely overlooked in this day and age is the fourth:


Deuteronomy 5:12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.


Sanctify means to set apart; so we are to set the Sabbath day apart from the rest. It is to be a unique day of revisiting our gratitude for God’s many blessings; a day of rest in which we sit back and survey all that we have to be thankful for and acknowledge God in all things.


I think I haven’t really given the Sabbath the honor it was due, set it apart in the way God instructed. You see, the Sabbath is for us (Mark 2:27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath) and so, we have to ask ourselves: do we really believe God knows best? Or do we think we know best and God's commandments to us are unnecessary and irrelevant?


I wonder how many stress-related illnesses we could spare ourselves if we truly began honoring the Sabbath. I’ll tell you what: I mean to keep the Sabbath regularly and find out!


For those of you who dispute that the Sabbath could be held on a Sunday, I offer you the following Scriptural evidence:


Leviticus 23:36 Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein.


Leviticus 23:39 Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath.


Numbers 29:35 On the eighth day ye shall have a solemn assembly: ye shall do no servile work therein:


Luke 1:59 And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.


There is much prophecy in the Scriptures concerning the eighth day. Even the circumcision rite was performed on the eighth day. It was a physical symbol (and prophecy) of the removal of the spiritual barrier between man and God. Jesus Christ showed that He removed that barrier when He rose from the tomb and defeated death to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that He was, in fact, God in the flesh -- come face to face with us.


The seventh day is Saturday; therefore, the eighth is Sunday. And Sunday is also the first day of the week!


Here are some examples of the early church meeting on Sunday from the New Testament:


Acts 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.


1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.


If there is still debate over the day of Sabbath observance, let us consider this passage:


Romans 14:5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.


Romans 14:6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.


Romans 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.


So let us not judge our brethren, but rather keep the Sabbath as we feel led. What is truly important is the keeping of the Sabbath.


God loves us, and He wants us to be blessed – and He wants us to have much-needed rest!


Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.


The Sabbath is a day when we can truly take Paul’s words to heart:


Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.


And on that day, most of all, be sure that:


1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.


Give it a try -- I promise you, it will change your life!



By Beth, Aug 19 2015 07:28PM

This post is in response to a dear friend who has inquired as to my methods of studying and interpreting the Scriptures. Rather than just respond to him personally, I thought that many people reading this site may have the same question, so I made a post out of it. Thanks for the inspiration, my friend!


So this post is going to be a little different from my other ones. I want to address, point by point, the methodology for accurately interpreting Scripture that is currently being taught widely among Christian scholarly institutions, including modern seminaries. I have some personal insight into the theological teachings being taught to ministry students today, as my husband is just about to graduate with his Christian ministry degree.


Why is it important to address this? Because what we are going to look at is THE modern methodology for studying the Scriptures. It is largely uncontested in Christian scholarly circles, and, because it is being taught in Christian academia, it is filtering down to Christian church congregations (and has been for some time.) This is the method, that (according to Bible scholars) YOU are supposed to use to accurately study and interpret the Bible, so this relates to YOU.


There is a scholarly term (which you may or may not know) I want to introduce you to before we begin:


Hermeneutics: the scholarly term for Biblical interpretation. Biblical hermeneutics is defined as “the study of the principles of interpretation concerning the books of the Bible.” Note that hermeneutics is not so much the study of the Bible itself as the study of the “principles of interpretation” of the Bible. Much of modern seminary study is spent in study of these “principles.”


Now, let’s examine this term in more depth. This is going to be a fairly long post, so you may want to grab a cup o’ joe and settle in for the ride. *wink*


(I want to note that the following explanations of Biblical hermeneutics are quotes from the reputable Christian website www.gotquestions.org. Gotquestions.org provides some great information about Christianity and the Bible and I’m grateful that they have the heart to minister the Gospel to folks online. I’m going to take these widespread teachings to task right now, but I do not by any means disagree with all that they promote.)


Here we go:


Quote 1: “The most important law of biblical hermeneutics is that the Bible should be interpreted literally. Literal Bible interpretation means we understand the Bible in its normal/plain meaning. The Bible says what it means and means what it says. Many make the mistake of trying to read between the lines and come up with meanings for Scriptures that are not truly in the text. Yes, of course, there are some spiritual truths behind the plain meanings of Scripture. That does not mean that every Scripture has a hidden spiritual truth, or that it should be our goal to find all such spiritual truths. Biblical hermeneutics keeps us faithful to the intended meaning of Scripture and away from allegorizing and symbolizing Bible verses and passages that should be understood literally.”


Are you serious? Totally disagree. In fact, this is Scripturally incorrect.


Let’s see what the Bible says about hidden spiritual truths:


1 Corinthians 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.


The wisdom of God is “in a mystery.” God has intentionally shrouded His truth in symbolism and parables.


Isaiah 44:18 They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.


Why has He done this? So that those who are not willing to humbly and passionately search out the deep truths, the hidden manna (see Rev. 2:17,) will not gain great wisdom and understanding and then attempt to use the power of Truth for evil.


I would contend to you that EVERY Scripture has a hidden spiritual truth, and that it should ALWAYS be our goal to find out such spiritual truths. Scriptures have both a physical meaning, and a spiritual meaning. EVERY TIME. Invest yourself in this principle, and the Bible will be so much more fun and exciting to study, I promise you. When my friend first asked me how, exactly, I read my Bible, my answer, though simple, was complete. I said “Expectantly.” That is how I study my Bible! Expectantly. Every time I open it, I fully expect that God is going to graciously and generously give me deep spiritual truths to chew on and eventually digest and incorporate into my whole self. That is why I cite James 1:5 on the home page of this website:


James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.


I genuinely believe it!!! Ask Him for wisdom and He will give it to you LIBERALLY! Praise GOD!


Folks, there is so much more intricacy and complexity and resplendence to the Bible than you or I can possibly imagine. Woven within the Scriptures are such magnificent illustrations of Truth that you could never have enough time in this life (or even eternity) to discover it all. Seriously, that’s how remarkable it is. To diminish it to the notion that “all Scripture should be interpreted literally and not expected to have a deeper spiritual meaning” is to diminish God. (One of the first posts I ever did on this website was examining how even John the Baptist’s food was prophetic. Talk about deep spiritual truths in even the smallest details of the Bible.)


Let’s take a look at the next principle of Biblical hermeneutics:


Quote 2: “A second crucial law of biblical hermeneutics is that a verse or passage must be interpreted historically, grammatically, and contextually. Historical interpretation refers to understanding the culture, background, and situation which prompted the text. Grammatical interpretation is recognizing the rules of grammar and nuances of the Hebrew and Greek languages and applying those principles to the understanding of a passage. Contextual interpretation involves always taking the surrounding context of a verse/passage into consideration when trying to determine the meaning.”


A verse or passage must be interpreted historically, grammatically, and contextually. Really. Wow. (Well, part of that is correct; reading the verse contextually by examining passages surrounding the verse will help immensely with grasping the true meaning.) But I guess some country bumpkin just reading the Bible on his own cannot possibly even begin to understand what God is trying to say to us. Poor common peasant. He doesn’t even stand a chance. He’ll never comprehend the Truth. Never mind Paul’s exhortation:


2 Corinthians 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.


The simplicity that is in Christ. Despite the magnificence and intricacy of His Word, the Lord has deemed it fit for it to have a simplicity that anyone can understand. You know who was one of the greatest Bible teachers of all time?? A fisherman by trade. Peter, who brought three thousand people to Christ in one sermon, was just a common fisherman when he was called to be an apostle.


Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.


Unlearned and ignorant men. But men who had spent time with Jesus. And because of that, they knew the truth.


This second principle of hermeneutics is what my husband likes to call “Ivory Tower Christianity.” It’s the same old trick the devil has been using for time immemorial. Think back to the time when the Scriptures were published only in Latin. The Bible was taught only by Roman Catholic priests; this prevented laymen from reading and applying the Word for themselves. They had little choice but to be “spoon fed” by those who were “in the know.”


Pope Innocent III declared in 1099 that the Scriptures “cannot be understood by everyone, but only by those who are qualified to understand them with informed intelligence.


Let’s go even further back: the Jewish leaders taught -- and continue to teach -- that “no one but the accepted Rabbis have the right to interpret Torah law.” (Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim, mesora.org).


The following quote is taken from Simpletoremember.com, a website dedicated to assisting people in understanding modern Judaism:


"Now when the Sages come to understand a verse, they do so as scientists using clear tools of interpretation. They look at the exact words that are used, they identify apparent redundancies and they see whether any one of the 13 Hermeneutic Principles are applicable. They identify any apparent ambiguities and line up all the different possible ways in which a verse may be interpreted. They then interpret the verse at all four levels of interpretation, checking that the levels are consistent and checking that this interpretation is consistent with everything else that is said in the Torah. Interpreting the Torah is then not an open-ended exercise in creativity. It is a result of laborious analysis, with the intended meaning of the verse emerging, per force, from the information that unfolds."


Looks an awful lot like the earlier quotes on Christian hermeneutics principles, doesn’t it? Funny how there is so much intense “scientific” study by these Sages (Rabbis,) and yet they entirely miss the simplicity that is in Jesus Christ.


What we’re seeing here is a bunch of theologians, both Christian and Jewish, who sit in their Ivory Towers and declare to the masses what is required to truly understand the Truth of God: extensive higher education, and the use of various technical resources, including Greek and Hebrew lexicons, history books, concordances, maps, multiple translations, etc.


Pish Posh.


Fiddlesticks.


Stuff and nonsense.


Here’s what the Bible actually says on this issue:


John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.


Funny, but I heard NOT ONE WORD about the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit in all that intellectual talk on hermeneutics.


That’ why I called this post The Horse’s Mouth. There is an expression “straight from the horse’s mouth,” which means “I got this information straight from the original source.”


Would you prefer to hear a commentary and interpretation of something someone said, or would you prefer to hear him say it for yourself?


I want you to understand this fundamental spiritual truth: YOU CAN UNDERSTAND GOD FOR YOURSELF BY GOING STRAIGHT TO THE SOURCE -- THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD.


But how will you know if it’s the Holy Spirit leading you, rather than your own mind or an evil spirit guiding you into lies and confusion?


By Scripture.


The Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost) will never teach you something that is against the Word of God. It is a witness to the truth of God’s Word, that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established,” (Matthew 18:16.)


That’s why it’s so important that we study our Bible. The Spirit of God will lead you into understanding and wisdom by bringing to mind Scriptures that you have read in the past and with which you have familiarized yourself. Jesus explains this in the gospel of John:


John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.


Here’s the thing: you have to truly have faith in God in order to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you. In a way, it’s easier to just trust what some other dude said about a particular Bible verse or subject, because then it’s not your fault if it’s mistaken. And it’s so easy to doubt ourselves, isn’t it? And it’s so easy to doubt God!


But I want to tell you a secret (and it’s a personal one.) I have believed and zealously shared some wrong doctrines over the years. And you know what? God, seeing my heart and my love for Him and genuine thirst for truth, was faithful to correct me and set me on the straight path!


For instance, when the Lord first led me to see that the King James Bible was the closest interpretation of Scriptural truth, I zealously got involved in a church that taught exclusively from the King James Bible. Unfortunately, they (and consequently, I, myself) also taught the false doctrine called “Once Saved, Always Saved” that erroneously teaches that once a person has been saved and delivered from their sins, they are basically absolved from any responsibility to maintain their walk with Christ (walk worthy – Eph. 4:1; Col. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:12.) This doctrine teaches that they will be freely received into Heaven at the judgment regardless of what their life subsequent to their salvation demonstrated about their true heart for God.


Regardless of how they treated God’s children from that point on.


Regardless of whether or not they kept the Ten Commandments.


Regardless of whether or not they treated others as they would want to be treated.


But Jesus said this about those who subscribe to that false doctrine:


Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?


Matthew 25:41-46 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:


For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:


I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.


Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?


Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.


And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.


In any case, God was faithful to correct me using a willing teacher and the multiple Scriptures which directly contradict this false notion.


He saw that I really wanted to know the truth, and not just for myself, but that I might enthusiastically share with others the Goodness of God! And if you desire to do the same, you can trust Him. He will not lead you astray….and if someone or something does, He will be faithful to correct you!


But the thing is, if you genuinely ask God for wisdom, you have to be willing to receive what He gives you, even if it calls into question well-established dogmas or doctrines you have been taught and have earnestly believed for years. Here’s how God explains it in James:


James 1:5-8 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.


But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.


For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.


A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.


In other words, don’t ask God for the truth if you can’t handle it. Because if you only want to hear what you think is right, rather than the truth of God, and you ignore His counsel, then don’t count on Him wasting His breath on you next time you ask.


Sometimes, the truth hurts; but in the end, only the truth has the power to heal.


So we see that there are many deep, hidden spiritual truths that the Lord would love to liberally expound upon to us if we have the true desire and heart to receive that knowledge.


But does God have some requirements of us before He disseminates His wisdom to us?


Absolutely. And they have little to do with scholarly and intellectual pursuits.


Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?


Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God. That’s it. That is walking worthy. Worthy of receiving great wisdom and understanding from the Lord, regardless of your higher education or access to other “scholarly” (human, and therefore, fallible) resources.


What we have going on in our seminaries and theological schools today is the teaching of insidious, elite doctrines that categorically deny the truth of such Scriptures as this:


1 Corinthians 1:26-27 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:


But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.


I am grateful that I was generously provided with a good human education; but I am more grateful that laymen, country bumpkins, and small children (often moreso than anyone!! See Psalm 8:2) can also accurately discern the truth of God’s Word if they seek the Spirit of God.


After all, Abraham did it with NO resources save the Spirit of God Himself! (Galatians 3:6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.)


And the whole idea of us understanding Scripture and interpreting it correctly is that we might implement it; that we be DOERS of the Word, and not HEARERS only (James 1:22.)


Want to be a spiritual giant? Here's James' advice (as per God's leading):


James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.


To sit around in our “ivory towers” declaring who can understand Scripture and who cannot is to usurp the authority of God Himself to examine the hearts of men and determine who is worthy of His Pearls of Wisdom.


If we want to truly follow God, if we want to truly know Him, all we really need is the simplicity that is in Christ.


And Christ, God Himself in the flesh, said this:


Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.


This is the first and great commandment.


And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.


On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matt 22:37-40.)


And there it is – straight from “the horse’s mouth.”




By Beth, Jun 18 2015 06:04PM


Matthew 7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.


People sometimes comment to me how well I seem to know my Bible, that I must just love studying it all the time. And they’re right – I truly do love studying my Bible. What they don’t realize is that I don’t just love studying my Bible – I have to study my Bible.


It’s difficult and painful to admit, but “the narrow way” doesn’t come easily to me. Unfortunately, when you have been exposed to and have participated in a past full of destructive thinking patterns and behaviors, you develop negative self-talk and negative habits that are difficult to reign in and master.


Some people think staying on “the narrow way” means you can’t have a drop of alcohol or play poker with friends or accidentally let a swear word slip if you stub your toe.


I don’t interpret it that way, though. . . (unless you are an alcoholic, a chronic gambler, or have a nasty swearing habit.)


Actually, Jesus very precisely identifies the way (or “the gate”) in Matthew 7:12-14 when He says:


Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.


Matthew 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:


Matthew 7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.


The key to the strait gate can be found in Matthew 7:12. The Golden Rule. That is the Strait Gate, the Narrow Way that leads to life. Jesus says that the Golden Rule is equivalent to all the law and the prophets. If the law and the prophets were the big orange cones marking each side of the Narrow Way, the Golden Rule is the internal GPS.


But if the Narrow Way is so very basic, then why are there so few that find it?


Because, put simply, if you do not see that you have value, you will not be able to find the value in others.

This is not well understood in general, but it’s pretty simple if you think about it: people who really understand their own personal value do not participate in destructive thinking and behaviors.


Restoring to humanity the fundamental understanding that they are valuable (which was lost through the Fall of Man...more on that in a later post...) is truly the essence of the Gospel.


The GOOD NEWS:


Guess what?


What?


You have value to God.


(Silence. . .) Nuh-uh!!


Yes! That is the Good News! I promise! (Re-read John 3:16 if you’re not sure of this.)


We tend to make it a lot more complicated, because we very nearly cannot fathom it, really.


Everyone inherently understands that destructive thoughts and deeds are wrong, and every grown human has participated in sin at some level. So, at some point, we begin to judge ourselves as shameful and condemned, as unworthy creatures who cannot be useful or have gone too far to ever be valuable again.


Since we have acted as judge and jury and condemned ourselves, we then give ourselves license to continue in our sins (as we determine it doesn’t matter much anymore, anyway.)


For God to contend that He sees value in us even as we are living in and with our destructive behaviors ( Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us) sounds outrageous to us!


For the Creator of the Universe to be willing to lower Himself to suffer as a flesh-and-blood human being and to be willing to personally DIE, taking responsibility for unrighteous things WE have done, seems preposterous and utterly astonishing!


And all because He sees value…potential…in us??


Then how come we cannot see potential in ourselves?


Because that’s what it takes to walk the Narrow Way. To have faith in God to help you do what you were designed to do, and to have faith in yourself that you are, in fact, capable of doing it. That you ARE still made in the image of GOD. That you are still made in the image of GOOD. That, if God can find that little light still shining deep inside your heart and clear away the cobwebs and strengthen it, you are able to help cultivate and tend to the light, that it might shine brighter with each passing day.


That if God can have compassion on you despite your shortcomings (Psalms 103:14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust,) you can have compassion for yourself, and then extend that compassion to others.


The only way that I, personally, can do this is by remaining consistently in the Word of God.


When I go too long without His encouragement and admonishment found in His Word, my light begins to dim… my sword begins to dull… my seedling begins to wilt. I begin to regress into old (yucky) thinking habits; I begin to sink into hyper-criticism of myself and others. My outlook on life becomes more negative; my enthusiasm for life begins to slow down to a grinding halt. I lapse into a cycle of negative thoughts and behaviors that leads to depression, anxiety, and anger.


When I am not actively seeking God’s Word and allowing His Spirit to gently guide me, I find myself falling into being judgmental – spending too much time judging both myself, and, consequently, others.

To clarify, being judgmental and being discerning are two very different things. If, for example, I see that a person does not adequately protect or care for their own children, I can discern that I should not trust them with the care of my children. If I observe someone being cold, cruel, or dismissive to those that they believe to be “inferior” to them (to those from whom they perceive they cannot gain something,) I can discern that they are hypocritical and potentially opportunistic. (You can discern this, too! But people are so afraid of believing what they see in a man’s actions, rather than what they hear in a man’s appeasing words… Proverbs 6:12-14 teaches us to look at what a person is doing with their hands and feet, rather than believing their winking eyes or swelling words.)


But being judgmental is a very different kind of “animal” (and one of the unclean variety.) For me, judging others unfairly begins at home in my own heart with judging myself too harshly. If, at the end of a day where I’ve said or done things I’ve regretted, I stand back and review my thoughts, I can often see where the problem began. Most of the time (or maybe even all of the time,) my bad day (or bad moments) have been a product of my bad thoughts toward myself. When I wallow in shame, I tend to shame or condemn others. When I have little patience with my mistakes and follies, I have very little patience for others’ mistakes. I am snippy and snappy. I am harsh and unforgiving. When I am judging others unfairly, I am also riddled with insecurities, hurt and angry and suspicious that others are judging me.


The most painful thing for me is when this harshness is directed toward those I love most. When my kids do something I see as unacceptable, I am quick to get on their case (and I oftentimes overreact.) When I think about Jesus saying “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them,” it really puts things in perspective. I, myself, act foolishly or unacceptably at times; how would I want to be corrected? I know I would want someone to lovingly (yet earnestly) correct me – but not to overreact, as if my whole character was questionable because of my folly in this one situation.


That’s how I want to respond to my children, and to others in whom I am invested. I want to always keep in mind how I would want to be treated in any given situation. Unfortunately, I often react before I review this truth in my mind!! Like the Apostle Paul, I find myself doing the very things that I intended NOT to do!


Romans 7:15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.


Romans 7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.


Paul knew that it was not him (the new creature in Christ) doing it, but the sin that dwelt in him from the past.


He was not saying that he was not culpable for his behavior, but rather that sometimes his behavior did not reflect the new person he was in the Lord. Sometimes, he would be led by old troublesome modes of thinking, destructive patterns that did not reveal his true heart after his salvation. Undoubtedly, he repented regularly for these things, dying to his own flesh and being renewed in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.)


And I do the same. And I have to remind myself constantly to leave alone the things which I have laid at the foot of the cross – to not try to take them back again and examine them some more. To trust God at a fundamental level that believes that He can handle even my most shameful habits and behaviors. To comfort myself in the Lord, as did David (1 Samuel 30:6 . . .but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.) To remember to “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee,” (Psalm 55:22.)


The more time we spend on the road that leads to destruction, the more “Herculean” effort it takes on God’s part to help us back to the Narrow Way. I thank the Almighty God that He was willing to put in the effort for me. For the rest of my life, I will seek to honor His love and commitment by holding myself accountable to remain on that path. And where I fail despite my earnest and diligent seeking, I know the Holy Spirit will bear me up and set me on the right path again.


After “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee,” Psalm 55:22 closes with these words:


“He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”


If we seek to walk in righteousness, He will keep us on The Narrow Way.


Oh, my LORD and Savior. . .you are too good and faithful.




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