Just yesterday President Obama named Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee to the Supreme Court. Because of this, talk for the past week or more all over our country has focused on the different ways people have interpret the Constitution. Though it may not seem like a conversation that affects Christians, the way one interprets the Constitution sheds much light on the way one interprets the Bible.
Many have cloaked an agenda behind calling for a more compassionate reading of an ancient document like the Bible or a historic document, like the Constitution. A compassionate reading of either document has at least two effects.
- First such a reading discredits the original writers by denying that we can know what the original writers thought as they wrote. This point is ridiculous since the writers wrote in order that people would know what they thought. Even so this point is crucial because it allows the reader to determine what the author meant.
- So secondly a compassionate reading allows all readers to presume what the author means. This however is disastrous as each person can come up with a different interpretation of the document conforming to their agenda. A war ensues over the “right” interpretation” if such a thing exists with this mindset.
What is called a strict constructionist approach for the Constitution is called a literary-historical approach to the Bible. It rejects both of the points of a compassionate reading favoring instead what the author meant. Thus the reader is driven by the author’s agenda, and the parts of his own agenda that do not comply are subjected to the author’s intent. In truth this is the only way to really read an authoritative text, since such a text is meant to be a guide and an objective standard to practice. So the question that must be answered before taking either approach asks whether you consider the text in question to be authoritative.
I see both texts as authoritative and think both should be strictly interpreted. There is one important difference between the two. The Bible has no amendment process. Where it speaks I must listen. Where it is silent, I need to be careful not to speak for it. Where I have questions, I must endeavor to apply principles drawn from its rich reserve. The Bible is God’s Word to man and as such when I read; I seek to hear His Voice.
Letting the Shepherd Lead,