It’s a God Fit

The price of my original art and prints is going back up this weekend. Take advantage of the low prices. Especially if you want to own an original Sophia drawing. Go to my online art gallery for originals and prints now.

We all do this. It’s called “hermeneutics“. It’s the method we employ to interpret the text. The bible doesn’t speak for itself. It’s filtered and edited through our personal grid.

We all approach the text with our own presuppositions. We all approach the text with an idea of God in our minds, even if we don’t believe in a god. Our minds have settled on a preconception, and the mind makes the text fit with that presupposed thought.

Unless something incredible happens. Something I call revelation. When the text, like a meteor from another galaxy, crashes into our minds and changes everything. Or when our minds are caught off guard and the text sneaks through and stakes its claim.

That’s rare. Which is why it is so holy and beautiful and transformative.

If you haven’t bought my book of cartoons, you simply must. Nakedpastor101: Cartoons by David Hayward“, from amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.de. Great for laughs and serious discussion!

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23 Responses

  1. Michelle says:

    Hehe. Awesome. I love it!

  2. james says:

    Like it!

    The god we have created in our head must be the right god.

    I was leading a retreat at the weekend on the ‘return of the prodigal son@ – henri Nouwens book based on the bible story and rembrandts picture. On the last session I asked a simple question – What does your God look like? The people on the retreat were all christians who attended the same church. But their responses included things like , in control, puppet master, beauty, sadistic, no idea etc.

    Listening to their stories helped me understand how they viewed God.

  3. Darrell says:

    This is funny. My pastor talked about shoving Jesus into our box, which reminds me of this cartoon. He talked about how hot and sweaty it can get in a box with a long haired, bearded dude.

  4. Johnfom says:

    For myself I have found that using a multitude of hermeneutics, the more diverse the better, on each text helps me to see a wider picture of who God may be than I would otherwise be able to see.

    Also, I like to ‘borrow’ preconceptions from others which tends to highlight my own unconscious preconceptions.

    The first practice makes the ‘hermeneutical veil’ more obvious allowing me to, perhaps, lift it to spy whats underneath, and the second practice allows me to examine and question the source and validity of my preconceptions.

    Of course, this still requires that God reveals himself in the text. I just find that these two practices reduce the ‘guards’ against him doing so to me.

  5. Jon F. Dewey says:

    I see where you are coming from, but I kinda disagree about hermeneutics being a bad thing. From my perspective, it is LACK of hermeneutic skills that has us ending up with some of the fiasco we keep seeing as doctrines. Its not supposed to be a way of proving what we want to prove. I fully realize that that is exactly what people do, however.

    I use three interpretive rules to keep me straight. They sometimes will give startling results that are very unexpected:

    1. The “Golden Rule” of Interpretation: “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.”

    2. Everything must be taken in context: word within the verse, verse within the paragraph, paragraph within the chapter, chapter within the book, and book within the entire Bible.

    Included in this is who is doing the speaking, who are they speaking to, what are they talking about.

    3. Unless there is some contextual reason otherwise, a passage cannot mean anything that the original writer did not intend it to mean.

    I’ve been considering giving a presentation on this, free and open to the public. My hope would be we could end some of the insanity like we just had to witness with Rapture Day.

  6. Brandon says:

    Love this one.

    For the longest time I didn’t realize this is what I was doing. But just as you said, one day it hit me, and it was indeed beautiful.

    In fact, it was so life-changing that I often find myself trying to force others into this sort of revelation, but it’s not something that can be forced. Presuppositions are a natural barrier to this sort of thing. Each person has to come to these sorts of revelations on their own, or it has no effect. That’s been my experience, anyway.

  7. james says:

    lets just face it… it is impossible to get a right interptation. Books written by 40 different men, living in a different time, context and different culture to a specific audience of that day. We read it through the lens of our time, context, culture, values and emotions.

  8. Laura says:

    God reminds me a bit of Flat Stanley in this picture

  9. My seminary education can be summed up in three words: Everything is interpreted. Thanks for the cartoon.

  10. Steve Martin says:

    “The Bible is the cradle that the Christ child is laid in.” – Luther

    It’s about our need of a Savior, and the One who is our Savior.

  11. Darrin says:

    This one is going up beside the other NP cartoon on my office wall “my personal walk with Jesus over the years”. Now I have two cartoons there! Thanks Dave!

  12. Mike says:

    “It’s filtered and edited through our personal grid.” Always!

  13. Christine says:

    David – Do you view that revelation as giving you the “real meaning” of a scripture? Or just that the process is transformative, without necessarily providing a meaning that would be as revelatory or applicable to others?

    I’m trying to get at that distinction between gaining something from reading the text – a spiriual experience – and actually understanding what the text is saying – in an academic sense. Would you distinguish the two, or would you see the as leading to the same outcomes?

    Jon – I can help but feel that your three-point system contradicts itself. If you started with point three first, you would first be required to know what the original writer intended. The cultural and linguistic barrier between you and the original writer likely means that much of time, their original intent will will not be what seems to you to be the “plain sense of Scripture” or the “primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning”. (And whose “ordinary” and “usual” are we talking about here anyways?)

    You also mention “axiomatic and fundamental truths”. Where are you getting these if not from the Bible itself?

  14. nakedpastor says:

    good question Christine. more transformative than giving the real meaning.

  15. faithlessinfatima says:

    I think it’s important to remind ourselves that there are two “hermenuetics”. The one we bring and the one we’re reading. It appears that each author or authors(some books are likely to have multiple sources)are also interpreting,and don’t always appear to be on the same page.

  16. Jon F. Dewey says:

    I think you read too much into my post, Christine. Plain sense is what the word means plainly. Unfortunately, in our modern relativistic culture we want to redefine things until they are meaningless. But words have definite meanings. We cannot invent meanings that the language does not grant. That phrase in point #1 wasn’t written by me — its from the 1800s, BEFORE the modern textual critical methods took hold of the academic community. There was once a time when scholars looked at what a document actually said before they applied their own slant to it. I have a book about to come out concerning that very thing.

    Read it for what it says, without veneer of meaning. We can know what the original writer meant if we just read it for what it is, without adding our modern baggage. Interpretation isn’t magic, and its not that hard. If a person strips themselves of a) textual criticism and b) televangelism prosperity mumbo-jumbo then they are on a good start to understand what it says.

    Why? Because textual criticism says the Bible is no different than any other book, and strips it of its supernatural properties. The prosperity folks seem to think it can be use as proof-texts to prove anything. In either case, the Bible is taken out of the context it gives itself, which is the Word of God.

    This is a bit bigger subject than can be explained in a little blog box. But the Bible is meant to be understood. It fails the common sense test that God would give to his creation a document that couldn’t be understood, especially considering how critical the information in it is for us. If we are to love God with our whole heart, soul and mind, then it seems to me that He made us intelligent enough to understand what He said!

  17. MLE says:

    Oh, my gosh. Love this.

  18. Christine says:

    Thanks, Jon, for your response.

    While I can see the point of your rejection of both textual criticism and proof-texting, I don’t see the only alternative to those two extremes being a “common sense” approach.

    Two points:

    1. While it may indeed be possible to take it too far in the other direction, I think you are overestimating the extent that words have definite meanings.

    Translation is one problem (no one word in one language corresponds exactly to any one word in another), but there are others. English words have multiple meanings, change with time, with geography, and with culture. (Ask the editors of a dictionary how easy it is to define a word absolutely, let alone globally for millenia.) And even when words remain the same, the concepts they represent change with society. This may all be less problematic with simple, concrete objects (“chair”), but is far more difficult with abstract concepts and ideas, particularly about God, religion, politics, metaphysics, etc. (“love”, “faith”, “nature”, “sacrifice”, “purity”, “freedom”).

    2. While it would undermine any point in reading it if the Bible was entirely unintelligible, the point may not be to undertsnad it on first reading. In fact, if the point is not to read it in order to follow instructions mindlessly, but instead to struggle to understand and thereby transform ourselves, then NOT having the text be easily digested would be a clear advantage – a virture rather than a flaw. While we may be smart enough to benefit from the text, maybe it is too much to assume that it doesn’t require engaging that intelleigence with some sacrifice over a period of time. I don’t think it’s outrageous to think that some humility and commitment on our parts may also be required.

  19. Christine says:

    One quick additional point:

    3. Much of the Bible is trying to CHANGE how we view particular words and concepts. So, those very words and concepts are changing WITHIN the Bible. It therefore takes some discernment to understand the shifts going on within the text itself that were clearly difficult for those in that time and place to grasp, let alone us.

  20. Christine says:

    Ok, last one for now, promise:

    4. The Bible is rarely written in any place like a technical manual. It is story, poetry, argument, exhoratation, persuation, and allegory. Therefore, it is concerned as much with how words make us feel as their exact meaning – their connotation as much as denotation. Combine this is literary devices, like rhetoric, sarcasm, and emotional appeal, and the sentences carry much more than the sum technical definition of their words. These feelings, devices, and connotations change far more over time, between cultures, and based on the context within the text itself. Literature in one’s own language from one’s own culture can be challenging to understand that times, let alone one from the perspective of another culture. It also gives it great explanatory potential – but again, only if we do the work.

  21. Christine says:

    Like the article, Jon. Thanks for posting. It says, much more accessibly, much of what I was trying to get across.

    It seemed to me like a starting point, like an introduction. I can imagine the question of someone reading it would be “ok, now what? how do I do it right?”. And I think that is where it starts to get complicated.

  22. Alvin Gongora says:

    “You who are reading help me to be born” (Clarice Lispector, Brazilian author)

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