Doctrinal Differences

What leads to different interpretations of the same Scripture?  

The current discussion about justification and the relationship between Protestants and Roman Catholics would be clarified by an examination of the historical roots and worldviews both then and now, rather than merely rehashing doctrinal differences. What leads to different interpretations of the same Scripture? The root answer is a priori, presuppositions, that is, worldview assumptions: either one selects Scripture as the only source and sole arbiter of the conscience (aut-aut), or one synthesizes coherently from various ancient and modern sources (et-et). These lead to which side one takes on sola fide, sola gratia, and the other distinctions, which are not merely doctrinal, as is suggested.

The first way stems from Hebrew-biblical givens which demonstrate that God and created reality are distinct, that while creation is good, there is nothing divine in it (Gen 1-2; Psa 115, etc.); that man is separated from God ontologically and by his own choosing (sin); he only has the faculty to know God, not natural ability. This first way results in a life that is basically ethical in orientation, that is, beliefs are choices limited to outside sources (i.e., biblical givens from God) and to not trust any innate or natural source. Curiously, this also yields the expectation of real choice between two or more simultaneous realities.

The second way assumes a monistic, all-encompassing view of reality, including even the divine; creation or nature is basically random or at least not good; man, while animal, also has at least some aspect of divinity or spirituality (or at least some do), and therefore, man “can” (. . . accomplish anything, transcend the material, become one with the Beyond, or whatever). This way results in a life that by necessity is basically epistemologically oriented, that is believing that all sources ultimately have the same innate potential for knowledge and that selection criteria rests with man. Curiously, in this worldview, man is ultimately limited to one choice, because only one reality is possible, and every ‘choice’ has the same innate potential.

Interpretation of Scripture, then, is influenced by one’s assumptions. The same text can be interpreted two radically different ways, resulting in two different ways of viewing the world and two different ways of life.

About dbporter

Dan Porter, living in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Married to Bonnie, an artist. We have three grown sons, all married to wonderful women, and in turn have eight children.
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