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I. All interpreters are historically, culturally, and experientially conditioned (see life and Bible through filtered glasses)


A. Personality type

B. Personal worldview

C. Personal experiences

D. Spiritual gift

E. Place of birth

F. Time of birth

G. Parental and denominational training

H. Personal sin


II. Some Examples of our historical and denominational biases from American Evangelicalism of the Twentieth Century


A. Christian music is said to be evil, especially certain instruments, beat, form, or the participation of the audience, all of which are cultural or generational.

B. Mixed swimming is said to be sinful in some parts of the country (usually not lake communities on coastal areas).

C. Use of tobacco is said to be hurtful to the body, but other bad habits, like overeating or lack of exercise are never mentioned (use of tobacco is the unpardonable sin in the Baptist churches of South America).

D. Use of alcohol is said to be against the teachings of the Bible, yet people in both the OT and NT drank wine, including Jesus.

E. Storehouse tithing (from Leviticus or Malachi, yet only mentioned in the NT to the Pharisees in Luke 11:42; 18:12) There are no NT guidelines for regular Christian giving.

F. Inter-racial marriage is said to be out of the will of God based on Leviticus or Ezra-Nehemiah (which is not inter-racial, but inter-religious), but Num. 12:2 is ignored.

G. Baptismal time, method, administrator or formula (also Lord’s Supper).

H. How one celebrates Christmas and Halloween (or other cultural holidays).


III. What Can Be Done?


A. If we identify our biases (racism, sexism, anti-semitism, a particular systematic theology, denominational traditions, favorite Bible author or book, etc.) we can control their influence to some degree.B.Personally discern the irreducible minimums of the Christian faith (i.e. what is the least one must believe to be a Christian).

C. Cling to these major truths of historical Christianity (that which all churches affirm) and discuss the peripherals in love.

D. Maturity will make one less dogmatic and judgmental.

E. Suggested reading: Why Christians Fight Over the Bible by John Newport


IV. The Responsibility of the Interpreter


A. The concept of the priesthood of all believers (cf. Exod. 19:5; I Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6) is a community of faith’s task (evangelism and Christlikeness, cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8). Be careful of an over emphasis on individualism (western culture). This catch phrase does not support "soul competency"!

B. The Bible demands interpretation (cf. Matt. 5:29-30).

C. The Spirit is crucial in interpretation (cf. I Cor. 2:10-13). Interpretation is not just a natural ability or supernatural spiritual gift.

D. We must walk in the light that we have (level of Bible knowledge, denominational and/or family traditions, cultural conditioning, etc.), always open to more light from the Bible and from the Spirit (cf. Rom. 1:17; 14:23). We will be judged only in relation to our understanding and our lifestyle!

E. List and analyze your presuppositions (you do have some!).


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