Applied Biblical Theology, Part 1
The following was originally posted on the Townhall Interface blog on November 4, 2006. Fighting for our Lives was another Townhall blog run by SPQR and so these links are no longer available since that platform has been taken down. However, the arguments I give below are still valid and are particularly apropos for these times when many issues on which conservatives stand are attacked with this alleged biblical argument which really only reveals the ignorance of those using said argument. We see these arguments in everything from the homosexual agenda to attacks on the second amendment rights. Prepare yourself by learning to think clearly and know your Bible so you can respond appropriately to progressive drivel.
Setting the Stage
A recent post over at Fighting for our Lives entitled “Discipline and Integrity” initiated an interesting discussion thread that includes, among others, two very good extended replies by SPQR here and here to the primary liberal responding to this post. Two issues, however, remain inadequately addressed and they both have to do with the interpretation of Biblical verses alleged to support the liberal’s viewpoint. They are common objections to the conservative worldview and require a more detailed evaluation.
In common with most of liberal theology, this liberal’s quotation of the Bible violates at least two of the standard rules of interpretation. First and foremost, only selected Scriptures are emphasized, ignoring verses that would call for different and sometimes opposite explanations of the data. When giving his final words to the Ephesian elders, Paul says, “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” (Acts 20:26-27; note, I use the KJV because it is public domain and most people will have access to it. It is an excellent translation and the meaning can be understood in the overwhelming majority of cases. Feel free to look up the verses in your own favorite translation, although I would caution you to use a good literal translation and not a paraphrase for serious Bible study.) Anyone handling the Word of God must give careful attention to use “all the counsel of God” and not just pick and choose what fits the a priori desired results. This is a common failing of liberal theology, and I will show how it is evident in the arguments below.
Secondly, the context of a passage must be understood to achieve the correct understanding of the author’s intent. This includes such processes as noting what kind of literature the passage is, because, for example, poetry will contain more figurative language than will historical narrative. Again, I will show how the verses used by this liberal have been taken out of context and misinterpreted or extrapolated to incorrect conclusions.
As an aside, these two errors are related as will also be apparent here. Taking an idea out of context generally involves ignoring the portion of the context that contradicts the desired conclusion, thus leaving out data critical to a correct understanding. As my favorite logician was wont to say, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” (Sherlock Holmes, A Scandal in Bohemia (1892))
In her own words, the first issue is that of judging others. Conflating the appropriate portions of her comments, she says,
People to not have a ‘right’ to judge others. As Christ said, you should remove the log from your own eye before you start worrying about the splinter in your neighbors…. Why did Jesus say not to judge? It’s not just random; most of the things Jesus says make great sense. For one, when we judge, we elevate ourselves to God’s permission. Humility is a moral virtue; we should avoid the moral hazards of deciding it is our job to do God’s duty.
Jesus did command his followers not to judge. ‘Judge not lest ye be judged.’ He said that he without sin is the one who should throw stones.
I think there is an important difference between making decisions and having thought and judgement. Judgement in this case is determining that someone else has fallen short of the glory of God. You can make other decisions without resorting to the sin (yes it is a sin) of Judgement.
The above is primarily based on Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” But, unfortunately for our liberal, Jesus didn’t stop there, and here we see the simultaneous violation of both of the aforementioned hermeneutical principles. As a result, she arrives at a definition of judgment that is unbiblical. Jesus goes on to say in verses 2-5,
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
In context, the emphasis is on judging hypocritically while guilty of the same thing. Paul says it a little more bluntly in Romans:
Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. (Rom 2:1)
Going back to Jesus’ words, the key is verse 5, where he says, “then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye,” clearly indicating the responsibility to take the mote out of your brother’s eye after one’s own sin has been dealt with. Paul again confirms this interpretation in Galatians:
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (Gal 6:1)
And again, if you want Jesus’ words: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24) Here He specifically commands judgment be made, but righteous judgment.
Righteousness will require conformity to God’s standards, which, in turn, assumes you know what those standards are, objectively.
Again, Paul says in 1 Corinthians: “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?” (1 Cor 6:2-3) It would be difficult to obey Paul’s injunction if the liberal interpretation of Matthew 7:1 were true.
Judgment in the attitude of meekness, knowing and turning from one’s own faults as a prerequisite, is the principle. For our purposes, the point is that judging in some form is biblically necessary and required. Also coming to this conclusion are a multitude of commentators on this passage. For example, in the classic A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, we find under their discussion of Matthew 7:1 the following:
To ‘judge’ here does not exactly mean to pronounce condemnatory judgment, nor does it refer to simple judging at all, whether favorable or the reverse. The context makes it clear that the thing here condemned is that disposition to look unfavorably on the character and actions of others, which leads invariably to the pronouncing of rash, unjust, and unlovely judgments upon them. No doubt it is the judgments so pronounced which are here spoken of; but what our Lord aims at is the spirit out of which they spring. Provided we eschew this unlovely spirit, we are not only warranted to sit in judgment upon a brother’s character and actions, but in the exercise of a necessary discrimination are often constrained to do so for our own guidance. It is the violation of the law of love involved in the exercise of a censorious disposition which alone is here condemned. And the argument against it – ‘that ye be not judged’ – confirms this: ‘that your own character and actions be not pronounced upon with the like severity’; that is, at the great day.
The second verse in this category that has been taken out of context contains the words Jesus spoke to the crowd seeking to stone the woman caught in adultery, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) Read the whole story in verses 3-11. Is Jesus establishing a new criterion for judgment applicable to all situations? The context clearly indicates that he is, in fact, dealing with exactly the situation we’ve described above. These men were not interested in righteousness, but in trapping Jesus. Their hypocrisy is clear when one considers that the Old Testament law they sought to invoke requires both the adulteress and the adulterer to be put to death (Leviticus 20:10). So where’s the guy? Is he perhaps standing there with a stone in his hand? This is a concrete example of Matthew 7:1 being applied, not a prohibition against judging.
The bottomline is that people do, indeed, have a right to judge others when done properly. But the devil is in the details, as they say. It requires the effort to acquire the knowledge necessary to make such judgments, because they are not to be made on the basis of whim or feelings, but on the objective Word of God, so that, as the author of Hebrews puts it: “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb 5:14)
To be continued…