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Bible Interpretation Part 6: The Analogy of Faith

Updated on May 2, 2019
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Barry is the founder and director of Expositors International Ministry and dean of Bible Expositors Seminary, Philippines.

The Bible

Let us review a few things that we have said so far. The Bible is the Word of God. God cannot lie. God does not make errors. Therefore, the Bible is true and without error. God has spoken. God is the creator of all language. We can understand what God has said. This, of course, does not mean that everything in the Bible is easy to understand. There are passages that are more difficult to understand than others. Even the Bible recognizes this fact.

and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 2 Peter 3:15-16

Interpretations

One of the gravest errors that can occur when we ignore the principle of interpretation is when a person will imagine or contrive some fanciful meaning and then claim that the Lord gave them this understanding. While we do acknowledge that the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer plays a most important role in interpretation of Scripture (so much so in fact that it is impossible to accept the truth of the Word without salvation), we also know and believe that no one person has the ability to interpret Scripture in the way that they please or outside of Biblical revelation. The role of the Holy Spirit is that of illumination. The Spirit opens our eyes and mind to see that what God has said in His Word is true. The Holy Spirit is not giving a private interpretation, unlocking hidden mysteries or giving special, private understanding. The understating and interpretation of the Scripture is in the words themselves and nowhere else.

Just as no one person has the right to interpret Scripture in their own way, so also no group, religion, denomination or tradition has the right to interpret Scripture in their own way. Scripture is the interpreter of itself. No individual person, tradition or denomination has the right or power to impose itself on the text. The Bible speaks for itself and the Bible is the sole authority. There is no earthly authority over the Bible.

The Analogy of Faith

Given that Scripture is true and without error, and given that we can make mistakes, then the best interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself. As scripture is the only infallible interpreter of scripture then it is the best interpreter. So, then Scripture interprets Scripture. This means that if there is something in Scripture that we do not understand the best place to look for illumination and understanding is in the Scriptures themselves. We do not turn to our own imagination or to some secular source for an explanation.

The Analogy of faith rejects tradition and formal religion as a means of interpreting Scripture. If we are not sure of a passage, we can simply find others verse that speaks about the same topic or theme. Given that all Scripture is inspired, the most reliable help we can find to understand one verse of the Bible is another verse of the Bible. But the Analogy of Faith is more than using one verse to interpret another. It goes beyond that. All verses of the Bible agree with all other verses.

Light Shines in the Dark

The dark passages are enlightened by the bright passages. One way to understand a difficult text is to try to find the same topic in the Bible someplace else. We then use the clearer passages, along with all the other rules of hermeneutics, to help us understand the verse or passage. There is a negative sense of the analogy of faith also. No clear passage should be negated by an unclear or obscure passage. If two passages are found that seem to contradict each other, then both passages must be accepted as true and work should be done to rectify the apparent contradiction.

This result of this work is what we call "systematic theology." We collect verses of the Bible on even given topic and that gives us a Biblical view of the topic. Where there is apparent contradictions or confusion, we use other verses to clarify and illuminate the confusion. In this way we have a systematic, that is a cohesive and a coherent view of the text.

I should note that "systematic theology" is not taking a system and imposing it on the Bible. Rather, systematic theology is the attempt to hold all verses as equally inspired, equally true and without contradiction.

© 2019 Barry G Carpenter

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