Sunday, May 11, 2014 pm                            Basics Index


Authority (Supplement)
The New Hermeneutic


In our lesson this morning we discussed how to establish authority.  We noted there are three logical and objective ways to establish authority – Command, Approved Example and Necessary Inference (CENI).  We gave examples of each and noted how they were the methods utilized by Jesus and the apostles.  However today, we are seeing the results, even among brethren, of what is called “The New Hermeneutic” (NH will be used in this outline sometimes).   It has actually been around for a few decades now, but we are increasingly seeing its results.  In our lesson tonight we will define what this teaching is and expose its error.

 I.                    What is the New Hermeneutic?

a.        The mantra of the day is “there is no absolute truth”.  Wednesday night, Frank gave an invitation addressing “What is truth?”  It is so important that we answer that question properly because it is being attacked today on every front.  In our society we are rapidly reaching a point where we can no longer take a moral stand based on the Bible – whether dealing with homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, fornication, feminism or other subjects of morality.  As I have said on many occasions, we could stop some of this (or at least slow it down) if all who professed to follow the Bible would stand up and defend our Lord and His teachings.  PART OF THE PROBLEM is that far too many have watered down the importance of Biblical authority.  One way that they have done this is by redefining how authority is established.  Enter the new hermeneutic. 

b.       Hermeneutics means, “the science of interpretation.”   It refers to the process of determining what the original meaning of a text actually is.  Our goal, when we speak of returning to “the old paths” is to determine what God taught Christians to be in the first century and to accurately apply that same teaching today.

c.        Defined - The NH is a new method of interpreting and applying the scriptures.  By calling for a NH, the implication is that the old hermeneutic is outdated and thus not applicable today. 

d.       The old hermeneutic is defined as establishing authority with CENI and objectivity.

e.       It is argued that the “old hermeneutic” (CENI) was introduced by Alexander Campbell in the early 1800s.  Whether Campbell used these terms I do not know – but in our lesson this morning we showed that it was used a long time before Campbell, by Jesus and the apostles as recorded in the Bible.  That is our foundation for using it as our pattern.

f.         Some tenets of the NH are:

                                                   i.      Rejecting the New Testament as a blueprint or pattern that we must follow.

                                                  ii.      Rejecting approved examples and necessary inference as authoritative.  While they acknowledge that which is specifically commanded is needed (sort of – TT) they reject the need to follow the “how” it is done.

                                                iii.      Accepting silence as permissive rather than prohibitive.

                                                iv.      Viewing the New Testament as a set of “love letters” rather than a “constitution” that governs our conduct.  In other words, it is suggestions.  It has been said by NH advocates that we need to focus more on God and Jesus than the “rules”, as if to say that if we demand specific authority for our actions, we are NOT focusing enough on the giver of the rules. (That sounds to me like those who say that grace is incompatible with works).

                                                  v.      Using logic and reason are not necessary for Bible interpretation.  In other words, truth is subjective.

                                                vi.      We should NOT claim that we know the truth absolutely. 

g.        NOTE: As you read the writings of the advocates of a NH you will not find total agreement as to what it should be, but just a consensus that the old hermeneutic is flawed.


 II.                  Is the New Hermeneutic Acceptable?

a.        The short answer is NO!  For numerous reasons that we have addressed from this pulpit in times past, we know that it DOES matter what we believe.

b.       The fact is – God HAS communicated with words His will – Heb. 1:1-2, 1 Cor. 2:12-16, Ephesians 3:1-4, etc.   AND He expects us to understand it and apply it – Eph. 5:17, Matt. 7:21-23, James 1:22, etc.

c.        There is a pattern that we are expected to follow. 
2 Tim. 1:13, Paul told Timothy, “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”
Hebrews 8:5 where the writer speaks of Moses being given instructions concerning building the tabernacle.  He is told, “who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”” The point of that text and much of the book of Hebrews is to show how important a pattern is to God.  Virtually everything about the Mosaic priesthood and tabernacle was patterned the way it was for a reason – it is what God wanted.

d.       Approved example and necessary inference are approved methods of establishing authority -
in Phil. 3:17 Paul said, “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.
 1 Timothy 1:16,  However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.” (, NKJV)

This morning we also noted that NI was used by our Lord and the apostles quite often.  When you put the facts together you can reach unavoidable conclusions.

e.       Is silence a valid form of authority?  No!  1 Cor. 4:6.  When your actions are based upon what the Bible doesn’t say, 1) you will not find agreement, 2) you are gambling with your soul, 3) you are mocking what God did say.  We will address this exclusively in a future lesson.

f.         Is the New Testament just a set of “love letters”? 
While all that God has done is based upon His love for us, the scriptures are more than mere suggestions for how we ought to live.
Hebrews 8:6
, But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.” AFTER speaking of following the pattern, the New Law is described as a “better covenant.” Indicating an agreement (or contract) we enter into.
Hebrews 2:1-3, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,  We are told to HEED the things we have heard – friends this is a VERY doctrinal letter!
Hebrews 12:24–25,  to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven,

g.        Speaking of love, how did Jesus say we love Him? ““If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)  
Also consider 1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

h.       Should we use an objective standard (logic and reason) to establish authority?
2 Tim. 2:15 tells to be diligent (study) to show ourselves approved unto God – “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Romans 16:17 tells us to note those who cause divisions, “contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”
Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15)
And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.” (2 Thessalonians 3:14)

i.         Can we absolutely know the truth?  While there are things that are difficult to understand, we CAN know the truth and we CAN boldly defend it.  Again consider Ephesians 3:3-4, also 5:17.


 III.                Why is the NH wrong?

a.        It rejects the importance of pattern in scripture.

b.       It tends to subjectivism - which leads to “anything goes”.   It relegates the teachings of scripture to nothing more than a story or narrative rather than our standard. The Bible becomes a book of suggestions that can be manipulated at will.

c.        It questions the all sufficiency of scripture and leads to confusion - Such attitudes lend to the questioning of the reliability and accuracy of the Bible.  How can we know what is right?

d.       It will also lead to immorality being practiced and tolerated in churches – when you soften the standard of scriptural authority you get all the problems that come with that softening. 
For example: You soften the teachings of the role of women in the church it will lead to women demanding a greater presence and authority.  It’s already happening in places.
If you soften the Bible’s teachings on MDR – you are going to have adulterous relationships in your midst, and very likely an increased percentage of divorces, etc.
If you soften the Bible’s teachings on what is acceptable worship – how long before it deteriorates into entertainment designed to please men more than praise God (just saying you are praising God does not make it so!)
If you soften the Bible’s teachings on fellowship, you will welcome into your “fellowship” those who are not practicing truth (again, it’s happening more and more even among brethren).

e.       WHERE DO WE STOP??????  When you give up a little bit of truth where will it lead with the next generation? It took Catholicism about 5 centuries to develop into the papacy – and it happened 1 step at a time.
NH was introduced about 30 years ago to justify liberal practices among brethren.  Look at where we are today with churches professing to be churches of Christ – Unity in diversity, instrumental music in worship, rejecting baptism as essential to salvation, replacing doctrinal teaching with feel-good and “relevant” issues, and lest we forget, mocking those who question their practices as – anti, old fashioned, legalists, Pharisaical, etc.

f.         It undermines the unity scripture calls for.  Rather than unifying it actually divides or leads to a pseudo-unity.  NOT the true unity we read of in the New Testament.

g.        The purpose of the New Hermeneutic (NH) is to broaden the boundaries of scripture so that they are not limited in their practices (what they do and how they do it).
IN ESSENCE, my observation is this – Because men could not dismiss the appeals to logical Biblical patterns that challenged the way they wanted things to be done  – the work of the church, how to worship God, tests for unity, etc. – they simply introduced a new method of interpretation that is more permissive.


Conclusion: The New Hermeneutic is not really new at all.  It is simply repackaging the rejection of divine authority for what and how we do what we do.  In Essence the New Hermeneutic is nothing more than old modernism. 
     And, for what it is worth, when you look at the arguments being presented by advocates of a NH, you will find that they use logic and reason, they establish patterns, appeal to examples and inferences in their judgments and other arguments that are inconsistent with their premise.

    Peter said of false teachers in 2 Peter 2:18-19, “For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.

     Let us in all that we do respect the pattern of scripture and strive to be true to God and His word.