What We Teach at Tulsa Bible Church
I. Bible (Bibliology)
1. We teach the literal, grammatical, historical (contextual) interpretation of Scripture, which for example affirms the belief that the opening chapters of Genesis present creation in six literal 24-hour days.
Genesis 1:31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. NKJV
Exodus 31:17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’ ” NKJV
2. We teach that whereas there may be several applications of any given passage of Scripture, there is but one true interpretation. The meaning of Scripture is to be found as one diligently applies the literal grammatical-historical method of interpretation under the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.1 It is the responsibility of believers as they grow in maturity, to ascertain carefully the true intent and meaning of Scripture, recognizing that such truth is binding on all generations. Yet the truth of Scripture stands in judgment of men; never do men stand in judgment of Scripture.
1 John 7:17; 16:12-15; 1 Corinthians 2:7-15; 1 John 2:20
Literal The main idea here is that there is not some mystical meaning that is independent of the normal meaning of the words. We use the word literal to express this idea.
Grammatical The adjectives “grammatical” and “historical” are added here to remind us that to understand the meaning of the Bible, we will often need to take into account the normal word meanings, grammar rules, and literary style.
Historical While we count on the Holy Spirit to give us spiritual understanding, that doesn’t mean we ignore the normal meaning of the words to the people they were originally addressed to. Language and customs change from place to place and time to time. We need to pay attention to how the time period and location of the writing affected people’s understandings of what is said.
The purpose of interpretation is to properly understand what the author means. This is the more “scientific or objective” part of Bible study.
1 : to explain or tell the meaning of : present in understandable terms
2 : to conceive in the light of individual belief, judgment, or circumstance : construe
3 : to represent by means of art : bring to realization by performance or direction
: to act as an interpreter between speakers of different languages
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008.
This is the art of taking what the author was inspired to write (its meaning) and applying those principles to what we think, say, and do.
“the ministry of the Holy Spirit whereby He enlightens those who are in a right relationship with Him to comprehend the written Word of God.” Moody Handbook of Theology
“In reference to the Bible,
revelation relates to its content or material,
inspiration to the method of recording that material, and
illumination to the meaning of the record.”
—Survey of Bible Doctrine Charles C Ryrie
John 7.17 If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.
John 16. 12-15 I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
1 Corinthians 2.7-15 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him." 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.
1 John 2.20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.
· The inerrant Word of God - Work from the assumptions of absolute authority, inerrancy, timeliness, and internal consistency throughout the entire Bible.
· The Holy Spirit agrees with the written Word - Do not be confused by the spiritual aspect of understanding Scripture - this is the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit which helps the believer to understand Scripture properly and to apply Scripture personally, but which does not contradict, add to, take from, or change the meaning of the written Scripture.
· Normal grammatical language - Work from the best knowledge of the original biblical languages and manuscripts, use the best available resources, and normal linguistic methods. Normal language includes the use of symbols, figures of speech, poetic language, and colloquial expressions.
· Context, context, context - Work within the context of the original historical audience, and also within the context of the relevant surrounding (and/or referenced) passages.
· Single meaning - Work from the assumption that biblical texts have single meanings (not unstated multiple or progressive meanings) communicated via ordinary written language (not specially coded for spiritual elites, or for especially clever archeologist/ mathematician/ cryptologists).
· Ask, don't tell - The interpreter must not read-in preconceptions. The work of interpretation is finding out what the Bible says - it is an act of honest observation and investigation, not trying to prove or justify existing beliefs or ideas.
By "Common Mistakes", I mean the reasons why Bible students misinterpret the Bible.
This also pertains to Bible study group leaders, Sunday school teachers, preachers, etc., i.e. anyone teaching or preaching from the Bible. Whenever someone is teaching Scripture and they say something that makes people wince - and I think to myself, "if only they had just ...(whatever)... they wouldn't have said that!" - Well here's a list of frequent reasons why passages are misinterpreted.
1. General Ignorance of the Whole Bible - A lot of people just starting to get involved in church ministry have not read through the Bible, and don't have a working understanding of the historic/prophetic core context. Likewise, they don't own (or dont' use) a Bible outline or other basic references to help overcome these inadequacies.
Solution:Read through the whole Bible before you ever start teaching Bible. In fact, you should read through the whole Bible even if you don't teach!
Get a good Bible outline (maybe there's one in your study Bible) and use it habitually. This will help a great deal with immediate context.
Get a Bible Dictionary (Unger's) and at least one good commentary - the selection of which is important - and use it habitually. Your commentary will help fill in the gaps of whole-Bible knowledge including the identification of other related passages. Commentaries which I know and appreciate include Matthew Henry (common free e-copies), Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, and the Expositors Bible Commentary ed. Gaebelein. An alternative to commentaries are the Study Bible notes of authors like Scofield, Ryrie, or Thompson.
2. Shoot-from-the-hip Analysis - Especially pertaining to parables, prophecies, or other passages with symbollic elements. People get really random with the interpretation of non-literal or prophetic passages. These should NOT be considered "common sense passages", but passages calling for us to apply particular care and full preparation.
Solution - This is where commentaries really shine, both for the identification of related passages, and for commonly held explanations. Remember, you're not locked in to whatever the commentator says, but it's a good place to start!
3. Not Reading the Following Passage - Let the author explain; Often when we are expounding on the meaning of a passage of Scripture, the best explanation is the next few verses! Too often people don't study the surrounding passage and miss the best commentary there is.
Solution - Scripture best explains itself - proper preparation requires you to read the previous and following passages.
4. Missing Parallel or Related Scripture Passages - Get the whole story! Too often, people miss the passage they need because they don't know it's available to them. A great way to embarrass yourself is to misinterpret a passage which Scripture explains elsewhere!
Solution - Use your chain-reference or other helps to identify the source of quotes, and read that passage as well. Get a reference for Gospel parallels and check for your passage in a parallel Gospel. Again, study Bibles and commentaries will often point you right at these other scriptures. Other helps for this are topical indexes and concordances - but these are word based not directly associated.
5. Interpreting Scripture Based on Your Current Beliefs It's not wrong to believe what you've been taught, but too often this is a crutch used to explain difficult passages (as you heard it explained by ...) rather than working with the passage yourself.
Solution - Don't be a copy-cat. The more original Bible study you do, the more original your own understanding will be - Nail it down for yourself! But also, Don't isolate yourself - It's always good to teach a class which includes other mature, knowledgeable Christians. It's also good to work through a good theology book (Chafer, Walvoord, Ryrie, Theissen). When (not if) you do get to a place of conflict between what you see and what you've been taught, it's time to talk to your pastor!
6. Personal application of inapplicable passages - Wrongly claiming commands or promises; Examples include Jesus telling the disciple that they would be immune to poisonous snakes, or Moses forbidding the Israelites to do any form of work on Saturdays. Both of these examples have modern religions which hold these two examples as generally applicable to current believers. There is also a strong tendency, especially in charismatic churches, to claim any promise found in Scripture as being personably applicable - "name it and claim it!"
Solution - This is where the importance of contextual qualification comes in. If Jesus is speaking to a certain individual or group, that does not mean that what He says necessarily applies to anyone else. Take care to properly identify the original historical audience, and then decide whether or not a case can be made for direct application to the modern believer. Also important for determining the applicability of a passage is a working understanding of dispensations, or promises, covenants, and prophecies.
6. Overemphasizing a particular Word - When you're reading English! A good example: I have heard at least 3 different preachers use "where there is no vision, the people perish:..." (Proverbs 29:18a, KJV) used as a basis for a speech on goal-setting. Wrong use of the word - a better interpretation of "vision" would be "revelation", as in Scripture - not "vision" as in "imagining" or "dreaming!" In this case, The rest of the verse show by context that this is about Scripture - "...but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." (Proverbs 29:18b, KJV)
Solution - Do your word studies. Translations are good, but words are tricky. Before you key up on a particular word or phrase, make sure you check the language references. Strong's concordance is the standard. It's keyed to the KJV, locates the individual words by passage, gives the original, and includes the Greek and Hebrew dictionaries.
by R.C. Sproul
When I discuss biblical concepts with my friends, I'm often met with the reply, "That's your interpretation." How do I respond?
That is such a common response. You labor over a passage and do your homework, then present the passage, and somebody looks at you and says, "Well, that's your interpretation."
What do they really mean when they say that? That anything you say must be wrong, and since this is your interpretation, then it must be an incorrect one? I don't think people are trying to insult us. The real issue here is whether or not there is a correct and incorrect interpretation of Scripture. When many people say, "That's your interpretation," what they really mean is, "I'll interpret it my way, and you interpret it your way. Everybody has the right to interpret the Bible however they want to. Our forefathers died for the right of what we call private interpretation: that every Christian has the right to read the Bible for themselves and to interpret it for themselves."
When interpretation became an issue in the sixteenth century at the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church took a dim view of it. One of their canons at the fourth session said that nobody has the right to distort the Scriptures by applying private interpretations to them. Insofar as that statement is recorded at Trent, I agree with it with all of my heart because it's exactly right. Though I have the right to read the Bible for myself and the responsibility to interpret it accurately, nobody ever has the right to interpret the Bible incorrectly.
I believe there is only one correct interpretation of the Bible. There may be a thousand different applications of one verse, but only one correct interpretation. My interpretation may not be right and yours may not be right, but if they're different they can't both be right. That's relativism taken to its ridiculous extreme. When someone says, "Well, that's your interpretation," I would respond, "Let's try to get at the objective meaning of the text and beyond our own private prejudices."
Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics
With commentary by Norman L. Geisler
Reproduced from Explaining Hermeneutics: A Commentary on the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics. Oakland, California: International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, 1983.
Summit I of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy took place in Chicago on October 26-28, 1978 for the purpose of affirming afresh the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture, making clear the understanding of it and warning against its denial. In the years that have passed since Summit I, God has blessed that effort in ways surpassing most anticipations. A gratifying flow of helpful literature on the doctrine of inerrancy as well as a growing commitment to its value give cause to pour forth praise to our great God.
The work of Summit I had hardly been completed when it became evident that there was yet another major task to be tackled. While we recognize that belief in the inerrancy of Scripture is basic to maintaining its authority, the values of that commitment are only as real as one's understanding of the meaning of Scripture. Thus, the need for Summit II. For two years plans were laid and papers were written on themes relating to hermeneutical principles and practices. The culmination of this effort has been a meeting in Chicago on November 10-13, 1982 at which we, the undersigned, have participated.
In similar fashion to the Chicago Statement of 1978, we herewith present these affirmations and denials as an expression of the results of our labors to clarify hermeneutical issues and principles. We do not claim completeness or systematic treatment of the entire subject, but these affirmations and denials represent a consensus of the approximately one hundred participants and observers gathered at this conference. It has been a broadening experience to engage in dialogue, and it is our prayer that God will use the product of our diligent efforts to enable us and others to more correctly handle the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
WE AFFIRM that the normative authority of Holy Scripture is the authority of God Himself, and is attested by Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Church.
WE DENY the legitimacy of separating the authority of Christ from the authority of Scripture, or of opposing the one to the other.
WE AFFIRM that as Christ is God and Man in One Person, so Scripture is, indivisibly, God's Word in human language.
WE DENY that the humble, human form of Scripture entails errancy any more than the humanity of Christ, even in His humiliation, entails sin.
WE AFFIRM that the Person and work of Jesus Christ are the central focus of the entire Bible.
WE DENY that any method of interpretation which rejects or obscures the Christ-centeredness of Scripture is correct.
WE AFFIRM that the Holy Spirit who inspired Scripture acts through it today to work faith in its message.
WE DENY that the Holy Spirit ever teaches to any one anything which is contrary to the teaching of Scripture.
WE AFFIRM that the Holy Spirit enables believers to appropriate and apply Scripture to their lives.
WE DENY that the natural man is able to discern spiritually the biblical message apart from the Holy Spirit.
WE AFFIRM that the Bible expresses God's truth in propositional statements, and we declare that biblical truth is both objective and absolute. We further affirm that a statement is true if it represents matters as they actually are, but is an error if it misrepresents the facts.
WE DENY that, while Scripture is able to make us wise unto salvation, biblical truth should be defined in terms of this function. We further deny that error should be defined as that which willfully deceives.
WE AFFIRM that the meaning expressed in each biblical text is single, definite and fixed.
WE DENY that the recognition of this single meaning eliminates the variety of its application.
WE AFFIRM that the Bible contains teachings and mandates which apply to all cultural and situational contexts and other mandates which the Bible itself shows apply only to particular situations.
WE DENY that the distinctions between the universal and particular mandates of Scripture can be determined by cultural and situational factors. We further deny that universal mandates may ever be treated as culturally or situationally relative.
WE AFFIRM that the term hermeneutics, which historically signified the rules of exegesis, may properly be extended to cover all that is involved in the process of perceiving what the biblical revelation means and how it bears on our lives.
WE DENY that the message of Scripture derives from, or is dictated by, the interpreter's understanding. Thus we deny that the "horizons" of the biblical writer and the interpreter may rightly "fuse" in such a way that what the text communicates to the interpreter is not ultimately controlled by the expressed meaning of the Scripture.
WE AFFIRM that Scripture communicates God's truth to us verbally through a wide variety of literary forms.
WE DENY that any of the limits of human language render Scripture inadequate to convey God's message.
WE AFFIRM that translations of the text of Scripture can communicate knowledge of God across all temporal and cultural boundaries.
WE DENY that the meaning of biblical texts is so tied to the culture out of which they came that understanding of the same meaning in other cultures is impossible.
WE AFFIRM that in the task of translating the Bible and teaching it in the context of each culture, only those functional equivalents which are faithful to the content of biblical teaching should be employed.
WE DENY the legitimacy of methods which either are insensitive to the demands of cross-cultural communication or distort biblical meaning in the process.
WE AFFIRM that awareness of the literary categories, formal and stylistic, of the various parts of Scripture is essential for proper exegesis, and hence we value genre criticism as one of the many disciplines of biblical study.
WE DENY that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.
WE AFFIRM that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms, corresponds to historical fact.
WE DENY that any event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated.
WE AFFIRM the necessity of interpreting the Bible according to its literal, or normal, sense. The literal sense is the grammatical-historical sense, that is, the meaning which the writer expressed. Interpretation according to the literal sense will take account of all figures of speech and literary forms found in the text.
WE DENY the legitimacy of any approach to Scripture that attributes to it meaning which the literal sense does not support.
WE AFFIRM that legitimate critical techniques should be used in determining the canonical text and its meaning.
WE DENY the legitimacy of allowing any method of biblical criticism to question the truth or integrity of the writer's expressed meaning, or of any other scriptural teaching.
WE AFFIRM the unity, harmony and consistency of Scripture and declare that it is its own best interpreter.
WE DENY that Scripture may be interpreted in such a way as to suggest that one passage corrects or militates against another. We deny that later writers of Scripture misinterpreted earlier passages of Scripture when quoting from or referring to them.
WE AFFIRM that the Bible's own interpretation of itself is always correct, never deviating from, but rather elucidating, the single meaning of the inspired text. The single meaning of a prophet's words includes, but is not restricted to, the understanding of those words by the prophet and necessarily involves the intention of God evidenced in the fulfillment of those words.
WE DENY that the writers of Scripture always understood the full implications of their own words.
WE AFFIRM that any preunderstandings which the interpreter brings to Scripture should be in harmony with scriptural teaching and subject to correction by it.
WE DENY that Scripture should be required to fit alien preunderstandings, inconsistent with itself, such as naturalism, evolutionism, scientism, secular humanism, and relativism.
WE AFFIRM that since God is the author of all truth, all truths, biblical and extra biblical, are consistent and cohere, and that the Bible speaks truth when it touches on matters pertaining to nature, history, or anything else. We further affirm that in some cases extra-biblical data have value for clarifying what Scripture teaches, and for prompting correction of faulty interpretations.
WE DENY that extra biblical views ever disprove the teaching of Scripture or hold priority over it.
WE AFFIRM the harmony of special with general revelation and therefore of biblical teaching with the facts of nature.
WE DENY that any genuine scientific facts are inconsistent with the true meaning of any passage of Scripture.
WE AFFIRM that Genesis 1-11 is factual, as is the rest of the book.
WE DENY that the teachings of Genesis 1-11 are mythical and that scientific hypotheses about earth history or the origin of humanity may be invoked to overthrow what Scripture teaches about creation.
WE AFFIRM the clarity of Scripture and specifically of its message about salvation from sin.
WE DENY that all passages of Scripture are equally clear or have equal bearing on the message of redemption.
WE AFFIRM that a person is not dependent for understanding of Scripture on the expertise of biblical scholars.
WE DENY that a person should ignore the fruits of the technical study of Scripture by biblical scholars.
WE AFFIRM that the only type of preaching which sufficiently conveys the divine revelation and its proper application to life is that which faithfully expounds the text of Scripture as the Word of God.
WE DENY that the preacher has any message from God apart from the text of Scripture.