Detangling Hermeneutics

With all of the controversy surrounding Gungor and his statements on the flood story, it should be helpful to step back and look at how the Inerrancy of Scripture and Hermeneutics interact with one another.

Many who disagree with a historical reading of Genesis (characterizing those who read it in such a way as “literalists”), often confuse the exegetical reasons for reading it that way, with a statement of inerrancy.

In other words, when exegetical arguments are given that suggest that Creation was a historical event, that Adam was the first man, or that the flood actually happened, they cannot distinguish these interpretations from a commitment to inerrancy.

I think Moises Silva provides a helpful distinction;

“Now I happen to believe that the essential historicity of Genesis 1-3 is a fundamental article of Christian orthodoxy. It would surely require hermeneutical prestidigitation to argue that the original writer intended those chapters as any less historical than the later patriarchal narratives (and could the original audience have discovered any such distinction between the early and later chapters of the book?). For that reason and others, such as Paul’s argumentation in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, I would want to argue very strongly that the proper interpretation of the Genesis material is one that does justice to its historical claim.

And yet I would want to argue just as strongly that such an interpretation is independent of my commitment to inerrancy. These are two distinct questions. Of course, once we have established exegetically that the first chapters of Genesis teach historical facts, then our belief in infallibility requires us to accept those chapters as factual. But infallibility, apart from exegesis, does not by itself determine historicity. Otherwise we would be obligated to accept as historical Nathan’s story in 2 Samuel 12:1-4 or even the parable of the trees in Judges 9:7-15.

(Old Princeton, Westminster, and Inerrancy” in Inerrancy and Hermeneutic, p. 75)

To be sure, inerrancy is something that scripture teaches about itself, however as Dr. Silva pointed out, the “quality” or “character” of the text doesn’t immediately bring forth the content. By the same token, in rejecting an erroneous reading of the text, one cannot appeal directly to scripture’s infallibility without demonstrating how the reading is erroneous on exegetical terms.

In short, if one can exegetically demonstrate that Scripture is teaching a historical flood, then one who really holds to the profitability and sufficiency of scripture as God’s Word must find some other reason than purported ambiguity to disagree

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Gungorian Mythology (cont.)

Gungor said:

 

Do I believe that God literally drowned every living creature 5,000 years ago in a global flood except the ones who were living in a big boat? No, I don’t.

 

Peter said:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. In their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep…..if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly….then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.

(2 Peter 2:1,3,5,9)

Gungor says:

And you can still love God and love people and read those early Genesis stories as myth with some important things to teach us. Not all of you will be ready to do that, and that’s perfectly ok

Peter says:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty….knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

(2 Peter 1:16,20-21)

It could be said that when Peter uses the word “myth”, he is probably referring to the events that took place in the NT. However it should be noted that immediately following these statements in v.20-21, he refers to a series of events recorded in the OT. He compares God’s “judgement ordeals” in the ancient world to that of the Last day, in which Christ will judge the world for all to see.

Gungorian Mythology

Gungor says:

 Do I believe God exists? Yes.
Do I believe Jesus is the Son of God? Yes.
Do I believe that Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness? Yes
Do I believe that God literally drowned every living creature 5,000 years ago in a global flood except the ones who were living in a big boat? No I don’t

Jesus says:

 

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matt 24:37-39)

 

Gungor’s Reckoning: There is No Box (and other metaphysical myths told by fundies!)

Recently, many individuals in the evangelical community have been disappointed once again, but this time by a talented band that represented all things Christian. Websites reported Gungor saying “I lost my metaphysic” and that they lost their belief in  “[s]tories that we lived by, defined ourselves with, but can no longer believe in.”

The article continues;

Why? Not because my life looks like Jesus or doesn’t look like Jesus. But because of my lack of ability to nail down all the words and concepts of what I exactly BELIEVE.” Then he nails down exactly what he doesn’t believe—in Adam and Eve or the Flood. He has “no more ability to believe in these things then I do to believe in Santa Claus.”

Two words that Gungor used to identify this “epiphany”: Apophatic Mysticism.

I was saddened after reading all of this a few days ago, though it wasn’t exactly surprising. As a fan of Gungor’s work (especially “Beautiful Things”) I listened to his music, and knew the lyrics pretty well. He did a great job expressing his thoughts on biblical truth. I found myself saying “amen” to the dimensions of biblical truth he sang of, with the musical composition and skill with that of a genius. There were, however,  a couple of lyrics in “Cannot Keep You”  that always irritated me. I know that many are not as concerned as I am about precision when speaking of God and His Self-revelation to us. I also know that my zeal for precision can also be a vice, turning me into an arrogant jerk.

Despite my failing, scripture is still adamant about “a form of sound words”. Paul, under The Holy Spirit’s direction and breathing, wrote to Timothy, who was the closest thing he had to a son;  “Hold fast the form of sound words, that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”  ( 2 Timothy 2:13-14).

These “sound words” are treasured by Paul. His life had been a testimony of  his treasury of scripture, and with his life coming to an end, he instructed Timothy, as Timothy had been since he was a child, to treasure all of Scripture as God’s Speech, concerning the covenant he made with man in Christ.

God’s purposes from all eternity, and all of his actions from beginning to end  were made clear, and were revealed in our precious Savior Jesus Christ. He abolished death. He brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Tim 2:10)

It was because of this, and to this  that Paul was appointed a preacher, apostle, and teacher. And it was for this reason that he rejoiced in suffering for it. “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Tim 2:11-12)

There is no room for me, or anyone else (especially me) to be apathetic about this mystery that has been revealed. God becoming known to us, by His own choosing. Not only that, but He was made like us in every way, yet without sin.

Scripture is  God-breathed. The Character of Scripture is authoritative because it is God in which it originates. How convenient it is for we who are skeptical, or who have reservations, or are embarrassed by a Holy God to say “well man was involved with writing scripture, so it isn’t going to be perfect”. There are many problems with this kind of sophistry, besides being a lousy methodology, and I do not intend to touch on it here.

The verse that was of concern in “Cannot Keep You” say;

“we cannot keep you in a church
we cannot keep you in a Bible
or it’s just another idol to box you in”

The first line of this verse is okay. We know of God’s transcendence, that His essence is not constrained to one place at a time. He is Self-occupying, before there was anything to be occupied, He was, and still is today and for all eternally I AM.

But it is also said that God walked in the garden (Gen 3:8). Does Gungor believe that to be true or false? Is it literal (however he is using this word, literal is a confusing word to use given that it could mean the original intention of the author, or referring to a wooden, prima facie, sort of literalism)

It is also said that God met with Moses on Mount Sinai, by His own choosing, in the form of an unburning bush (Ex 3:1-22). The unburning bush was a sign of God’s transcendence, but His free decision to dwell with Israel, not consuming them as if He needed them, but covenanting with and caring  for them nonetheless.  Does Gungor believe this is true or false? Did we put God in a box? Did God put Himself in a bush?

This kind of phraseology is ambiguous at best, and intentionally deceptive at worst. I understand that there is a desire to keep anyone from putting words in God’s mouth. However, saying “You can’t put God in a box” can just as easily be used to backdoor false teaching. Think about the line above;

“We cannot keep you in a bible or it’s just another idol to box you in”

One of the most problematic things about this reasoning, is the hypocritical nature of it. Whether it was intended by Gungor this way or not. The subtle hypocrisy can be exposed by asking this question;

“Oh yeah? Says who?”

Think about it. Who defines idolatry?

If you said “God” you are correct. If you said YHWH, then you get an added bonus of 100 points for being more specific.

Next question. Where do we get the definition of idolatry?

Is it from Scripture? Or is it a pious agnosticism that uses a lot of words to communicate not much of anything?

Think about it until the follow up