Biblical Interpretation and Offense in Church — Dean Taylor — Ep. 176

Are Anabaptists guilty of a cultish  approach to theology? Do we all have   to be historical scholars to understand the Bible? As we did in the last episode, we’ve been  responding to some of the comments that we   got on the very first episode we ever did with  Anabaptist Perspectives, and that was with Dean,  

And on this one we’re going to be diving  in specifically about how we interpret   scripture. Again referring – and we talk  about this in a previous episode with Dean,   but the Anabaptist hermeneutic – an uncomplicated  view of scripture. So Dean, I’m going to start  

With a comment that we got on YouTube from someone  who saw that first episode we did with you, and   I’d love to hear your thoughts on that, and the  name of that episode is The Essence of Anabaptism  

Which you can find on our channel. So this person  comments and says, “I recommend that pastors have   an extensive course on textual criticism, learn  Hebrew, Greek and understand the cosmology of   a Jew living in the late second temple period.  Without understanding the textual history of how  

The Bible and Canon came to be we are putting the  cart before the horse. Having a philosophy that   takes the scripture fundamentally and literally is  not good. When reading Genesis 6:2 what exegesis   do you apply? Fallen angels or the line of Seth?  Whichever one you choose how can you prove it?  

How does one reconcile the translation source  text variances between Byzantine, Alexandrian,   Textus Receptus, Septuagint, a Masoretic text,  Sumerian Pentateuch, and the Dead Sea Scrolls?”   Sorry that was a bit of a mouthful. “The fact  is that every single Christian Bible out there   today is an eclectic text. Translators  had to cherry-pick between manuscripts  

To finalize their translation.” So yeah.  This is an interesting perspective coming   in on your episode there, Dean. It’s  not a specific question so to speak,   but yeah. What do you think of this?  How would you respond to this person?

It’s an incredibly packed question with lots of  different pieces to it, but it’s a good question,   and it kind of all represents a concept of maybe  a lower biblical criticism – not higher criticism,   but textual criticism which is valid. I think  these are good arguments that need to be made,  

And they’re good questions that we all need  to ask. We don’t all need to, but at least   it’s healthy to ask. We have a class up here at  Sattler where Finny goes into a lot of details on  

Some of those things, but I’ll try to give you  just a little bit of where I come out on this.   The bottom line is that it is good for  us to know our Bible and to know what   some of the critics are saying about the  Bible. As I said in the other question  

No argument that has lasted more than 500 years is  stupid, and these questions on textual criticism   and higher criticism maybe they’re not 500 years  old – well, some of them are – but they’re still   very old, and they’re still very valid. A lot of  your line of reasoning with the question that was  

Asked goes down the line of a sort of a  critical text model. He used the word eclectic.   This is the Alexandrian idea that the  ancient text and that kind of a trajectory,   and I used to be there. You know me. I’m a  historical theologian, so the older the better  

Was something that I kind of hung on to, and you  do kind of end up in a bit of a ditch where I   think it sounds like maybe our question is coming  from that ditch. Where do you ever end? You’ve  

Got this eclectic Bible that has this piece and  that piece and that piece, and you’re using all   these methods together, and you end up with the  Alexandrian text, the critical text which makes up   a lot of like New American Standard, NIV, and some  of those types. Revised Standard Version. Some  

Of those. It’s not a bad argument, but in general  we would reject that based upon what’s called the   Majority Text or the Byzantine text and for good  reasons. It’s for very good reasons. Is that the   arguments that are behind the eclectic approach,  they’re just putting together all these pieces.  

It never ends, and it begins to just be circular  reasoning that just – well it comes to a point   that I just don’t follow the hermeneutic or  the method they’re using, so for instance.   What is the oldest should be the best. Well,  the place where they were the oldest were mainly  

Around in Alexandria. Well, Alexandria is also  one of the driest climates. They’re also the   place where you had the most place where there  was Gnosticism and that kind of a thing, and   sometimes because something is preserved doesn’t  mean it was the thing that was most used,  

So for instance I’ve got some Bibles – some  eclectic Bibles that I hardly ever touch, but   I have them for a different version and different  type of thing, and I put them here on my shelf,  

But my Bibles were much more worn out. I  write in it, and all that kind of a thing,   and so just to say because they found this in some  monastery more of these more ancient texts then  

Usurps the other more Majority Text group. I don’t  follow. Also some of the reasoning is like if it’s   shorter than it should be used, and so like the  woman caught in adultery is left out of some of   the Alexandrian eclectic texts where the Majority  Text has that. Again the argument just doesn’t  

Follow, and if you look at that, it really comes  down to a lot of times where I think if you look   at areas that has to do with Christology or the  divinity of Christ or particularly even the human  

Aspect of Christ, you can almost – well you can  many times see within these Alexandrian texts and   some of these critical texts a Gnostic influence.  I’m not saying they all are that way, or say that  

This is all just a Gnostic Bible or something, but  I came to the point where I just don’t trust it,   so what I’ve received is the Majority Text which  is based – you usually get like the King James,  

The New King James. I’m not a King James only per  se, but using this Majority Text is that we find   in all different places separated by countries  and cultures and different things this Majority   Text. I will grant you it is much later of what  we have from that textual type than the critical  

Alexandrian text, but the Byzantine text gives  us a more complete picture. It’s what I read in   the early church when I read through the different  early Christian writers. I see their references to   the things that I find in the Majority Text, and  this also gives a credence back to using that text  

Type, so I don’t take it lightly, but I have found  that that is something that I’ve used if that   helps. I also use this hermeneutic. I don’t know  if I’ve talked about this before. I use an acronym   called SCAR. I’ve used the term “an apostolic  quadrilateral” and the image I get is Thomas  

Asking Jesus, I don’t believe you until I see the  scar, so you know see the scar, and so I use an   acronym. I know it’s bad writing. SCAR. So it goes  like this. Here’s the way my interpretation goes:  

Scripture is number one. Nothing. No doctrine from  anybody. I don’t care if they’re Justin Martyr,   Origin or anyone can be held as required for  the faith if it’s not written in scripture, and   I would define that scripture more specifically  in the Majority Text, but in scripture. The next  

Is “C” for Christocentric. I read the Bible and  Anabaptists do in a Christocentric fashion. In   other words if I have to choose between something  that’s written by Paul or Jesus I will always take   both of them. I never will explain away Paul  or the Old Testament, but a Christocentric  

Puts Christ as the top. It’s just the interpretive  tool, the way I would read Christ through all of   the scriptures. The last two I put on a different  plane. “A” and “R” are antiquity and real.  

Antiquity is where I would say that I try to in my  interpretation of the scripture to find something   in antiquity – the early church – and because of  the belief that as in Jude 3 would say we should  

“contend for the faith that was once for all  delivered to the saints” and that keeping to   this faith. Why I read the ancients, and why I’m  a passionate historical theologian is because   I’m trying to look at the antiquity to see what’s  there, and that weighs a lot into my hermeneutic  

Of how I interpret scripture, and then finally  the most fluffy of these is real. In other words   is this a practice that has gone on through the  church through the course of 2000 years or is this  

Just something that’s made up in the 21st century,  and so I’m usually suspicious if some new guy says   you know what? I’ve got a new way to translate the  scripture that no one has ever done before, and  

I’m like, yeah. I’d probably say – I’m not going  to necessarily doubt him. If it’s scriptural,   I’ll look at it. If it’s Christocentric, I’ll look  at it, but I’m going to bring up a big amount of  

Doubt, so I also give the benefit of the doubt  to the Holy Spirit working through the church,   but not at the level that I put scripture  and Christology, so that’s my SCAR,   and that’s the way it’s an  interpretive tool that I use often.

Thank you, Dean, for giving that a little more  context, and I guess a bit more nuance to what   you were saying in that original interview. I find  that helpful to understand okay, here’s a little   more where you’re coming from, and I understand  you in that original interview too. We were just  

Kind of hitting the high points, and this is good  to go in a little deeper with this, so in that   vein, I’m going to read another comment that we  got here from someone named Donald, and he’s had   some disappointments with Anabaptism which you’ll  see in this comment, so this is what Donald says:  

“I am drawn to much of the Anabaptist  theology, and yet totally repulsed by   its profound implosions in practice. Having  been ‘Anabaptist’ for over 40 years, it at   its best has a solid core biblical theology yet  somehow this theology seems encased with cultish  

Feel that seems unwilling to critically analyze  its own theology. The last 15 years has left me   very disillusioned with the ‘vision.’ ” Harold  Bender he’s saying. “The movement of peace has   more fractures than less ‘peaceful’ movements. The  movement of ‘scripture alone’ has moved from the  

Gospel that brings peace to a gospel that equals  peace. The movement that stood resolutely with the   word of God and against society now redefines  the word of God through the lens of society,   but of course mentioning such things makes one  disloyal and out of fellowship just like any good  

Cult would do. Overall it seems like Anabaptism  has more in common with pipe dreams than working   theology.” So, he’s got a lot of pushback here  for you. So yeah, I’d be curious what would you   have to say to someone like Donald who sees  this and is like this doesn’t work for me.

I guess I’d say “ouch” first of all. I mean he’s  talking about his 40 years of experience, so who   am I to say that it’s not real? He’s talking about  his pain. He’s talking about what he’s experienced  

In his church, so wow, I’m sorry. I will say  this, Donald. I will say this first of all.   There’s nothing, nothing harder  to do in my life than church.   I was working over in Lesvos, and I’m so  excited to bring some of these Muslims through  

To Christ and try to get them  into the church, and then I see   them getting offended by very little things.  I’m like “wow” if you got offended by that,   you’ve got a lot to go through, and I don’t know  how to say this. I’ll say this that God uses the  

Church in a sanctifying way that is just a cross.  I mean it really is, and if we go into the church,   and I didn’t get from his letter. I got from his  letter more of personal pain. I mean it didn’t  

Seem just accusations. I mean it sounded like  someone who’s trying and like I’ll be disloyal and   that type of a thing. I have found that with most  circles that I’m surprised is when I’m charitable,   but honest people will actually want to sit and  talk, and that bubbling all this up inside and  

Having these objections and having these things  I want to believe that you would find that your   ministry and your church would be more receptive  than you think they would be. You’re not a young   man. You’ve been in this at least 40 years,  and so you’re going to say back ‘You don’t know  

My church.’ Maybe, but I do think we got to be  honest. I do think we got to be transparent. And   God I think does call us to what the Anabaptists  calls a gelassenheit. It’s the emptying that Jesus  

Talks about. This have this mind within you that  was also in Christ Jesus, Paul says. This kenosis.   This only way to survive in one of these kind of  churches. On the other hand I don’t think we’re   supposed to be empty-minded and just you know  go through this because you know some things are  

Wrong, and we’re human beings, and we make a lot  of mistakes, and we’ve done a lot of dumb things,   and I’ve been in a lot of situations myself that  have been toxic, but I do think that talking  

Through those things and being really honest is  the way to go, and then allowing yourself to hear   and say reason, and so I’m challenged about this  way we’re looking at peace that’s we just end   up becoming. Peace is the gospel. I totally  agree with you. When I was first becoming a  

Conscientious objector liberal pacifism, and it’s  sort of peace gospel stuff almost derailed me.   I believe that the factions and the things  that are bad too, so yeah. John the Baptist.   He’s in jail, and you know he would have heard  maybe I guess, or he would have at least heard  

Of the Luke 4 passage that Jesus said that I come  to set the captives free. John the Baptist sitting   in jail now who would have known more than anyone.  “Behold the Lamb of God who comes to take away the  

Sins of the world” is setting in jail, and he’s  like, so where’s the setting the captive free   part? I’m in jail and about to lose my head,  and that’s when he sends his own disciples   to go ask Jesus, ‘Are you the one?’ What Jesus  says there I think is really profound. You know,  

Firstly tell him I did these things, and then he  says, ‘Blessed is he who is not offended in me.’   Blessed is he who is not offended. Offense. Being  offended is the way Satan works in the church,  

And we’ve got to go past that, and Jesus is  somehow saying, I’m there with you. This is   part of it. I’ll walk through this with you.  Be honest. Be real and don’t get offended   and don’t lose the faith. Jesus is with you  there just like he was with John the Baptist,  

And he’ll see you through it, but yeah. Thank  you for that honest pushback. I think it’s good. Yeah, thanks for tackling that. These are hard  things. You know, Donald, if you’re watching this,   we’d love to hear back from you a follow-up  comment, and yeah, I think you had a really  

Good point there, Dean. I mean human beings can  be a bit messy and complicated and inconsistent   and sometimes not very nice to each other, and  there’s a lot going on there, and I think Donald  

Is pointing out this is an area that all of us  can – we can always be growing in this where we   can say one thing, and it sounds all nice and  idealistic, but then when it’s walked out day  

To day there’s some real gaps there. Yeah, I know  that is definitely the case for my own life. Yeah,   it can look really good, but then sometimes it’s  not 100% of what it should be. Well, thank you for  

Taking the time to come in here, Dean, and answer  some of this feedback from that very first episode   we did. What was that? Four years ago I would say  about now. Wow! Time moves on, but yeah, would  

You have anything else you would like to share  with our audience before we end this episode? Just one last thing. I was thinking as  I just answered the one question there,   and I was giving my SCAR, and all that  about the hermeneutic. All that to say  

The question was back about the simplistic reading  of scripture. I believe the Word of God without   complicated interpretation, and the words of  our Lord is meant to be put into practice.   You don’t need a SCAR or a hermeneutic. You don’t  need to understand the Byzantine and Alexandrian  

Text. I mean I think it’s good for us. I don’t  hide from those questions like he was asking.   I like for us, our students up here to ask those  questions and come up with sound answers to the   postmodern liberal world that we’re fighting  against. However the scriptures do tell us to  

Receive it as a child, and so taking the Word  of God and just making it applicable in your   life and using it as a blueprint I really think  is the genius of Anabaptism. It’s the genius of   Christianity. It’s the genius of the early church.  Is just that simplistic and beautiful keeping of  

Jesus, and I honestly can’t imagine anything  that we would do that we’re just honestly   obeying the Word of God. On Judgment Day I think  that’s what’s really going to matter. Lord,   I did this because this is what you said, and  holding on to that and doing that and being real  

With that is the emphasis that I really want to  leave not the being able to explain our way out   of the Alexandrian text. That’s good to know, but  just taking it as a child and obeying Jesus like a  

Child is beautiful, and I encourage us all to keep  doing that. It’s a journey. Let’s keep doing that. Thank you for joining us for this episode. We  invite you to join our monthly partner program.   Monthly partners are key to the financial  sustainability of Anabaptist Perspectives.  

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