Principles for Christians Studying the Word Of God

Introduction

I have found the below principles and statements to be helpful and needed when studying and testing any old or new doctrines.

If we consistently employ the below series of eight principles, we will not fall into error which many have over the years.

8 Principles to Use

1. The original Scriptures are infallible in the original languages.

2. Hebrew and Greek grammar cannot be violated or ignored, but must guide interpretation.

3. Interpret within the historical situation, culture, and literary context.

4. Interpret the text literally unless compelling evidence demands non-literal interpretation.

5. Interpret progressively, with newer revelation always complimenting older revelation.

6. Reject as “illogical” all doctrines that require holding mutually exclusive ideas.

7. All accepted doctrines must be consistent with God’s revealed character and with all other true doctrines.

8. When possible, trace modern doctrines back to the source to see when, where, and why they originated.

Overview of Why We Need The Principles

These principles are intended to remove personal bias and faulty presuppositions as much as possible. The first seven principles guide our handling of Scripture. They would be entirely sufficient if we did not have nearly two millennia of theological baggage polluting our modern understandings of the Scriptures. Most of us are not new to Christianity or to the Scriptures. We have been indoctrinated for many years by various denominations and the pastors and teachers in our churches. Some of us have also been indoctrinated by Christian college and/or seminary professors, reading required theological source material, and the various theological systems of the schools we attended. This exposure colours our thinking and imposes biases and presuppositions, many of which do not reflect the pristine teachings of Jesus Christ and His Apostles.

The truth of this statement is illustrated by the fact that there are a multitude of Christian churches, groups, and denominations which do not agree with each other on even the fundamentals of the Gospel message or the Christian Faith. Yet, the average Christian just assumes that the church he happens to attend is preaching and teaching the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But why should that particular church or denomination be error-free while all

the other hundreds of churches or denominations are teaching error? This simple fact ought to drive Christians to investigate further. Unfortunately, most are too lazy or simply do not know how.

Most Christians are oblivious to the fact that their minds have been conditioned to assume certain things as being true and other things as being anathema and heretical without solid proof. Most have not even attempted to apply Paul’s admonishment objectively or thoroughly – “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21

It is because of this theological baggage that the eighth principle is absolutely critical if we expect to arrive at the whole truth. This principle provides a check against the possibility that we might have overlooked something important, or are still being

influenced by personal biases of which we are not aware. If our conclusions cannot be found in the writings of the earliest Christians, we need to know why.

The last thing we want to do is come up with something unique that was not taught by Jesus and His Apostles and thus faithfully passed on to the earliest Christian assemblies. Worse yet, we do not want to teach something that was considered heresy by the earliest Christians who were instructed by the Apostles. Jesus warned that many Christian pastors and teachers will be cut in pieces and cast in with the unbelievers or be beaten with lashes when He returns. Luke 12:41-48 Referring to this, James warned that Christian teachers will receive a much harsher judgment than the average Christian. James 3:1

We need to take these threats and admonitions very, very seriously and not think that we have arrived at all truth.

Foundational Principles of Historical Research as part of the Evolution of God series.

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