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A new false doctrine: the Hermeneutics of Humility By Elizabeth Prata, MsEd

There is a false doctrine going around that is having an impact. It is called the Hermeneutics of Humility. It goes like this: "I'm fallible, and I've been wrong before in my interpretations of the bible, and gee, look at how many other people are wrong in their interpretations, and I'm just too humble to say that I think I know the bible. So I won't say I do." John MacArthur defined Hermeneutics of Humility this way: "I'm too humble to think that I could ever know what the Bible really means and so I can only offer my opinion and I certainly can't say that this is in fact the truth." They pat themselves on the back congratulating themselves for such intellectual openness." People who espouse this new doctrine fall into the current cultural trap of accepting that certainty equals arrogance and conviction equals conceit. They defer to different truths eschewing absolutism for tolerance of biblical interpretive vagueness. They do not contend. They do not exhort. They weakly say that in effect, the bible is ultimately unknowable with any certainty. This new doctrine dismisses the work of the Holy Spirit. It makes clear to unbelievers that the faith that was delivered to the Saints once for all (Jude 1:3) is unclear, which is a grievous error. How does Hermeneutics of Humility dismiss the work of the Holy Spirit? James said, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind." (James 1:2-6). In verse 3 here James says faith will be tested but it yields a perfect result, the word for perfect is a root from which we get telescope. The illustration here is with an old pirate's telescope, unfolding (extending out) one stage at a time to function at vision that is at full-strength. If you are being left behind in wisdom and need perfecting for those results, then ASK. Those who do not ask dismiss the work of the Holy Spirit. Those who do ask but doubt, also disrespect His work. There is peace in the certitude that the Holy Spirit gives us in understanding the faith and that is how we know it was Him that gives it to us in the first place. Popular words to use when professing the false gospel of hermeneutics of humility are "know, arrogant, and fallible. 'We cannot know for sure, to say we do is arrogant, I recognize my fallibility and therefore I am more humble about it.'

This is false because it disrespects God's foreknowledge, intelligence, and gift of the Word. Of course God knew that we are fallible. He gave us the bible anyway. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16) To say that the Gospel is uninterpretable with certainty means the Gospel's power unto salvation is lacking. Not so! As for His intelligence, of course we cannot understand the mind of God! My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways," (Isaiah 55:8). That is why He dictated (Holy Spirit breathed) the inspiration unto men, in man's language, and put into the page each word He wanted known to reveal Himself. And then, He gave us the Holy Spirit as the Revealer of all Truth. (John 16:13). One of the Holy Spirits ministries is as Revealer, opening us to the bibles wisdom so that the glory off Jesus may shine. His ministry points to Jesus. Always. "What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ." [1 Corinthians 2:12-16). We cannot know the mind of God, but the mind of God makes Himself known in us by the Revealer: His Spirit! Satan is enjoying the falling away he is creating with this false doctrine of Hermeneutics of Humility. His first recorded words in the bible were Hath God said? to Eve and he has been successful in getting us to doubt the Word ever since. Now, there is a difference between conceit in knowledge, and humility in certitude. The Pharisees were conceited. Romans 12:16b tells us "be not wise in your own conceits". This means do not be puffed up with an opinion of your own wisdom. If you have gained wisdom from the Spirit then say it is from the Spirit. Do not be conceited, thinking it is your own special braininess that gained you a deeper understanding. 2 Corinthians 12 and Galatians 5 are examples of what happens when people become conceited outside of the Spirit. Paul is the example of confidence in the certainty of doctrinal Gospel. Stephen, too. We will not be arrogant in our deeper understandings if we remember Peter's wise words: "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation," (2 Peter 1:20). The word prophecy defined here in how Peter used it is, "prophesying; the gift of communicating and enforcing revealed truth." We MUST communicate revealed truth, we also MUST refer to the Spirit in His work as the One who revealed it. If we say that we have no certainty in communicating revealed truth then we fail the Holy Spirit.

There are lots of people running around who say that they have gained a special insight from the Spirit but it is frankly a wacky interpretation. If you are in the Spirit, He will give you discernment to determine who is really Spirit-filled and who is not. Have full confidence in Him! Let's look at James again. "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." (James 1:2-8) I am going to use the metaphor of the sea and on that sea, boats. James said that the double minded who ask for wisdom not in faith, are like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. Any old shmo can get on a boat and get on the water. Some are in dinghies, some are in sailboats, some are in motor boats, some are in canoes, some are in bass boats. But any person can get on a craft and go out onto the water. But when the when the wind comes up and a storm starts, the doubters are driven here and there. They can see the lighthouse, and safety, but they are being driven in a direction they do not want to go. There is one craft that is on the sea, aiming for the lighthouse and the safety of the home berth, but they have an advantage. They are on a submarine, and they can sink below the tossed waters of the storm and they can chug along in placidity. The tossing of those above do not affect the submarine nor those on it. All is quiet. Now, I said that any old shmo can get on any old boat and dip their toe in the waters of Christianity. If they do not apply themselves to the truths revealed within the Word, they will be tossed. They are on the surface, and the surface is always rougher when the wind kicks up. But not any old shmo can get on a sub. That requires special training. All US Navy sailors go through training. But you have to work really hard and spend a long time to attain the credentials for submarine sailor. "Basic shore-based training teaches submariners fundamental skills before they are assigned to the submarine, but each crew member continues to learn and gain more expertise after they are assigned aboard the submarine. As sailors gain operational experience, they receive advanced training." Too many Christians today are kitchen table theologians. As we read this comment on bad hermeneutics from the Grace To You blog: "Todays evangelicals arent known for being profound, sober-minded, or consistent; instead theyve developed a reputation for being superficial, trivial, doctrinally erratic, and theologically nave.... Those who take Gods Word seriously spend many hours in study. Coming out of diligent study are lessons, sermons, articles, and books that are deep, weighty, sober, doctrinally coherent,

and theologically consistent." The Holy Spirit is the ultimate teacher and the training can begin anytime between you and He. When I get into a conversation with a Christian about, say, the rapture, and they say something ignorant like John Darby invented that doctrine, I share the bible verses and show how I came to the conclusions I did. If they refute that out of hand, I know they are speaking from the flesh because they dismissed the Word out of hand. Alternately, if the person says, 'I never saw those verses before, let me read them and try to see what you're saying,' I know they are speaking from the Spirit, because we both have pointed to the bible verses and not ourselves. Not our intellect. Not our opinion. The bible. I know that person wants ears to hear and eyes to see. The conversation may continue if they so desire, because they have a seeking heart and so do I. It works in reverse with me, too. I listen to others, I seek the word, pray, study, ponder and then the Spirit will lead me into either a deeper truth or show me where the Word refutes what the person claims. Paul advised Christians not to be ignorant of four things. It means don't be without knowledge: Dont be ignorant about Gods plan for Israel (Romans 11:25). Dont be ignorant about the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1). Dont be ignorant about suffering and trials in the Christian life (2 Corinthians 1:8). Dont be ignorant about the rapture and the Second Coming of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13). And what are we fighting most about these days! These very things, which too many are ignorant of, being tossed by every which wind. They tire so they say, 'I'm too humble to know for sure. I'll just rely on the essentials.' I would like to know just ONE THING in the bible that Jesus didn't die for?! What is one thing that is not essential to know and defend on His shed blood?! He fulfilled the Law, so that is the Old Testament. He delivered the Gospel once for all, so that is the New Testament. There is not one comma, not one jot nor tittle in the bible that is not essential to defend. All Scripture is Godbreathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17). All scripture means all. In no case it is wise or advisable to argue out of ego. But neither do I let things go. I do "fight." We are called to do so when necessary. "Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses." (1 Tim 6:12.) Speaking the truth in certainty will evoke reactions but that is no cause to cease doing it. Paul confronted Peter. Stephen confronted the Pharisees. Paul and Euodia and Syntyche contended. It is all for the glory of God. Saying we are too humble to know besmirches His name, does not glorify it. We should be humbled when He reveals His intelligence to us. We should be humbled when we speak His words and they find good ground. But we should never be "too humble" to be bold and declare His glory as clear, perfect, and interpretable!

"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ," (Philippians 1:9-10)