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Interpreting the Bible in a way that agrees with my beliefs

Posted by on Aug 18, 2011 in blog links | 6 comments

Interpreting the Bible in a way that agrees with my beliefs

Eric at “A Pilgrim’s Progress” wrote a great post called “A Personal Preference Method of Biblical Interpretation.”

He is examining his own method of biblical interpretation, and finds that he typically interprets Scripture in a way that agrees with what he already believes.

I think this is something that we all do… often.

Consider this paragraph from Eric:

Let me give a few examples. I like meeting in homes as a local body of believers. Therefore, I find evidence for this in the bible and say we should all do this. I don’t particularly like the idea of washing feet or giving holy kisses. Therefore, although I see evidence for these practices, I say that they are examples of loving behavior but not things we are supposed to be doing. As for giving to the poor, I’ll just suggest that this is optional and a nice idea.

So, how do we move away from “the personal preference method of biblical interpretation”?

I’m not sure that we can move completely away from it. But, there are ways that we can limit the effect. For example, we can discuss issues with people who disagree with us – not simply to present our own case, but also in order to understand their argument.

I fail at this alot, but it is often my goal.

What are other ways that we can limit interpreting the Bible in a way that agrees with what we already believe?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 8-18-2011

    I still think that a community hermeneutic helps, seeing the whole Body of Christ as the hermeneutic sounding board for interpretation. That works better if you are a non-homogenous group of course.

  2. 8-19-2011


    I also think that a community hermeneutic is the best way to interpret Scripture. And, like you said, that must allow and include different voices, not be restricted to people who are forced to agree.


  3. 8-19-2011

    Sooner or later our personal preference mode turns around and bites us. Consider how a fellow got himself excluded from a church circa 1861 in the South for opposing the treating of African Americans as equals in the church. He died in 1863 of disease in a camp near Manasses where he had taken part in that battle (the second one). Black folks found something in the churches that gave meaning and purpose to their lives in that awful institution of slavery. When they were sold from one part of the country to the other, they moved their church memberships just as the free whites did. In my researches in church records, I found some sterling characters among the slaves. Even the whites then agreed sometimes. In one instance they purchased the freedom of a Black man and made him the pastor of a white church for 10 years. No wonder Arnold Toynbee thought that the renewal of Western civilization might come through the African Americans. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was inspired by the Negro Spirituals and the simple clinging to biblical truths in grievous conditions.

  4. 8-21-2011


    I think the examples from the debates concerning slavery in 19th century USA are great examples of personal preference hermeneutics.


  5. 5-18-2012

    The way you move away from personal preference interpretation is to examine what the Bible says on a subject, comparing scripture with scripture. The holistic approach, along with viewing how interpretations work out over a time, is one corrective of personal preference. When I started my research in church history in 1963, at the suggestion of Dr. Lorenzo J. Greene, a noted Black Historian, I was a gung ho Landmarker. Eventually I came to see the error of that particular approach along with an appreciation for the contributions its do make to ecclesiology.

  6. 5-21-2012


    Thanks for the comment. I’ve also found that listening to the perspectives of others can be beneficial.