Challenges for the Church in the New Millennium (#3)
by Robert J. Young
Bible Interpretation

Note: On the first Sunday of January, 2000, I presented to a combined adult Bible class a list of items that the church must thoughtfully address if we are to be a viable voice in the new millennium. I was asked to expand that Bible class presentation into a series of bulletin articles which were published in the church bulletin. They are reprinted here in the hope they will be helpful to even more people. These may be freely used as deemed appropriate.

| Introduction | The Bible & Truth-#1 | Bible Inspiration-#2 | Bible Interpretation-#3 | Nature of Church-#4 | Possibility of Unity-#5 | Worldliness-#6 | Christian Experience-#7 | Christian Missions-#8 | Christian Hope-#9 | Human Nature-#10 | Christian Living-#11 |

The church must understand the Bible. We must increase our Bible knowledge. In our post-modern world, we must not only know the Bible, we must ask concerning the nature of truth, the nature of Scripture, and the relationship of Scripture to human thought. The church must understand biblical inspiration. (See earlier articles in the series.)

A third challenge in the area of the Bible concerns biblical interpretation. As before, extremes exist at either end of a polarity. The tendency is either to overemphasize what the text meant in the first century with virtually no application in the contemporary world, or to overemphasize what the text means today to that the original intent and message of the author is all but lost.

The temptation of our heritage has generally been to suppose that we can apply the biblical text directly to ourselves as if it had been written primarily for us. Such too easily ignores the cultural chasm between the biblical world and the contemporary world. How does one reconcile "what it meant" with "what it means"? How and where do the "then" and "now" meet? How does one honor the intent, purpose, and message of the original author with appropriate applications in our own world? We must continually struggle with the task of cultural transposition, identifying the essential message of the text, detaching it from its original cultural context while retaining the essential elements of the message, then applying it in our own present situation.

In this process, the church must understand the history of the hermeneutic struggle-- the literal vs. the allegorical. The church must understand that the "New Hermeneutic" as originally conceived is now almost 100 years old, and avoid pointing fingers and tossing accusations carelessly. The church must also insure that Scripture stands over culture, and not culture over Scripture. In the process of interpreting and applying Scripture, the first consideration is not what the culture wants, demands, or needs, but what is the essence of the message from God.

The church must renew its efforts to read and know the Scriptures so that we can more easily read, interpret, understand, and apply the message of Scripture accurately in our world.


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Last updated February 21, 2001.