Application and the Authority of Scripture

One of the areas of study that I find absolutely fascinating is what I call “hermeneutics of application.” Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation; it’s the discipline of study related to the methodology and principles of interpretation. So when I say, “hermeneutics of application” I mean the study of how one properly moves from interpretation of the text to application of the text.

Hence, when I read this quote many years ago, I’ve never been able to forget it:

Every time we derive an interpretation and application from a text that is not consistent with its contextual sense—no matter how biblical the truth itself may be–we rob that text of the meaning and application that God intended when He gave it. In the process, we rob ourselves and others of that text’s truth from God. … Worst of all, we rob God of His voice in that verse. – Layton Talbert, unknown source.

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Are “Authorial Intent” and “Christ-Centered” Mutually Exclusive?

As interpreters, teachers, and preachers of God’s word we desire to be faithful to the Biblical text. We know that this entails interpreting Scripture according to the Biblical authors’ original intent, historical context, and literary context, among other things. We don’t want to be guilty of eisegesis–reading our own thoughts and ideas into the text rather than getting our conclusions from out of the text (exegesis).

But at the same time, we know that Christ said the entirety of Scripture speaks of Him (Luke 24:25-27; cf. 1 Pet 1:10-12; Rom 1:2). And so as Paul, we would love to say that even in our expositional preaching “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).

But what about the majority of texts where Christ is not mentioned? How do we preach Christ then? Do we preach the authorial intent and then sort of arbitrarily jump to Christ at the end, tack on an altar call or two with some repeated “Just as I am” choruses?

We want to avoid moralism; so we want to preach Christ. We don’t simply want to draw conclusions like, “don’t be like Saul,” “don’t be like the Israelites,” or “be more like David,” as if this alternative is somehow more honest to the authorial intent. But how do we preach Christ-centered in passages that have seemingly little to do with Christ at all?

I think you get my drift.

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