How to Read the Bible

by Mark M. Mattison

As stated in What is the Bible?, the Bible is a sacred library. How does this help us? It may call us to more seriously consider the context of each Scripture and to be more circumspect in our application of its words. Far too often we cite the "word" (singular) of God and give it a singular meaning (ours). We move directly from citation to application without considering the meaning of the text on its own terms. This hermeneutic is well illustrated by the slogan, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it." The motivation behind this approach is well-meaning, but its methods are misleading. As it has often been pointed out, a text without a context is a pretext (or a proof-text).

Therefore, in building any theological foundation, it is important to not just quote a verse but to establish its meaning in context, synthesize (not necessarily harmonize) its teaching with that of other Scriptures, determine the doctrine's meaning in different contexts (historically and currently), and then articulate its application. Otherwise we can go haywire with the text. This is particularly important when it comes to complex issues, because all of us work out of a philosophical system whether we know it or not. Those of us who claim not to have prejudices ("I just get my beliefs straight from the Bible") are usually most hindered by them.

The articles posted on the Open House Church home page seek to put these principles into practice. The collective message of these pieces is that each of us should remove the planks from our own eyes before gouging the specks of sawdust from our brothers' and sisters' eyes (Matt. 7:1-5). Each article on this site is written to help the collective Church remain faithful to the message we have heard from the beginning: "We should love one another" (1 John 3:11). It is to this end that we support the intimacy, accountability, and interdependence afforded by "open" house churches, and that we seek to help develop a meaningful hermeneutic to serve as the foundation of house church life.


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