A very good article by D. A. Carson on which parts of biblical teaching are still binding on us today in the sense of what he illustrate in one of his beginning paragraphs,

“Greet one another with a holy kiss”: the French do it, Arab believers do it, but by and large we do not. Are we therefore unbiblical? Jesus tells his disciples that they should wash one another’s feet (Jn 13:14), yet most of us have never done so. Why do we “disobey” that plain injunction, yet obey his injunction regarding the Lord’s Table? If we find reasons to be flexible about the “holy kiss,” how flexible may we be in other domains?…

Carson does a good job in laying out some basic hermeneutical principles to follow when coming to these passages. His six points are as followed below. Read the article for the full explanation of each point.

(1) As conscientiously as possible, seek the balance of Scripture, and avoid succumbing to historical and theological disjunctions.

(2) Recognize that the antithetical nature of certain parts of the Bible, not least some of Jesus’ preaching, is a rhetorical device, not an absolute. The context must decide where this is the case.

(3) Be cautious about absolutizing what is said or commanded only once.

(4) Carefully examine the biblical rationale for any saying or command.

(5) Carefully observe that the formal universality of proverbs and of proverbial sayings is only rarely an absolute universality. If proverbs are treated as statutes or case law, major interpretive and pastoral errors will inevitably ensue.

(6) The application of some themes and subjects must be handled with special care, not only because of their intrinsic complexity, but also because of essential shifts in social structures between Biblical times and our own day.

HT: Justin Taylor

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