For the Bride: The God Window

Continuing our exploration of hermeneutics, we come to realize that our concept of God largely determines how we view the Christian message.  If we view God as essentially angry with us (even if it is righteous indignation), we will almost certainly gravitate to the passages where wrath and judgment are the dominant themes.  The message will be more “get right with God”—repent!  God is Judge.  The court room is the playing field.

If we see God as essentially favorable toward us, we will highlight those places in the Bible where God’s goodness and grace are found.  The message will be more, “draw near to God”—return!  God is Love!  The path to the Father’s house is the playing field.

Of course, the Gospel includes both; I am only describing the leading edge of the message–an edge which is observable over a period of time–an edge which recipients of the message feel more than we do as we send it to them. We might call it a theological first impression.

For this reason, some think of hermeneutics as little more than a religious version of “pick and choose,” a hopeless victim of subjectivism.  But that is not true.  Instead, hermeneutics is an act of faith–a response to our dominant view of Who God is, and an ordering of the Christian message that is a sacred bet our version of The Story is the way God means for things to be.

Two implications immediately arise from this view of hermeneutics.  First, we must come down somewhere.  There is nothing to be gained by going no farther than saying, “There are a number of ways to interpret this passage.” Of course there! But instead of this, we must move from reporting to witnessing by prayerfully and carefully choosing our vantage point and then preaching/teaching/living it with as much wisdom, passion, and integrity as we can.

And second, we must carry it all to a round table, where iron can sharpen iron–where everyone can contribute and where everyone can learn.  Three things happen when iron sharpens iron: some of our iron flakes off and falls away, the remaining iron gets better, and sparks fly that get a fire going: what Christians before us have called “the fire of love.”

In other words, hermeneutics serves a higher purpose than creating a point of view we can retreat into, or one we can use to judge everyone else with.  It exists to give us a view to hold–one to carry to the place of holy conversation where edification for all can occur.  When this happens, hermeneutics reveals everyone had some iron–that no one was carrying lead, straw, wood,, or paper.

Standing at the God window, we can sing, “And I think to myself, what a wonderful world!”

(If you do not have my book ‘For the Sake of the Bride’ on which these weekly writings are based, here is the Amazon link for it:

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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