One of the things that is very concerning to me is that people today are becoming their own authority for how they interpret the Bible. Many Bible studies / small groups today no longer attempt to get at the authorial meaning that the Holy Spirit intended in inspiring the author, but deals with application right off the bat. A Person throws out a verse out there and says "I feel like this verse is saying . . .", and then proceeds to give you their opinion of what the verse means. When this person is done (what he thinks is teaching) others in the group are encouraged to join-in with their opinions. But this type of bible study method is “a pooling of ignorance"
A conversation example of this is typed up in over at the Old Truth Blog who got this from the video series ”A Workman Approved By God'. This conversation deals with the error of Subjective Interpretation. Here is a paraphrase of the conversation that I think shows the problem of feelings in Bible study methods today:
Leader: I feel like Romans 8:28 is saying that if you are a Christian, everything is going to work-out for you in the end. What do you think Diane?
Person 2: (perhaps reverting back to her pre-Christian days, says . . .) Well, to me, the verse means like "good karma".
Person 3: To me, I feel like this verse is saying that God is my daddy, and that He has only good things in store for me. He would never let anything bad enter into my life.
Person 4 & 5: Yeah . . . yeah! . . . I agree with that.
Person 6: (previously silent, but now beside himself) . . . THAT'S RIDICULOUS! It doesnt mean that at all.
Leader: (Cuts off Person 6, and says:) Hey! We dont do that here. That's not what we are about. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, and if you'll just listen to what others are saying, perhaps the Holy Spirit will teach you something through others in the group.
This conversation may be exaggerated, but I hope you see the point. Bible study show never be just group therapy. Here is an excellent quote from John MacArthur about superficial interpretation:
The Question we need to re-ask today is: What is the first principle of interpretation? I will answer this later
Avoid superficial interpretation. One of the common problems in interpreting the Bible is this little phrase, "This verse means to me...." so forth and so forth and so forth. Let me tell you something. It doesn't matter what it means to you, the question is what would it mean if you weren't alive? What would it mean if you didn't exist? What does it mean PERIOD is the issue, not what does it mean to you. Sometimes you'll hear people get together and supposedly have a Bible study which is little-more than a pooling of ignorance. People say, "Well, I look at this verse and I feel this verse is saying..." It doesn't matter what you feel. That has nothing to do with it. It's not a matter of how you feel about the verse, it's not a matter of what you think it means to you. Avoid ad-libbing in Bible interpretation. Avoid free wheeling in Bible interpretation. It's haphazard handling of God's Word. [Read More]