Why Akathleptos?

Why Akathleptos? Because it means Uncontainable. God is infinite. Hence, the whole universe cannot contain Him. The term also refers to the incomprehensibility of God. No man can know everything about God. We can know Him personally but not exhaustively, not even in Heaven.

Why Patmos? Because the church is increasingly marginalized and exiled from the culture.

Why Pen-Names? So the focus is on the words and not who wrote them. We prefer to let what we say stand on its own merit. There is precedent in church history for this - i.e., the elusive identity of Ambrosiaster who wrote in the 4th century A.D.

“Truth is so obscured nowadays, and lies so well established, that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it." Blaise Pascal



Monday, November 30, 2015

With an Eisegetical lantern, we are liable to step on a land-mine in the cultural darkness



Eisegesis is the attempt to make Bible verses say what I want them to say, regardless of their plain, literal, historical, and grammatical context and meaning. Scriptures that conflict with my cherished personal beliefs are ignored or redefined to agree with my predisposition. In 2010, the Francis A Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development published here a pertinent article entitled "The Problem of Eisegesis" warning of this dangerous tendency within evangelicalism.

Do you read from the Bible or read into the Bible? Do you know the difference?

How is the Bible delved into by your eyes, mind, and church? Do you seek to read into it what you want? Or, do you seek to glean what God actually has for you and the people He has called you to teach and reach? Are the views you have based on hard evidence and careful biblical study? Or, do you just take for granted what a favorite mentor or teacher or theological position has to say?

We have a big crisis in the conservative and evangelical churches in America! The problem was once just isolated to fringe, uneducated pastors and churches who had no regard for a good Bible education and careful learning. There is a mindset of anti-intellectualism, not wanting to be knowledgeable in the language, history, or tools of the Word, thinking it would be better to just be led by the Holy Spirit, when in fact, laziness and pride were the reasons for ignoring the real moving of God. As a result, many sermons are based merely on felt needs without Bible instruction or proper interpretation. Such thinking has given birth to a watershed of false doctrines and inept Christians with weak faith and a lack of Fruit and maturity in their lives. 

... our research has shown something even more abysmal with pastors?
  • Seventy-two percent (72%) of the pastors we surveyed in the last ten (10) years stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons. This left only 38% who read the Bible for devotions and personal study.
  • Twenty-six percent (26%) of pastors said they regularly had personal devotions while eighty-two percent (82%) of all those surveyed felt they were adequately fed spirituality.
  • Seventy-one percent (71%) of pastors said when they read the Bible for study, they regularly just looked for what they wanted and did not read it in context.
  • Sixty-two percent (62%) of pastors said when they prepared Bible studies or sermons, they rarely looked up what they did not know or understand and just "winged-it." The same percentage also said they regularly read into a passage what was not there in order to make their point.
  • Fifty-nine percent (59%) of pastors said when they prepared Bible studies or sermons, they did not think it was necessary to make sure their teaching was based on the text or biblically correct. It was more important to connect with their people.
  • Keep in mind these are the "conservative," Reformed and Evangelical pastors, not the mainline liberals or the left wing of the emerging church! And thus, they took their tainted information, considered themselves prepared, and sought to feed their flock spirituality, discounting their people from real, biblical truth!
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Ouch. Much of the western evangelical church is now unfortunately reaping what they sowed with an Eisegetical understanding and proclamation of Scripture. In contrast, Exegesis often correctly challenges our wrongly-held presuppositions while Eisegesis usually confirms faulty doctrine. Joel provided an example of Eisegesis here in 2007 on The Christian Watershed:

A good example of eisegesis in a popular understanding is Revelation 3:15-16. This famous text speaks of how the church at Laodecia was neither hot nor cold for the Lord, but instead was lukewarm, and therefore was about to be spit out by the Lord. Many pastors and laypeople have taught that Christ is saying, “I’d rather you be on fire for me (hot) or completely against me (cold) than to be caught in between (lukewarm).” This has been a popular understanding and accepted interpretation. However, it is one of the best examples of eisegesis.

The first error in reading this passage is many people will read it prima facie. This is a Latin term which means “at face value” or more literal “at first glance.” In interpretation, it refers to our initial perception of a text. When people read this passage in Revelation, their initial reaction, based on their pre-understanding, is that “hot” and “cold” must refer to being on fire for Christ, or being against Christ. This is because in our culture we have used these words for such idioms. To be “cold” to something means to be disinterested or even against that thing. We think of the “cold shoulder,” or “cold speech,” or other similar idioms and figures of speech. We then take this pre-understanding and apply it to the reading in this passage.

The second error is ignoring the historical context of the passage. Laodicea is not a concept or a mythical church; it is a real church that existed in a real city. Notice in the passage how they are attacked for being affluent and are called poor, naked, and blind. This makes little sense until we look at the historical city of Laodicea. Laodicea was a very affluent city because of its famous textile industry. Likewise, it held a famous medical clinic that would develop an oily substance to help with the eyes. Thus, Jesus uses these three things in developing imagery for them and explains how, though they have gained these things physically, they are poor, naked, and blind spiritually.

Taking this further, we know that Laodicea lacked cool water. Instead, they had to use an Aqueduct to pipe in water from a neighboring city (Colosse). By the time the water got to Laodicea, it was lukewarm and therefore had many parasites. The people would have to boil their water before drinking it, otherwise they would get sick. Thus, cold water was viewed as refreshing and drinkable, while hot water was viewed as purifying. When we look at the historical context, we see that Christ is saying that Laodicea is neither hot nor cold, but instead lukewarm. What He means by this is that the church in Laodicea is neither refreshing to the general populace (via servant hood, helping the poor, etc) or purifying to the general populace (via sharing the Gospel). He wishes they would at least be one of them, but they are neither, they are indifferent to both. All they care about is amassing wealth and because of this, Jesus says they are a parasite and a disease. He draws an illustration to what would occur when someone drank the lukewarm water – they got sick and would throw up violently. Thus, Christ is saying the church in Laodicea makes Him sick.

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Devastating contemporary examples of dangerous eisegetical interpretation of Scripture are those who use it to find Biblical "support" for homosexuality, same-sex marriage and abortion. Especially when confronted with difficult passages that may challenge us, it is all too easy to read into Scripture what we want it to say instead of diligently seeking to let it speak on its' own from the plain, literal, historical, and grammatical context and meaning. As darkness envelops the culture, it's crucial we use the Exegetical light of Scripture to safely illuminate our path forward. With an Eisegetical lantern, we are liable to step on a land-mine in the cultural darkness.

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