There are a number of criticisms leveled against Scripture in modern times, even in the Church, that serve to detract from the conviction necessary to have Scripture do the work in our lives that God Himself intends. For instance, there are criticisms against the miracle claims of Scripture, the teachings about women, the husband-wife relationship, an eternal hell, and the gay lifestyle. I have not even mentioned higher critical views that seek to dethrone Scripture at just about every turn. There are those who argue that the canon is an innovation of the church. Then there are the textual critics that claim that the various manuscripts contain so many variants we could never know with any degree of certainty that what we have now is what the first century church had then. Moreover, the deconstructionist argument against the metaphysics of meaning seek to all but destroy any hope of meaningful communication, not just in the text of Scripture, but any text whatever. In the text written to the ancient church in Thessalonica, the apostle Paul wrote these words, ὃς καὶ ἐνεργεῖται ἐν ὑμῖν τοῖς πιστεύουσιν. This phrase translates, “Which also works in you who believe.” What works in them? Here is the entire verse in English: “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” (I Thess. 2:13)
KÖstenberger writes, “Rather than adopting a critical stance toward Scripture, we should rather submit to it as our final authority in all areas of life. An essential quality required of the biblical interpreter is therefore humility.” [KÖstenberger, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 63] One of the essential views of Scripture pertains to its nature. It is the Word of God. It is of divine origin through human vessels. If one fails to take into consideration the nature of Scripture, they are sure to fail in their endeavor to attain a sufficient understanding of its content. You may ask, “How does one know when they have arrived at a sufficient understanding of a particular text?” I think the Pauline text quoted above in his project to the ancient Thessalonians offers a clue. A sufficient understanding is one that produces the specific performance that God intended Scripture to have on the Christian heart. We all know that when it happens. While I am cautious about uncritical approaches to the text and especially in the area of exegesis, I am far more concerned with methods that approach Scripture from a purely rationalistic and radically skeptical perspective.
I think about the critics of how the Sacred Canon came to its final form. I read the skepticism that pervades much of academia and recognize that most of what passes for scholarship is cleverly disguised philosophical bias, godless worldviews dressed up in Christian garb. These academicians are nothing more than educated-skeptics, reading each other’s books, writing and grading one another’s exams, and marking each other’s papers. I cannot help but ask why Jesus and His apostles were confronted with the same complexities we are with regard to their canon, yet they preached, taught, and wrote with amazing confidence and passionate conviction about the revelation of God that was and is the Old Testament Scripture. I read the hype and sensational views of one Bart Ehrmann on the difficulty and even impossibility of locating the actual text of either of the testaments, especially the new. Once again, I am amazed that Jesus and His apostles had the very same textual difficulties we do and yet with amazing faith in what they called the Holy Scriptures, they thundered away, preaching and teaching about the things written in the Law, the Prophets, and the writings, as if they knew what the text was. Moreover, they did so with seemingly great certainty. If we did what Jesus and His apostles did, the skeptics club, which includes some supposed evangelical theologians, would accuse us of being the epitome of arrogance. The skeptics club has a great deal of faith in human reason, in rationalism, in well, the power of skepticism as a legitimate epistemological frame for understanding not only the world, but even the text of the world beyond.
You see then that the relationship between faith and hermeneutics is unbreakable. Faith is involved in every endeavor to interpret the text we call the Bible. Either you have faith in God, the One who gave us the text, who aided the believing community in their quest to recognize it and distinguish it from foreign substitutes, the One who made certain that what we have today is what He gave them yesterday. Or, you have faith in unaided human reason and your skills as an interpreter to be able, on your own steam to grasp the text like a wrestler his opponent and to grapple it into submission. To be sure, submission is a key component of hermeneutics. But are we to submit Scripture to our prior understandings and worldview, or will Scripture submit and subdue our godless worldview, performing its work in us as Paul commanded the ancient church of Thessalonica?