Over the many years that I have been a Christian, I have had a number of puzzling questions that have nagged me, especially in the area how the varioius denominations within the Church assess what really is the truth. Having been brought up in Christian circles, I have come to realize that the visible Church is a divided house, having conflicting views concerning the authority of Scripture in relation to what is, or is not, to be believed. One of these conflicts is in the area of Evolution.
Things don’t add up?
As I stated in my testimony, my parents introduced me to Creation Science and it was through this ministry that I was able to resolve the issue of evolution and the trustworthiness of God’s Word from a scientific perspective. But this did not explain the reason why Christians seem so willing to reject certain parts of Scripture and claim only the parts that fit into their own line of thinking. What really troubled me was that some of the mature Christians at the church I was attending scoffed at or mocked whatever evidence supported the Biblical creation account. As a young Christian it was shattering to realize that these Christians who professed to be Bible believers, refused to listen or to accept any evidence that supported its infallibility, and in fact I found them to be extremely hostile towards such evidence. The main cliché repeatedly employed was “That’s your interpretation”.
Stagnant and confused
What I have observed over the years during my Christian walk was that this issue of interpretation has caused so much confusion for many in the faith, about who is actually telling the truth. This confusion has led many young Christians even to the point of abandoning their faith, because of the inadequate answers given to them to explain certain parts of Scripture! Today, too many of the evangelical churches in Western countries are stagnant in proclaiming the gospel in their own backyard, because they doubt what they believe and lack the spiritual zeal to share with non-believers. It seems that the modern church has passed into another dimension in the past 50 to 60 years, where it has largely become intolerant toward some the foundational doctrines on which the Church of Jesus Christ was established! Just in the last century alone evangelism was at its peak during the 1950s and then dropped off rapidly in the 60s and 70s.
It is interesting to note that the curriculum of evolution as science in Western secular state schools in the 60s was enforced primarily to counteract the evangelical thrust into our communities. This produced a new generation of evolution-indoctrinated students who were even more rebellious towards their parents who had godly principles, which was very evident in the ‘Hippy’ era of the 70s’ drugs, sex and rock & roll. At this time I do not know of one denomination that has not descended into some level of compromising God’s Word with the opinions of men, whether the opinions of Darwin or some other denominational, traditional, hand-me-down interpretation of Scripture from men who were not there to see the events but have claimed the right to interpret Scripture by their own understanding.
Interpretation in a divided house
To have some understanding of this issue, I have had to track back to see why churches are so ready to accept and adopt the evolutionary philosophy. What I have found to be the strongest and most usual objection to the literal understanding of Genesis, as well as other parts of Scripture, is the use of the word “interpretation”. I have found, when speaking with Christians from various denominations regarding personal beliefs, the phrase ‘that is your interpretation’ would have to be the most commonly used objection to believing in the literal Genesis account or the literal coming reign of Christ on the earth.
The word “interpret” is used in three main ways:
– To explain the meaning of; – To understand in a specified way; – To act as interpreter (translate).
It is clear that Christians who use this cliché, do not believe the plain meaning of what they read in the Bible because someone else has set the parameters to understand the text in such a manner that the Author’s intended meaning is reinterpreted.
My question is: why are some Christians led to believe in the plain natural sense of Scripture and others led to believe that there is some sort of spiritual code to be deciphered in order to understand certain parts of Scripture? Who has set these parameters for understanding, and thus established the church as a divided house, like the Sadducees and the Pharisees, and what authority have they to teach such interpretations?
Why have the churches of today chosen an interpretation of their own?
To resolve this issue of interpretation, I wanted to make sure that I covered all areas of the origin of this line of thought. The investigation started by tracing through the Scriptures, Church history and related history.
Throughout the Bible it is made clear that “interpretation” has its final say with God, not man!
2 Timothy 3: 16; (KJV) 16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
Isaiah 55:8; (KJV) 8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
2 Peter 1:19-21; (KJV) says. 19We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
We also find in the Old Testament, the injunction to heed what the prophets have said because they are the mouthpiece of God.
Zechariah 7:11-13; (KJV) 11But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. 12Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts. 13Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts:
It is interesting to note that nowhere in Scriptures does it say that we are to interpret certain texts in any particular way other than by taking heed to what is actually said. So the question is–where does the idea come from that we should reinterpret Scripture outside of its natural sense?
In Church history I found it interesting to trace the beginning of the various denominations in an endeavour to discover the common roots of interpretation. This was done through following the family tree of the denominations and their beliefs. It is interesting to see whether the views are really endorsed by Scripture or whether they are holding on to the opinions of men in some area of tradition or bias.
We have already established there are two main schools of Scripture reading and interpretation today:
- Those who accept the natural sense of Scripture yet recognize the various literary forms such as poetry, parable, metaphor etc.
- Those who hold that because the Scriptures deal with spiritual matters, certain texts do not have to be taken literally–therefore these are taken to be figurative or metaphorical and meant only to give spiritual or mystical insight.
In tracing these two main interpretative approaches we find a failure to align completely with the original understanding of the Early Church. Due to the suppression of some of the AnteNicene Fathers writings, certain views were promoted and others hidden from public view by the Roman Catholic Church. At the time of the Reformation in the 1500s the dominant view of interpretation was still based on the Christo-platonistic A-millennialist viewpoint being enforced, along with anything considered Jewish being outlawed as carnal and un-spiritual. The history of the syncretised beliefs of Greek philosophies, namely Gnosticism married to the Scriptures is explained in the earlier chapters of this book.
Those who held to the millennium reign of Christ on the earth and a belief in a literal 6 days of creation during the early 1500s to the late 1800s, still did not have the full and complete understanding of Chiliasm (millennialism) that was believed by the Ante-Nicene Fathers and Early Church. In fact they still held to residual beliefs that were associated with Augustine’s framework of spiritualising Scriptures that suited his particular agenda. Since Augustine was revered so highly, none of the Protestant
Reformers had their reference point for Bible interpretation going back beyond him. It is, therefore, inevitable that a false foundation was built that prevented any of the Reformers from obtaining a true perspective on the original Church’s understanding of Scripture. It wasn’t till 1885-1890 when the ability to produce large quantities of printed matter opened the market for ever-expanding evangelical theological studies. This was predominantly in English-speaking countries where there was strong interest for these writings to be translated into English and to be readily available to the public.
Unfortunately, many of the new eschatologies and supporters of Darwinism prior to the mid-1800s were already entrenched into a frame of reference taught originally by Augustine, whether they were A-millennial, Pre-millennial or Pre-tribulationist; because their resources of available information were governed almost entirely by the authority of Augustine’s teaching, and not by the purer understanding of Scripture taught by direct followers of the disciples of Christ. The question that needed to be asked is: How does a person in the year 400-500 AD know more than a person from the 1st and 2nd century who would have heard firsthand from the disciples on what was true doctrine and what was not? It is ironic that Augustine would re-invent the Christian faith despite having no understanding of the Hebrew language, literature or understanding of the cultural traditions that are grounded within the Scriptures itself; this is where Gentile Christians need to understand that we are grafted into the commonwealth of Israel, within the Scriptures it is prophesied that Christ Jesus will return again to reign over the whole earth from Jerusalem and will be seated on the throne of David as stated in Luke 1:32 and Acts 1:6.
Most Christians, who attack Genesis on the basis of interpretation, also generally tend to adhere to a Christo-platonistic A-millennialist view of eschatogy, because they have been taught that you cannot trust the natural sense of Scripture. The origin of this way of “progressive” thinking can be traced back to the Alexandrian early Church Fathers Clement, Origen and their Jewish contemporary Philo who sought a deeper meaning than the plain text. Though they still placed full weight on the plain meaning of Scripture, Greek philosophy dominated in the region of Alexandria, and this became a festering cancer in the Church that changed the original Hebrew concept of God’s salvation plan. The Greek influence on Clement and Origen caused them to use a foreign interpretation method in reading Scripture, leading others into justifying a misreading and questioning of the Genesis account of creation. This form of interpretation was common amongst the Greeks and Romans, which line of thinking had the bias nationalistic pride to elevate themselves spiritually above other beliefs. This line of thinking became the Christoplatonistic method of interpreting Scripture, which would permeate throughout the whole of Church history, having been set in concrete by the works of Augustine in his ‘City of God’ Ch.20 actually saying that Scripture does not mean what it plainly says in The Revelation, and seeking to interpret what it might mean, he also re-inspired the creation in Genesis inspired by a gnostic spiritual influence. This is full blown syncretism! Augustine has blatantly rejected the natural sense of reading Scripture as the Ante-Nicene Fathers understood it from the Apostles. These were first-hand witnesses to the truth of what the first apostles of Christ believed, and we now have Augustine enforcing his form of gnostic teaching of A-millennialism by spiritualizing the information given in the Revelation, though he did surprisingly accept the 3½ years of tribulation as literal. In fact there had been no challenge to the doctrine of the literal millennial kingdom until the time of Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria from 200-247/8, who mentioned how some rejected the Apocalypse itself; he himself rejected the idea of an earthly kingdom as unspiritual, as was anything physical to many Greeks, including marriage. This idea was then later championed by Augustine, whose interpretation was also tainted by a distorted re-interpretation of Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho regarding the Church and Israel, (now called replacement theology) which had, by then, been accepted into the main stream of Christian belief. It must be noted and understood that Justin Martyr emphatically did not endorse or support any idea of replacement theology, as he was strongly supportive of the plain understanding of the Hebrewcentric Scriptures and the acknowledgement of the literal reign of Christ on the earth for a thousand years. Anti-Semitic rhetoric was promoted heavily by Hellenistic churches all the way until Augustine who outlawed anything Jewish as being carnal. The use of the Septuagint translation, rather than the original
Hebrew Scriptures, further complicated Augustine’s understanding of dates and having studied under Bishop Ambrose of Milan, he in turn adopted a very anti-Jewish stance, though he recognized that one day they would be converted–except that his idea of conversion was not in line with God’s plan. It is interesting to note that these questioning attacks have generally focused on the first and last books of the Bible–the foundation and the capstone. It is through the influence of Greek philosophy that the Alexandrian Christians first perverted the understanding of Scripture. Heretical teaching was founded on Greek pagan thinking, not the original orthodox Jewish understanding of Scripture. The wild Olive branch had grown its own roots (see Romans 11:18). It is with arrogance that Gentiles have ‘taken over’ the kingdom, that which is not rightfully theirs. Observe the warning in verse 21, which cautions against such arrogance. “Take heed of God’s goodness towards you as a gentile believer, as God’s love for Israel is as the natural Olive”. Gentiles are privileged to be grafted in, but it is those who bear the fruits that God seeks that will enter God’s kingdom of the Sabbath rest.
For continued reading, please go to Many will be deceived Chapter 22!