The Mishandling the Word of God and Anti-Intellectualism


by Rob Lundberg

Have you ever read something like a letter, an email or anything else, and have missed the point of what the writer of those mediums meant in their messages. Whether you realize it or not, there is a famine in the church for apologetics and sound biblical hermeneutics.

If you have read several of my posts on this page, where I have been discussing the definition, purpose, benefits and even the shortcomings of apologetics, I have recently stumbled into listening to sermons from various preachers, who have totally missed the meaning of the text opting for some other form of approach for interpreting the biblical text.

This post is going to summarize some of these approaches and point out some of the dangerous repercussions which come from a faulty hermeneutic. At the same time, I am hoping to defend the idea that pastors and Bible teachers using these approaches, consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally are some of the leading catalysts for the anti-intellectualism and the moralistic therapeutic deism [1] that we are seeing in the church and in the lives of individual believers.

What is anti-intellectualism? 

The problem in many of our churches today is anti-intellectualism. One of the catalysts for anti intellectualism in the church is due to contemporary approaches to the Bible which in turn generate and cultivate  a weak faith that will not stand when the culture begins to throw down tougher challenges upon the church.   

Having mentioned this trojan horse in the past, it is important to clarify what we mean trojan-horseby anti-intellectualism.  A simple definition from Merriam Webster defines anti-intellectualism as “the state of opposing or [being] hostile to intellectuals or to an intellectual view or approach” (Merriam-Websters Dictionary).  When it comes to the church at large, anti-intellectualism appears to be the suspect toward the opposition of any intentional cultivation of the Christian intellect. Anti-intellectualism in the American church putting a stranglehold on the American church toward reaching a ever growing secular culture.

In the practical sense, this anti-intellectualism has become a scandal and a sin that reflects a disobedience to the Great Commandment of Jesus in Matthew 22:37 in congruence with Romans 12:2. It is unbiblical and it is what J. P. Moreland considers to be the “Trojan horse”[2] within the walls of the church.

Anti-intellectualism and Its Relation to a Faulty Hermeneutic

Now that I have defined and explained anti-intellectualism, let me move toward how it relates to the ways we see pastors and Bible teachers interpreting communicating the meaning and application of a biblical texts. Under this heading, I am going to first discuss what exegesis is, and then move to some of the spurious methods of biblical interpretation. Some of them may be familiar to you.  There will also be some newly named approaches that lead to the plagues of anti-intellectualism and moralistic therapeutic deism.

When we speak of the science of interpreting or one’s approaching the biblical text we are speaking to the discipline and subject of hermeneutics. Seminaries have full semester courses in biblical hermeneutics, showing the proper approaches to biblical interpretation.  But there are other approaches by those who scorn formal education, believing it to be “carnal.” I will have more to say on this one in a future post.   

What do we mean by exegesis?

Exegesis Chart

To clarify, when we speak of a proper exegesis, I am referring to the critical explanation and interpretation of a text of Scripture.

Biblical exegesis is the process a pastor/teacher or believer goes through when they study the text, interpret it against other parts of Scripture, and then explain it to the listener or the congregation.

This approach builds up the saints, and teaches what the Word of God really states.  It takes into consideration the focus of the author, the focus of the text and the focus of the reader and the one communicating it. This approach draws out the historical context, literary forms, grammatical structures and other elements like theological meaning.

Incorporating all the aforementioned tools, we come up with the practical explanation outworking of our exegetical study to answer the questions: What Does the Passage Say?  What Does it Mean? and How Does It Apply to our daily lives?

Anything outside of this approach to the Bible is spurious and an improper method of approaching the Bible, toward rightly dividing the Word of truth.  This brings us to the two faulty approaches presenting problems in the American church.  Those approaches are eisegesis and the “new kid on the block,” narci-gesis.

What is eisegesis?

vainWe see instead of a proper hermeneutical exegesis, we are inundated with two plagues that are prevalent today:

The first is eisegesis, which is the opposite of exegesis in that it forces meaning into the text instead of drawing the proper meaning out of a text. Eisegesis is often done when one makes the text say something it’s not naturally intended to say. This is a common interpretational fallacy by many liberal pastors and theologians, and occurs in many pulpits across the nation.

If you ever run into a pastor or read a theological commentary by someone who has the reputation of being a liberal, the chances are pretty good they do not believe in a the Bible as the Word of God. They may believe that it contains the Word or becomes the Word of God (Neo-orthodoxy), but to them it is not the “inerrant” Word of God.

Having served a pastor, I have met pastors who did not believe in the Virgin birth nor a same body crucified/same body resurrected although glorified body of Jesus. There are even those who will defend sexual dysphoria based on an eisegetical hermeneutic.  The question for anyone that might have a question about their pastor committing “eisegesis” with the Scriptures would be for you to ask them, “what do you not believe about the Bible?”  If they deny any of the cardinal tenets of the Christian faith, run as fast as you can to a church that will rightly divide the word of truth.

What is “narci-gesis”?

The second is a new approach known as “narci-gesis.” Narci-gesis is a new kid on the block that combines exegesis and narcissism. Narci-gesis is the practice of interpreting a passage of Scripture where the pastor/teacher or the listener is inserted into the text to bring out the meaning and the application.

In other words, this is the act of interpretation where the meaning of the text is not only forced into the text, but is centered around the listener or teacher/preacher. The main idea of narci-gesis is that the text BECOMES the listener themselves.

narcigesis2-370x230To give you an idea of what this looks like, we don’t face our Goliath. That is reading ourselves as being a form of David. Why should this approach not be taken?

David was a historical man who lived centuries ago and became a king who loved God, while marrying a princess, ruling a nation, prosecuting wars, and having a harem.

The idea we have our Goliath to defeat is a mischaracterization of what we see in the New Testament.  We read in the New Testament that we will be hated by the world.  If we were to look at Church history, a world that may demand our pleasures, possessions, and even life out of such hatred. All while forgiving our enemies and praying for and blessing those that do such things to us.

Charismatics and members of the New Apostolic Reformation are major culprits  at narci-gesis. From things like having “the mantle of Cyrus” to being a “type of Daniel.” Their false theology is partially rooted in the idea of being a “type” of a biblical character and receiving an “anointing” or “mantle” to prove this.[3]

Living in the Fredericksburg area, I find plenty of narci-gesis distorting the Gospel in a lot of Charismatic type churches and the local New Apostolic Reformation fellowship church in the area.

But narci-gesis is not just found in charismatic circles.  I have been watching Baptist churches as well, and have found that in Baptist circles that this approach can be found  with Henry Blackaby in his book “Experiencing God.”  Once you take away the idea that you are Moses or like Moses in terms of your life, that book quickly loses its relevance and for me, it appears as a kind of mysticism in line more with Charismatic influence or Roman Catholicism.

How does a faulty hermeneutic lead to ant-intellectualism?

I titled this post, The Mishandling the Word of God and Anti-Intellectualism.  If one evangelicals-jumbohas a faulty interpretation, they will be communicating something that is neither described nor prescribed in Scripture.  And make the Bible say what we want it to say, puts us as the absolute on truth and not the Bible. Even though you and I read the Bible, many of us forget that the Bible reads us.

As a result of these two plagues, eisegesis and narci-gesis, these are catalysts for opening up the sheep to every wind of doctrine and faulty interpretation. Just what are some of the deceptions that come from a faulty approach to Scripture?  We see the Word Faith theology/prosperity gospel, the law of attraction in Christian terms, mindfulness, contemplative prayer (Be still movement) the New Apostolic Reformation, Progressive Christianity, The Secret, acceptance of aberrant lifestyles, and acceptance of Eastern pantheistic practices smuggled into the church using “Christian-ese.”

So close but yet so far. . . introducing “lazy-gesis”

Just short of narci-gesis is another type of approach to the Bible called, “lazy-gesis.” Lazy-gesis can border on narci-gesis when we hear applications being applied to the lives of the listener that do not apply directly to the listener.

What is lazy-gesis?  Lazygesis is when you have people who are not drawing the truth out of the Word. They are not reading into the Word or putting themselves in the Word as a type.  They are not reading into the word but around it.

A really popular hermeneutic is then to use the Scripture as a metaphor for life. What happens when a pastor, preacher or Bible teacher does this?  Lazy-gesis takes the  authority of Scripture totally away entirely.[4] It shows up when a sermon talks about finding an equivalent in your life that matches what’s someone in the Scriptures went through. No time is spent discerning what God is saying in a passage. It’s all about the experience and that makes a metaphor approach easy and therapeutic for people looking for a better way to eak out their lives.

Here I Stand

Let me close this post by saying there is a famine in the land for good biblical preaching. The reason that I believe this is because there has been a tectonic shift in the ideas of culture since 9/11/2001 or earlier. Do we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, becomes the Word of God or contains the Word of God.  We need preacher and pastors who will follow this line:

All Scripture is inspired (theopneustos– God breathed) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and we need to remember that “no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20b-21).

It is inerrant, meaning that there are NO ERRORS. It is protected and preserved by the Holy Spirit, and it is sufficient. That is why Jesus Himself stated in John 10:35 that the Scriptures cannot be broken and thus this statement is a clarion call to all who love, believe, and revere the Bible and want to see Christ’s church thrive in our increasingly secular culture.

Here I stand I can do no other.

___________________
Notes

[1] Please see my post on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism where I lay out the meaning and the ramifications. This MTD is where many of our young people’s faith is camped.  You can read more on MTD at: https://roblundbergapologetics.com/2017/10/03/moralistic-therapeutic-deism-what-is-it-and-how-can-we-respond-to-this-phenomenon/

[2] J.P. Moreland, Love Your God with All Your Mind (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2012 ed.), 35

[3] See Steven Yeadon’s article The Danger of Narcigesis in The Baptist Theology and Bible Study page: https://www.baptistboard.com/threads/the-danger-of-narci-gesis.113584/

[4] I’ve noticed something of a disturbing trend among fellow Christians. They seem to have a view of biblical interpretation that Evan Minton likes to call “Hermit Hermenuetics” or “Hermit-nuetics”. Hermit-neutics is the method of reading The Bible in a complete vacuum and avoiding interaction with any scholarly material in the realm of biblical studies. This is the practice of getting an English Bible, sitting somewhere off by yourself, reading it, and doing the best you can to figure out what it says, hoping The Holy Spirit will zap your brain with understanding when He wants you to notice or pick up on something important. Now, I certainly don’t want to knock that. I do believe that The Holy Spirit guides us in our scripture reading by making things “dawn on us” or stick out to us. It certainly has happened to me many times when reading The Bible. However, some Christians seem to think that’s all it means for The Holy Spirit to reveal scriptural truths to you. (Found in Who Needs Scholarship When You’ve Got The Holy Spirit?)


Version 3Rob is a blogger, writer and public speaker on a mission to equip the believer to think and articulate what they believe and to communicate the message of the gospel to a confused culture in a chaotic, “brave new world.”

He is available to come and speak to your church, college club, or group. Find out what people are saying.  If you would like to support this ministry with a one time or monthly gift, you can do that by clicking here

If you would like to book Rob for a speaking event, you can do so by emailing him at realissueapologetics@yahoo.com    If you have other questions about apologetics or doing apologetics, or if you are looking for apologetics resources, contact our ministry by email.


 

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