Thursday, October 09, 2014

We fail to understand the scriptures because of our pride

The scriptures must be approached based on their own right, power, and value. If we place too high a value on our own knowledge and understanding, over that of the scriptures, then they will forever seem foolish and objectionable to us.
"For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. " (1 Corinthians 1:21-25)
God is beyond all wisdom and understanding of men. If we try to know Him and understand His word based solely on our own wisdom and learning then we will never find what we seek. To many people the scriptures are both foolish and rude; foolish in their simplicity and appeal to the lowly and common among us, and rude in what they command. For many the commands of the scriptures seem out-of-date, old-fashion, and not befitting a modern world. However, these appearances expose merely the surface of the scriptures and belie the deep hidden truth and wisdom contained within.

Methetes, though his moniker not his real name, in his letter to Diognetus, wrote of the need to leave behind our preconceived ideas, expectations, and notions if we are to fully understand the the plan and message of God.
"Come, then, after you have freed yourself from all prejudices possessing your mind, and laid aside what you have been accustomed to, as something apt to deceive you, and being made, as if from the beginning, a new man, inasmuch as, according to your own confession, you are to be the hearer of a new [system of] doctrine; come and contemplate, not with your eyes only, but with your understanding." (Mathetes Chapter 2)
A man must humble himself if he is to come and learn from the scriptures. He must be willing to admit that there is something he must yet learn, that his learning is not yet complete, and that the scriptures have something valuable to teach him. Regardless of what others might think, he must approach the scriptures without prejudice or preconceptions and let it speak for itself. I had a friend who was reading the Gospels for the first time and, whenever reading a parable, would try to guess the ending but he was always wrong and surprised by the lessons Jesus was teaching. It is this kind of honesty, openness, and willingness to learn that is necessary when we approach the scriptures.

Furthermore, Augustine reminds us that we must yield our interpretations of scripture and our narratives of Christianity to that of the Scriptures.
"Whoever takes another meaning out of Scripture than the writer intended, goes astray, but not through any falsehood in Scripture. Nevertheless, as I was going to say, if his mistaken interpretation tends to build up love, which is the end of the commandment, he goes astray in much the same way as a man who by mistake quits the high road, but yet reaches through the fields the same place to which the road leads. He is to be corrected, however, and to be shown how much better it is not to quit the straight road, lest, if he get into a habit of going astray, he may sometimes take cross roads, or even go in the wrong direction altogether." (Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Chapter 36)
It is possible to misinterpret some scriptures but still arrive at the correct conclusion, yet our interpretation is still incorrect and we must allow it to be corrected by the truth of the scriptures. The problem is that, often times, in our pride, we have greater love for our own ideas and interpretations than we do for the scriptures themselves and, when latter on the scriptures oppose our favorite doctrines, we choose our ideas over the teachings of the scripture; loving our imagination over the truth, Augustine continued to say,
"For if he takes up rashly a meaning which the author whom he is reading did not intend, he often falls in with other statements which he cannot harmonize with this meaning. And if he admits that these statements are true and certain, then it follows that the meaning he had put upon the former passage cannot be the true one: and so it comes to pass, one can hardly tell how, that, out of love for his own opinion, he begins to feel more angry with Scripture than he is with himself. And if he should once permit that evil to creep in, it will utterly destroy him." (Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Chapter 37)
Pride closes our mind to the truth that is without and darkens our understanding to the scriptures. If we are to learn and understand then we must humble ourselves and become as little children and let our teacher, who is Christ, teach us His word from His scriptures.

David Robison

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