The Jesus Hermeneutic – Part Two

Cross-BibleWhat is God really like? Do we just add everything together that we read that mentions God, from Genesis to Revelation, in order to create our theology?

In part one, we saw the problem with this method because of apparent disparity between the God of the Old Testament and the revelation of Jesus Christ, which has been a source of criticism and even distain for the God of the Bible.

We also briefly looked at how the church has tried to solve the issue of final authority by either appealing to bishops and popes, patristic tradition, or Scripture itself, and we looked at some of the problems with each of these positions. If you haven’t read that post, I suggest you read it before continuing here.

Now we’re ready to look at the “Jesus Hermeneutic.” I believe you’ll see that it’s a simple and more consistent way to read the Bible and understand the nature of God.

What is the Jesus Hermeneutic?

The Jesus Hermeneutic is based on two theological axioms:

  1. God is love (1 John 4:8)
  2. God looks like Jesus Christ (Heb.1:3)

These two simple points will not only transform your understanding of Scripture, but will also help you discern what’s inspired by God in anyone’s teaching or writing.  You don’t have to be a theologian or an apologist; you just need to know Jesus! Jesus said His sheep will hear His voice and they won’t follow another (John 10:1-18).

We follow Jesus and not another by…

His life example and teachings;

and by His Spirit abiding in us (1 John 2:27).

What I’m saying is that we don’t just read the Bible indiscriminately, assuming everything that’s attributed to God in the text is telling us what God is actually like. There are many other factors that go beyond the scope of this post to explain why this is so, but know with confidence that the only accurate way we can know what God is actually like is how Jesus reveals Him to us (emphasis mine):

27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matt.11:27 NIV)

We read the Bible through the lenses of love, letting Jesus walk us through Scripture. Whatever is not like Jesus is not like God. I can’t possibly emphasize this enough. The Godhead is not conflicted. It’s our understanding of God that’s conflicted.

God is love

HeresmyheartLove is not one of many attributes of God…it’s the very essence and nature of God. John said, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8 NIV)

And since God is love, this is what love looks like (exchanging “love” with “GOD” in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a):

GOD is patient, GOD is kind. GOD does not envy, GOD does not boast, GOD is not proud. GOD does not dishonor others, GOD is not self-seeking, GOD is not easily angered, GOD keeps no record of wrongs. GOD does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. GOD always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. GOD never fails.

Perfect Love looks like the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7)—humble, meek, merciful, peace-making, forgiving, non-retributive, other-centered, non-judgmental, and even loving your enemies (emphasis mine):

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt.5:43-48 NIV)

Everything we’re taught to do in Scripture is founded, empowered, and bounded by love. This is true nature of Christ-likeness because this is God at the very core of who He is.

God looks like Jesus

What we don’t seem to realize is that Jesus reinterpreted His own people’s view of Scripture (“You have heard it said, but I say…”). For Christ is revealed as the only interpretive lenses by which we may see God as He really is (emphasis mine):

18 No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known]. (John 1:18 AMP)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  (John 14:6 NIV)

He is the sole expression of the glory of God [the Light-being, the out-raying or radiance of the divine], and He is the perfect imprint and very image of [God’s] nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power. (Heb.1:3a AMP)

The early church did not read Scripture like we do. They let Jesus define their theology and reinterpret their understanding of Scripture, not the other way around. Jesus Himself said that this is how we will understand God from now on.

If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:7 NIV)

Cross_LensYou might well ask, what do we do with all the Old Testament passages about God that don’t sound like Jesus or perfect love? We understand them, even re-define them, through the lenses of Jesus Christ. Actually, this is what Jesus and the apostles did all the time, as I pointed out in “Deconstructing our Christian Mythology.”

I’m admittedly oversimplifying on purpose so that anyone can confidently know the true nature of God without having to be an apologist or theologian. But also know that there are a growing number of theologians who are doing the scholarly heavy lifting, dealing with all the nuances of the ancient writings and historical data, and they’re basically coming to the same conclusion. I’m just saving you the time and trouble. 🙂

A more effective hermeneutic

We have a glaring problem that we must face head-on. The world we live in today still has a positive view of Jesus but not of Christians. How can this be so? I think the reason is obvious. We don’t look like Jesus. We don’t love sinners or each other like Jesus. And a lot of this comes from having the wrong interpretative glasses on.

But the benefit of the Jesus hermeneutic that I’ve only summarily outlined here is that it not only compels us to follow Christ (His Spirit, example, teachings, and hermeneutical approach to Scripture), it unifies us in the bond of love. We’ll finally look like Christians!

35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35 NKJV)

23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:23 NKJV)

When our theology is founded in love and “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor.4:6), we will finally start loving each other the same way God loves us, and then the world will finally see Jesus in us. And when they finally see Jesus in us, they will want Him, too.

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 37 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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18 Responses to The Jesus Hermeneutic – Part Two

  1. dcummuta says:

    “For Christ is revealed as the only interpretive lenses by which we may see God as He really is”

    So, you could say that Jesus didn’t come to give The Father special “Jesus goggles” by His sacrifice to be able love us. He came to give US the special Goggles to see The Father! 🙂

  2. “We read the Bible through the lenses of love, letting Jesus walk us through Scripture.”
    Brilliant, Mel. Because if we don’t do this, we misinterpret even his words.

  3. Lance says:

    Mel, awesome post again. You definitely have a gift to bring clarity. I had a thought about Matt 11:27. What if we see all of us as “the Son.” Isn’t that beautiful. Now when we resolutely plan (another definition of the Greek word translated as “chooses”) to make visible what is invisible (another translation of the word “reveal”) we can reveal God in all of US as the Son we are. Our oneness with the divine is ever present in our resolute desire to express our oneness. Or something like that. Fallen Adam killed Jesus because it could not tolerate the expression “I and the Father are one.” Isn’t that our anthem too?

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Lance. What you’re exposing is what Rene Girard calls “the romantic lie”…the illusion that we’re separated from Christ and each other as human beings. This Platonic dualism is perpetuated in the American mythos of individualism. The reality is, our life is forever bound to Christ’s life. We (Adam) died with Christ, so we’re not technically individuals anymore (if we ever actually were). And Jesus only has one life, one body, one faith, one baptism (Eph.4:1-6), even though His body is diverse in its members (1 Cor.12:4-11). And if He IS our life, then whatever Jesus is, we are, although, in our experience we’re becoming who we really are as we allow Christ to transform our minds.

      We separate ourselves because we’re still carnal, eating from the wrong Tree, like Adam. And when we separate ourselves in fear, we give ourselves the right to not love others like Christ. We become the “accuser of the brethren” and do all sorts of evil things in the “name of Christ.” It’s the Christian version of cognitive dissonance! It’s Satanic in nature. It’s actually anti-Christ when you really think about it. And this all leads us to believe in a mythical version of Christianity that’s not actually following Christ at all.

      My hope is that someday we who call ourselves Christians will actually look and act like Christ. I believe that’s God’s relentless desire, to form Christ in us. The world is still waiting to see Jesus!

  4. Megan Urlaub says:

    God showed me that too. That 1 Corinthians 13. Decribes God. We want to be like Jesus. But He’s the Only one who can do it . 😊

    • Mel Wild says:

      That’s right, Megan. Jesus is not only our hermeneutic, He is our life (Gal.2:20; Col.3:3). This is where we walk by His grace through faith. He will love through us as we learn to receive His love ourselves.
      Thanks for your comments. Blessings.

  5. Arkenaten says:

    This post and the previous one come across, sadly, as an attempt at a hand-waving, white wash.
    You continue to instruct that we must view the bible through the lens of Jesus the Nazarene/love but utterly fail to actually provide any meaningful answer that will resolve the horrendous barbarity and genocide of Yahweh …. who is effectively Jesus the Nazarene, according to you.

    Admittedly, I am not schooled in apologetics or hermeneutics so maybe I am unable to understand the type of nuances you are trying to convey here.

    But as one who has no clouded religious issues with regard reading both the Old and the New in a straightforward fashion I cannot make head or tail of what you are actually trying to say.

    If we accept that the story of Adam and Eve, for example, is straightforward myth, which we know it is of course through the Human Genome Project, and we can accept a similar view of the Global Flood and Noah’s Ark, how is one supposed to interpret the acts of genocide as portrayed?

    How are we supposed to interpret the Egyptian Captivity and the Exodus and Conquest when we now know this did not happen.

    If all these tales are effectively historical fiction why the necessity to lead people to your god through the bible via such violence and horror if the overall and endearing message is supposed to be one of love?

    There was plenty of love and peace in these times as well, so why the need to depict your god Yahweh/Jesus the Nazarene as a vile egocentric monster?

    Trying to harmonize this ”love” view with the blatant contradictory evidence of the bible comes across as condescending, quite frankly, as if we are being treated as intellectual morons who have little or no to the think for ourselves.

    If Marcion was so wrong, then you are effectively exonerating your god and tacitly approving of his heinous actions, which was something Marcion could not reconcile. This also suggests the evidence for the traditional biblical view was not so cut and dried as we are often led to believe.

    If the message of your god is one of love then why show a god of hate?
    If you claim your god is gentle, then why do we have an entire collection of texts that demonstrate the exact opposite?

    This is what you have utterly failed to demonstrate and this is what is so troubling about the way Christians of all stripes attempt to reconcile the Old Testament monster that makes the average despot look like a children’s playschool teacher.

    • Mel Wild says:

      There’s no hand-waving here, Ark. The Bible must be interpreted. It cannot simply be read like a textbook. We must employ a method of interpretation (hermeneutic) for this book of books given to us from an ancient culture that often used stories to define themselves and make sense of their current situation. It’s the same method that Jesus Himself used, and since His life, death, burial, and resurrection, how we should read the Bible. Jesus defines God and interprets the Old Testament. We don’t read it indiscriminately as if Jesus didn’t exist. As you know from my series on “Making sense of the Old Testament,” we don’t read it with wooden literalism.

      There is no trying to “harmonize” those texts you refer to. We see them for what they are. For instance, you should know what I think about the alleged Canaanite genocide if you actually read my “God said what?!” series. As Origen said in the third century, if the Canaanite story is literally true, then Marcion was right. But Marcion was wrong and considered a heretic because no one read the Old Testament that way among the early church fathers. So you’re creating a false dichotomy by saying if he was wrong then God must be a monster.

      If you understood the Old Testament you would understand that it shows how MAN interpreted God and related to Him in the ancient world. It does not give us an accurate description of God in those particular narratives, but we can find it in other texts. And we know which it is from understanding Jesus Christ.

      So, I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a “God of hate.” That was invented in the imaginations of hateful men projecting this on to God in an ancient and very violent world. Jesus corrected our view with His life and teachings. Jesus did not quote these passages, often leaving out lines, when quoting a passage that contained this type of rhetoric. I’ve explained this all already in the places I mentioned so I don’t need to do so here.

      • Arkenaten says:

        I am not reading it with ”wooden literalism” but you are making excuses and interpreting for your own benefit rather than for honesty.

        You expect me to accept the resurrection of the character Jesus the Nazarene simply on inference yet you hedge over archaeological evidence that flatly refutes the Captivity, Exodus and Conquest and its crucial bearing on supposed Mosaic Law/Jesus the Nazarene.

        Never once have you given me a direct straightforward answer regarding the question of Moses and the Exodus
        And you behave in this manner all the time .

        You approach is disingenuous at best, and downright dishonest at worst.

      • Mel Wild says:

        I have given you the best answer I can give about Moses and the Exodus. There is probably no way we can know the absolute facts. But I believe there is truth to it, even if it was told as a cultural myth (which is not the same thing as total fiction). There are too many other reasons why it’s not just totally made up. The honest truth is, archeology cannot disprove Moses’ existence. I’ve read all the data you and John mentioned. What they do is try to find evidence that supports a literal rendering, and when they can’t find it, they create their own story, based on what they have. The only thing they can honestly say is that they’ve found no evidence. But this doesn’t disprove Moses, or anyone else in ancient history, and you cannot just ignore the historiography and the cultural significance.

        And again, you are trying to read the Bible in a way it was never meant to be read.

        You love to throw out the “disingenuous” and “dishonest” accusations, but you are only showing that you don’t understand what I’m saying about the Bible and understanding its history through the ancient cultural lens.

      • Arkenaten says:

        We DO know about the Exodus as recorded in the bible and almost the entirety of the archaeological field and biblical scholarship already acknowledge that the biblical tale is a work of fiction.
        This is recognized as fact. The evidence demonstrates this.
        Are we clear on this point once and for all or are you going to continue to dismiss the culmination of several generations of archaeology?
        If there was a charismatic leader of some description by the name of Moses … so be it.
        But the character as reflected in the bible is rank fiction.
        THIS is what is acknowledged by the archaeological field and also by the vast majority of biblical scholars.
        Do you fully understand the term historical fiction?

        Of course I understand how the bible should be read.
        I also understand the term ”Foundation Myth” and have been bloody-well telling you thing almost from the beginning.
        But you do not listen or do not comprehend what this term means.

        What you are expecting is for me to acknowledge that on one hand it must not be read as a literal historical event but yet you refuse point blank to accept that the evidence establishes the Pentateuch is historical fiction.
        And you STILL utterly fail to offer an explanation as to why the Old Testament must include a supposed omniscient
        deity that is a genocidal monster if we are to look at the bible through the lens of the character Jesus the Nazarene.

        You not only want your cake and eat it but also make up your own bloody recipe!

        And yes, in light of the outrageous inference claims pertaining to the resurrection, if you refuse to be honest enough to accept the scientific evidence that refutes the Exodus etc then,yes, you disingenuous and blatantly dishonest.

      • Mel Wild says:

        Never once have you given me a direct straightforward answer…

        How hypocritical of you since you never answer my questions. You just say you have an answer and then put some condition on answering it. If you want to ask me any more questions then you can go back to “The Naturist’s dilemma” and answer my question for a start. We’ll see how honest you are.

      • Arkenaten says:

        I told you I would answer that question the second you offered an honest answer regarding why Jesus the Nazarene thinks Moses was a real character.
        The offer still stands.
        So please, do not continue to raise this issue if you are now going to lie about it as well.

      • Mel Wild says:

        Again, exactly what I said. You don’t answer my questions, you just make conditions.

      • Arkenaten says:

        Because you are simply trying to sidestep a very real issue by offering a hypothetical one. And my condition was part of my offer right from the begin as well you are aware.

        Now, once again , do you accept the evidence of the Internal Settlement Pattern and acknowledge the fact that the Captivity,Exodus and Conquest is simply a foundational myth/plot vehicle/ a work of narrative fiction as accepted by the the vast majority of scholars Rabbis and archaeologists across the globe?
        A simple yes or no will suffice, here Mel

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