Q&A: Engaging in a Text

Engaging in a Text

How does the spiritual condition of an interpreter affect his or her ability to interpret the Bible?

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Answer

When we read the Bible, we are engaged in a text that goes beyond all other texts. However profound other texts might impact us and challenge us, nothing engages us in the complete and the whole man like Scripture does. I mean, this is God speaking to us This is the most important relationship that there is. This is the thing that defines everything else, that sets the categories for everything else. And that's at the level that Scripture is working in us and on us as we read it. What this means is that the whole man, the whole person is involved in the reading of Scripture. And you cannot check any part of yourself and pretend or ignore it as though that doesn't matter, that this doesn't count. No, it's quite the contrary. We must bring the whole of who we are in to the reading process. And this puts our sin front and center so that, to the degree that we're sinful, we're going to have a kind of a natural impulse to defend ourselves against the force of Scripture, against what God is saying to us, against the challenge, the correction, the rebuke, to justify ourselves, to explain these things away. And that, as Kierkegaard has pointed out one time, the problem is not that we do not understand the Bible. The problem is that, so often, that we understand it all too well and are unwilling to obey it, and to believe it, and to entrust ourselves to the promises and so on. That's really the fundamental problem many, many times when we claim not to be able to understand the Word of God.

Answer by Dr. Bruce Baugus

Dr. Bruce Baugus is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi