Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ezekiel 36: Context or Creative Theology

I believe that Scripture should be understood according to its simplest and most straight forward meaning unless the context determines that the meaning is not literal. Who am I to determine which parts of scripture don’t really mean what they seem to be clearly saying?
We cannot legitimately take a couple of verses out of their intended context and apply them in whatever way WE see fit. Unfortunately it has become a common practice to support a favoured theology by applying PARTS of scripture to an argument while ignoring the intended context of those parts of scripture.

I have recently seen a case of this in action where two verses of Ezekiel 36 were used to support a particular view of “regeneration”. However, those verses were part of a prophecy directed specifically at the people of Israel. The argument being made ignored that and concentrated on the chosen verses, projecting into them an argument about the nature and timing of “regeneration”.

That case showed that the same out of context portion of scripture can be used to support totally opposite beliefs - depending on what a person wants it to say, and depending on which surrounding parts of scripture are omitted

Such a misuse of scripture – using it to promote predetermined ends – will NEVER lead to knowledge of the truth. It will merely keep us entrenched in our chosen theology, blind to the revelation that God has given to His children.

In the Ezekiel 36 example, the proof-texting practice was defended with the assertion that New Testament writers also approached Old Testament writings in this way. Apart from the fact that WE are not among the writers of the NT scriptures and do not share their revelatory authority; what happens when two different theological viewpoints are using the same set of verses to support their opposite conclusions? Who determines which viewpoint (if any) is correct? Both use the same approach to biblical understanding but their conclusions differ according to which PARTS of the scripture are referenced

It is CONTEXT that determines the correct viewpoint.

Ezekiel 36 is NOT a general discourse on how and when regeneration occurs – it is a prophecy about Israel’s restoration as a physical nation (when they do not deserve it) and their ultimate restoration to fellowship with the God of Israel (AFTER they have been restored to the land, AFTER they have been taken from the nations, AFTER they have been gathered from all the countries).

All of this is NOT for Israel’s benefit but to show the holiness of God’s great name.
“Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the LORD have spoken and I WILL do it.”

That rebuilding and replanting that will be recognised by the surrounding nations has not yet taken place. Will the Lord do it as He said? Or do we “spiritualise” those promises and make them mean what WE want them to mean?
Proof texting is the lifeblood of human theology. Consider scripture according to its intended context and theology will be less prone to error.

Read and consider the WHOLE of the prophecy given in Ezekiel 36 – not just the verse or two that can be manipulated to suit a theological argument.


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The example I refer to above can be found here:
ezekiel-36:26-27-regeneration-

4 comments:

William Watson Birch said...

BTW, great comments on my post concerning Jews and Jesus. It was, however, accidentally published this afternoon, when it was supposed to be published tomorrow morning at 6 AM.

So, the post will appear then, as will your great comments. I look forward to interacting with them then.

God bless.

Onesimus said...

I look forward to it William.

Tim

Da Bomb said...

So true about context.
The scary thought is wondering where we personally have interpreted the Bible with our own meaning without realizing we have.

Onesimus said...

I often discover cases where I have been guilty of this. Mostly it is a case of unlearning a lot that I have taken for granted; things that I’ve learned along the way without taking due care and without taking the Berean approach.
So many “memory verses” can lead us astray because we memorise the parts that are appealing and we don’t always familiarise ourselves with their intended context.
David Pawson demonstrates this when he asks his listeners how many can quote John 3:16. And then he asks how many of those can quote John 3:15 or John 3:17. While almost everyone can quote verse 16, very few know how it relates to the verses around it. In his talk “What about John 3:16", Mr Pawson’s in depth analysis of the verse IN CONTEXT shows how little most of us understand what is REALLY contained within that most familiar verse of scripture.