Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. The word "apologetics" derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used as a speech of defense.

The Holy Spirit and Interpreting Scripture

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  • The Holy Spirit and Interpreting Scripture

    There is a belief among some Christians that they can deduce true doctrine by reading the scriptures and interpreting it themselves. They claim the Holy Spirit will teach them the truth, citing 1Jn 2:26-27

    “I write this to you about those who would deceive you; but the anointing which you received from him [the Holy Spirit] abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him.”

    This is a classic example taking a verse out of context.

    The Biblical way to hear the Good News was to hear it being preached not by reading a book and working it out oneself.

    “But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?” (Rom 10:14).

    All though Acts and Paul’s letters we hear about the word being preached.

    This was not just for the apostolic age. Jesus says about the end times:
    And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come. (Mt 24:14)

    John, who wrote the text we are considering, records two promises that Jesus made to the apostles at the Last Supper. This was his final talk to them before his death and resurrection. He had been teaching them for 3 years and was soon to send them out on mission to take the gospel into the world where they would be facing new situations and new challenges.

    He makes them two promises.

    Firstly about the past – all he has taught them.
    "But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you". (Jn 14:26).

    Secondly about the future – to guide them in new situations
    "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." (Jn 16:13)

    And we can see how this guiding happened in Acts 1 (the choosing of Matthias as a successor to Judas), and in Acts 15 (the Council of Jerusalem)

    Now we move to John’s letter, chapter 2. He is writing to Christians who he personally has catechised, taught them everything, taught them the truth. He addresses them as “my children” (vs 1) and “beloved” (vs 7). However they are in danger of being led astray by false teachers. That is the context. And we need to start at vs 20 not 24 to get the immediate context

    20. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all know.
    Footnotes say some manuscripts say “you know everything” instead of you all know.
    They know because John has taught them.

    21. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it [because John has taught them].

    Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you [what they have already been taught]. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father.

    24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you [what they have already been taught]. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father.

    25 I write this to you about those who would deceive you [John is concerned that they are being taught falsely].

    Now vs 27 in this context:
    27 As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do not need anyone to teach you [because they have already been taught]. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false; just as it taught you, remain in him. (vs 27)

    27 but the anointing which you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything [because they have already been taught everything by John], and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him.

    This is equivalent to the first promise Jesus made to the apostles. The Holy Spirit would bring to mind all the true teaching they had already received. That presupposes that they had already received true teaching. But you have to get that true teaching first. You cannot generate it from your own resources. You cannot reach the truth by starting from scratch, but only by receiving it from those who have already been taught it and can pass it on. Then when you are presented with false teaching, the Holy Spirit will bring to mind the truth that you have already been taught.

    This where Martin Luther and the other reformers went wrong. They thought they could reject the teaching authority of the Church and start from scratch with just the Bible. And that is why Protestantism has fractured into thousands of denominations with many opposing doctrines.

    “From the beginning, the fault lines of Protestantism appeared when Zwingli and Oecolampadius (two lesser Reformers) differed with Luther on the Real Presence, and the Anabaptists dissented on the Eucharist, infant Baptism, Ordination, and the function of civil authority…… By 1577, the book 200 Interpretations of the Word, “This is My Body” was published at Ingolstadt, Germany.”
    (A Biblical Defence of Catholicism by Dave Armstrong)

    The Bereans are sometimes used to prove that we should search the scriptures for the truth. And indeed we should, but to confirm the truth of what we have been taught. This is what the Bearans did. Paul taught them first, and then they searched the scriptures to confirm the truth of what he taught them.


  • #2
    You're giving a classic case of ignoring Scripture. It means what it says. Besides, as I have said countless times, I AM BEING CHURCHED. And as the Bible says, we are to test the spirits (make sure what we hear is of the Bible or not). If we don't know what the Bible teaches for ourselves, how the heck can we tell who we can trust as a teacher/preacher, or in your case, Pope or Bishop, or priest? I don't trust people in this day and age, and the Bible says we can't even trust our own brothers in Christ. We can't. We must check to make sure we are getting sound doctrine. I have a lot of criticism for RCC, but am not allowed to express it here. Suffice it to say, they don't pass the test. I do admire them not caving in to feminism though. I spent serious time in RCC, and my wife was one until she read the Bible.
    Last edited by Stratcat; 03-30-2015, 08:09 AM.
    Comment>

    • #3
      Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
      I have a lot of criticism for RCC, but am not allowed to express it here.
      Hello Strat,

      This is the Apologetics and Theology section. Not the RCC section. Everybody is welcome to debate, dialogue or discuss the articles posted here, whether they agree or disagree. I just ask people stay on topic. Whether Roman Catholicism, Calvinism, or Arminianism, if that doesn't have anything to do with the topic, please refrain from addressing them.

      Godbless,
      William
      Comment>

      • #4
        Interestingly, I agree with you Bede - to a degree. If I didn't, I would be pitting the Holy Spirit of the authors against extra biblical claims by the Holy Spirit. However, I differ from your position because I believe the many non-Catholic interpretations resulting in confusion and chaos are the result of even non-Catholic Christians carrying on the Catholic tradition of interpreting Scripture in accordance with their own traditions. Scripture (Sola Scriptura) should be studied in its entirety (Tota Scriptura) and in its proper context. Doctrinal differences and denominational conflicts are a result of some Christians refusing to agree with what Scripture says – not a result of there being no “supreme authority” to interpret Scripture. Alignment with scriptural teaching, not apostolic succession, is the determining factor of the trueness of a church.

        Furthermore, it appears you have made a great case for Apostolic authority that was passed on through the writings of the apostles, not through apostolic succession. What is mentioned in Scripture is the idea that the Word of God was to be the guide that the church was to follow (Acts 20:32). It is Scripture that was to be the infallible measuring stick for teaching and practice (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is the Scriptures that teachings are to be compared with (Acts 17:10-12).

        But what are the reasons for the wide divergence of beliefs among those who teach the Bible?

        Unbelief. The fact is that many who claim to be Christians have never been born again. It is impossible for an unbeliever to correctly interpret Scripture. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). An unsaved man cannot understand the truth of the Bible. He has no illumination. Further, even being a pastor or theologian does not guarantee one’s salvation.

        Lack of training. The apostle Peter warns against those who misinterpret the Scriptures. He attributes their spurious teachings in part to the fact that they are “ignorant” (2 Peter 3:16). Timothy is told to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). There is no shortcut to proper biblical interpretation; we are constrained to study.

        Poor hermeneutics. Much error has been promoted because of a simple failure to apply good hermeneutics (the science of interpreting Scripture). Taking a verse out of its immediate context can do great damage to the intent of the verse. Ignoring the wider context of the chapter and book, or failing to understand the historical/cultural context will also lead to problems.

        Ignorance of the whole Word of God. Apollos was a powerful and eloquent preacher, but he only knew the baptism of John. He was ignorant of Jesus and His provision of salvation, so his message was incomplete. Aquila and Priscilla took him aside and “explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:24-28). After that, Apollos preached Jesus Christ. Some groups and individuals today have an incomplete message because they concentrate on certain passages to the exclusion of others. They fail to compare Scripture with Scripture.

        Selfishness and pride. Sad to say, many interpretations of the Bible are based on an individual’s own personal biases and pet doctrines. Some people see an opportunity for personal advancement by promoting a “new perspective” on Scripture. (See the description of false teachers in Jude’s epistle.)

        Failure to mature. When Christians are not maturing as they should, their handling of the Word of God is affected. “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly” (1 Corinthians 3:2-3). An immature Christian is not ready for the “meat” of God’s Word. Note that the proof of the Corinthians’ carnality is a division in their church (verse 4).

        Undue emphasis on tradition. Some churches claim to believe the Bible, but their interpretation is always filtered through the established traditions of their church. Where tradition and the teaching of the Bible are in conflict, tradition is given precedence. This effectively negates the authority of the Word and grants supremacy to the church leadership.

        The important thing is to be dogmatic where Scripture is and to avoid being dogmatic where Scripture is not. Churches should strive to follow the model of the early church in Jerusalem: “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). There was unity in the early church because they were steadfast in the apostles’ doctrine. There will be unity in the church again when we get back to the apostles’ doctrine and forego the other doctrines, fads, and gimmicks that have crept into the church.


        This where Martin Luther and the other reformers went wrong. They thought they could reject the teaching authority of the Church and start from scratch with just the Bible. And that is why Protestantism has fractured into thousands of denominations with many opposing doctrines.
        The theology of the Reformers departed from the Roman Catholic Church primarily on the basis of three great principles:
        • Sole authority of Scripture,
        • Justification by faith alone, and
        • Priesthood of the believer.

        John Wycliffe (1330–84) attacked what he saw as corruptions within the church, including the sale of indulgences, pilgrimages, the excessive veneration of saints, and the low moral and intellectual standards of ordained priests.

        John Huss (1369–1415) — A Bohemian priest, excommunicated in 1410, and burned at the stake for heresy in 1415. His death lead to the Hussite Wars in Bohemia. Huss followed Wycliffe's teachings closely, translating Wycliffe's Trialogus into Czechoslovakian, and modeling the first ten chapters of his own De Ecclesia after Wycliffe's writings. He believed in predestination, regarded the Bible as the ultimate religious authority, and argued that Christ, rather than any ecclesiastical official, is the true head of the church.

        Martin Luther (1483–1546) — In 1517, nails his 95 Theses onto a Wittenberg Church door. These theses were Latin propositions opposing the manner in which indulgences (release from the temporal penalties for sin through the payment of money) were being sold in order to raise money for the building of Saint Peter's in Rome.

        Huldreich Zwingli (1484–1531) — Swiss theologian and leader of early Reformation movements in Switzerland. Vigorously denounces the sale of indulgences in 1518.

        John Calvin (1509–64) — Calvin was a French theologian and reformer who fled religious persecution in France and settled in Geneva in 1536. He instituted a form of Church government in Geneva which has become known as the Presbyterian church. He insisted on reforms including: the congregational singing of the Psalms as part of church worship, the teaching of a catechism and confession of faith to children, and the enforcement of a strict moral discipline in the community by the pastors and members of the church. Geneva was, under Calvin, essentially a theocracy.

        John Knox (1513–1572) — An ardent disciple of Calvin, Knox established Calvinistic Protestantism as the national religion of Scotland. He left a powerful political legacy within the Calvinist or Reformed branch of Protestantism, a political legacy known as Presbyterianism.

        Again, the Bible teaches that it is Scripture that is to be used as measuring stick to determine truth from error. In Galatians 1:8-9, Paul states that it is not WHO teaches but WHAT is being taught that is to be used to determine truth from error. While the Roman Catholic Church continues to pronounce a curse to hell, or “anathema,” upon those who would reject the authority of the pope, Scripture reserves that curse for those who would teach a different gospel (Galatians 1:8-9).

        God bless,
        William
        Comment>

        • Theodore A. Jones
          Theodore A. Jones commented
          Editing a comment
          OK. It is obvious that what Apollos was teaching for salvation was a soteriological screw up, but why?

      • #5
        Hi William,

        Thanks you for your response.

        A few comments:

        Firstly, I agree with your list of reasons for poor interpretation. However, even if all those did not apply, we have no guarantee that our personal interpretations are correct. We should of course ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in our reading of scripture, for whatever purpose we are doing so. But the Bible never gives us the authority to determine correct doctrines ourselves. They were handed to the Church and, as Paul instructed Timothy, they were entrusted to faithful people, who in their turn would pass them on to others. Paul even gave instruction of the qualities required in such people. (2Tim 2 & 1Tim 3).

        Secondly, I believe Sola Scriptura is an unbiblical practice. It’s a big topic so I think I will start a separate thread on that when I have put some thoughts together.

        Thirdly, regarding the Reformation. I agree there were corrupt practices and the Catholic Church was in need of reform. In fact reform was already under way. But to reform practices you should stay in the Church and reform from within. People only leave because they disagree with doctrines. What the reformers wanted to do was change doctrines. And for they had to start their own churches, which they did. The claim that they could privately determine doctrine opened the way to the current scandal of thousands of denominations and independent churches teaching conflicting doctrines.

        You mention some of the issues that the reformers had. Mostly the ones you list are practices (or misunderstandings), although some are doctrinal. However the splits with the Catholic Church (and with each other) were doctrinal differences.

        Fourthly, you say “Where tradition and the teaching of the Bible are in conflict, tradition is given precedence”. If you are referring to the Catholic Church then I deny that entirely.


        Bede
        Comment>

        • #6
          Interestingly so Bede,

          I would also love to learn more about the "split" with the Catholic Church. With regard to the universal church "catholic" and the new found Roman State official religion of Rome and that of the Reformation. What I am interested in, and which I am not well studied in is the succession of the catholic church, whether the intent of Reformers was to start a new church or Reform the catholic church back to Biblical purity. I realize there was a split in history between Roman Catholics and Protestants, but my focus in my upcoming studies will be the Reformation - true to its intent and direction and its focus on the catholic church.

          If you have any resources please feel free to share them, whether in the RC section from a RC perspective or elsewhere.

          God bless,
          William
          Comment>

          • #7
            Hello Theodore,

            Acts 18:25 - This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.

            He was instructed, katēchēmenos - he was catechised (so the word is). He knew only the baptism of John; he was instructed in the gospel of Christ as far as John's ministry would carry him, and no further; he knew the preparing of the way of the Lord by that voice crying in the wilderness, rather than the way of the Lord itself.

            God bless,
            William

            P.S. Welcome to the forum!
            Comment>

            • Theodore A. Jones
              Theodore A. Jones commented
              Editing a comment
              Pal. What Apollos knew is evident, but why is what Apollos knew a soteriological disenfranchisement from salvation? The fact you must figure out is what is the doctrine that Apollos was taught to correct the defective soteriological procedure he was teaching.

          • #8
            Hello Theodore,

            - a soteriological disenfranchisement from salvation?
            Are you asking for differences concerning the baptism of John and the baptism of the Apostles with the Holy Ghost at the day of Pentecost? I'm unclear about "soteriological disenfranchisement", it's fuzzy language to me.

            - The fact you must figure out is what is the doctrine that Apollos was taught to correct the defective soteriological procedure he was teaching.
            Can you clarify as to whether you're suggesting I should understand his Alexandrian 1st century teaching a little better?

            God bless,
            William
            Comment>

            • #9
              What have the last two posts to do with the topic?

              Have they strayed from somewhere else?
              Comment>

              • #10
                They were a response to my response concerning Ignorance of the whole Word of God.

                You're right Bede, questions should be directed to the OP, and not the posters.

                God bless,
                William

                Comment>

                • Theodore A. Jones
                  Theodore A. Jones commented
                  Editing a comment
                  OP's can't answer questions.

                • William
                  William commented
                  Editing a comment
                  This particular thread was created by Bede. Others are here to begin discussion, debate, and dialogue amongst members. I suggest you actually direct your questions to Bede. Bede created the topic and the thread in order to further discussion, dialogue or debate. To assist you in this Theodore, comments to responders have now been disabled. For more on this subject please read: Christian Forums -Christforums

              • #11
                Originally posted by William View Post
                While the Roman Catholic Church continues to pronounce a curse to hell, or “anathema,” upon those who would reject the authority of the pope, Scripture reserves that curse for those who would teach a different gospel (Galatians 1:8-9).
                The Catholic Church does not curse those who would reject the authority of the Pope – as I explained in my responses in Nine Things You Should Know About the Council of Trent


                Comment>

                • #12
                  Originally posted by Bede View Post

                  The Catholic Church does not curse those who would reject the authority of the Pope – as I explained in my responses in Nine Things You Should Know About the Council of Trent
                  I do understand the definition you supplied as being in not right standing with the Catholic Church. However, I am using a biblical definition and not a Roman Catholic definition. I gave the biblical use and definition in the mentioned post, we are going to be bumping heads as to how the term should be used in the context of Scripture and not according to Roman Catholics in the Apologetic and Theology Section.

                  Dictionary.com:

                  noun, plural anathemas.

                  1. a person or thing detested or loathed: That subject is anathema to him.

                  2. a person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction.

                  3. a formal ecclesiastical curse involving excommunication.

                  4. any imprecation of divine punishment.

                  5. a curse; execration.


                  Comment>

                  • #13
                    Originally posted by William View Post

                    I do understand the definition you supplied as being in not right standing with the Catholic Church. However, I am using a biblical definition and not a Roman Catholic definition. I gave the biblical use and definition in the mentioned post, we are going to be bumping heads as to how the term should be used in the context of Scripture and not according to Roman Catholics in the Apologetic and Theology Section.

                    Dictionary.com:

                    noun, plural anathemas.

                    1. a person or thing detested or loathed: That subject is anathema to him.

                    2. a person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction.

                    3. a formal ecclesiastical curse involving excommunication.

                    4. any imprecation of divine punishment.

                    5. a curse; execration.

                    I have no problem with you using your definition in the context of scripture.

                    I do have a problem in you using your definition in the context of a Catholic document. In such a document it means what the Catholic Church intends it to mean. Anything else is being perverse and falsifying what the Catholic Church is saying.
                    Comment>

                    • #14
                      Originally posted by Bede View Post

                      I have no problem with you using your definition in the context of scripture.

                      I do have a problem in you using your definition in the context of a Catholic document. In such a document it means what the Catholic Church intends it to mean. Anything else is being perverse and falsifying what the Catholic Church is saying.
                      Lets take that in for a moment.
                      Comment>

                      • #15
                        Originally posted by Bede View Post
                        There is a belief among some Christians that they can deduce true doctrine by reading the scriptures and interpreting it themselves. They claim the Holy Spirit will teach them the truth, citing 1Jn 2:26-27

                        “I write this to you about those who would deceive you; but the anointing which you received from him [the Holy Spirit] abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him.”

                        This is a classic example taking a verse out of context.

                        The Biblical way to hear the Good News was to hear it being preached not by reading a book and working it out oneself.

                        “But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?” (Rom 10:14).

                        All though Acts and Paul’s letters we hear about the word being preached.

                        This was not just for the apostolic age. Jesus says about the end times:
                        And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come. (Mt 24:14)

                        John, who wrote the text we are considering, records two promises that Jesus made to the apostles at the Last Supper. This was his final talk to them before his death and resurrection. He had been teaching them for 3 years and was soon to send them out on mission to take the gospel into the world where they would be facing new situations and new challenges.

                        He makes them two promises.

                        Firstly about the past – all he has taught them.
                        "But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you". (Jn 14:26).

                        Secondly about the future – to guide them in new situations
                        "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." (Jn 16:13)

                        And we can see how this guiding happened in Acts 1 (the choosing of Matthias as a successor to Judas), and in Acts 15 (the Council of Jerusalem)

                        Now we move to John’s letter, chapter 2. He is writing to Christians who he personally has catechised, taught them everything, taught them the truth. He addresses them as “my children” (vs 1) and “beloved” (vs 7). However they are in danger of being led astray by false teachers. That is the context. And we need to start at vs 20 not 24 to get the immediate context

                        20. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all know.
                        Footnotes say some manuscripts say “you know everything” instead of you all know.
                        They know because John has taught them.

                        21. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it [because John has taught them].

                        Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you [what they have already been taught]. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father.

                        24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you [what they have already been taught]. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father.

                        25 I write this to you about those who would deceive you [John is concerned that they are being taught falsely].

                        Now vs 27 in this context:
                        27 As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do not need anyone to teach you [because they have already been taught]. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false; just as it taught you, remain in him. (vs 27)

                        27 but the anointing which you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything [because they have already been taught everything by John], and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him.

                        This is equivalent to the first promise Jesus made to the apostles. The Holy Spirit would bring to mind all the true teaching they had already received. That presupposes that they had already received true teaching. But you have to get that true teaching first. You cannot generate it from your own resources. You cannot reach the truth by starting from scratch, but only by receiving it from those who have already been taught it and can pass it on. Then when you are presented with false teaching, the Holy Spirit will bring to mind the truth that you have already been taught.

                        This where Martin Luther and the other reformers went wrong. They thought they could reject the teaching authority of the Church and start from scratch with just the Bible. And that is why Protestantism has fractured into thousands of denominations with many opposing doctrines.

                        “From the beginning, the fault lines of Protestantism appeared when Zwingli and Oecolampadius (two lesser Reformers) differed with Luther on the Real Presence, and the Anabaptists dissented on the Eucharist, infant Baptism, Ordination, and the function of civil authority…… By 1577, the book 200 Interpretations of the Word, “This is My Body” was published at Ingolstadt, Germany.”
                        (A Biblical Defence of Catholicism by Dave Armstrong)

                        The Bereans are sometimes used to prove that we should search the scriptures for the truth. And indeed we should, but to confirm the truth of what we have been taught. This is what the Bearans did. Paul taught them first, and then they searched the scriptures to confirm the truth of what he taught them.
                        Verse 27--Bede, you added to Scripture, as in your presumption that they had already been taught, so they need not that any man teach them. Wrong. This applies to all believers, that we receive the teaching of the Holy Spirit from the Bible and life, through the Bible. The Holy Spirit is all we need on spiritual matters, and you have added your own church's interpretation to the verse, which is a no-no. The verse means what it says as it stands. Where does anybody get their teachings of the Bible? From the Holy Spirit, if indeed they have the Holy Spirit. All saints do. The Holy Spirit interprets Scripture through the Bible which interprets itself. Man has no say, but to receive instruction, correction, doctrine, reproof without private interpretation. We all have to learn from someplace, and how are we to know who is a good teacher and who is a wolf in sheep's clothing without the protection of our own knowledge from the Holy Spirit in God's Word. We cannot let others doing our homework. They can teach/preach, but it is up to us as individuals to know that what we read or hear concurs with Scripture. We are all commanded to "Study to show thyself approved, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." and not just pastors.
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