Context? Pssh.

As a semi follow up to last week’s post, here is another portion of Nate Churchill’s response to the facebook conversation:

You have to remember that this is only a small sound bite from a full message to his congregation, so you can’t assume you know every detail about what he is saying.

Why is that a problem? Can’t we just take what people say at face value? Why do we need a context for anything?

Our culture has a listening problem in that we are sinful and we tend to only listen to that which is either beneficial to us or harmful to others. Human sinfulness renders us broken and unable to listen and apply anything correctly. So we wrongfully read small sections of writings thinking that we can get the whole story, purpose, and conclusions from these snippets of communication. This problem has gone from the simple act of reading classic literature asking: “What was Shakespeare trying to say?” to many of our personal interpretations of Scripture. Our “What does it mean to us” mindset has really made us inept when it comes to understanding what the text really means!

You mean I can’t interpret things?

We are free and encouraged to interpret everything that we read and watch, but we need to make sure that our interpretations are sound and objective rather than baseless and subjective. So when we watch a clip of a sermon on YouTube, read a book, study an article, and especially read and apply Scripture, we need to make sure we have the entirety of the text in mind, or else we could come to some awful conclusions.

Scripture interprets Scripture

This sounds confusing, but it’s true. We need to look at the story of the Bible as a whole if we are going to make good judgments in our interpretation. This will help us look at the Bible objectively and instead of saying, “What do Jesus’ words mean to me?” we can ask, “What do his words me for me?” Oh the difference a word can make! In the first sentence you are left to decide what the passage means without the historical, cultural, and traditional aides that should come with it. But when you ask the latter, you need only apply what has already been so well interpreted. We must put thought and prayer into our interpretation of Scripture and how it applies to life.


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