This is liable to incite some students of the Bible to fury — but then it may incite them to re-examine whether they’re forgetting the 1st Rule of Interpreting Scripture: Ignore All Rules [Heretofor called “IAR”].
This isn’t as radical as it sounds — just read the following carefully and it may deepen your experience of reading Scripture considerably. So here goes — here’s the 1st Rule of Interpretation, and some of the reasons to follow it.
If an interpretive rule prevents you from improving or maintaining doctrine you’ve been taught previously, ignore it. [IAR]
• IAR prevents the study of Scripture from turning into a bureaucratic, dogmatic system controlled by pastors, teachers, or (worse!) religious publishing houses where no truly new understanding of Scripture happens, and helps cut down on red tape of trying to explain yourself and your understanding to hierarchical levels of teachers, deacons, elders, pastors, priests, etc. No one can remember all the rules of interpretation anyway, so IAR encourages people to be BOLD.
• IAR means things can be done which might be against the words of a doctrine but fulfills the essence of them. It’s called, “Use your common sense”.
• IAR tries to prevent people getting obsessive and stressed over little things. Stop sweating the small stuff: if you’re pursuing knowing Jesus Christ more intimately, that’s all that matters — even if it turns out you were wrong, since the Holy Spirit is officially in the business of leading you into all truth and protecting you from false teachings.
• IAR allows for consensus to adapt over time as people get to toss their ideas back and forth, allowing their understandings to change and grow.
However, many people seem to misunderstand the spirit of this rule, IAR, and think it’s only a beautiful excuse to ignore anything they hear from other people with which they disagree. This goes against the intention of the IAR rule. Essentially, IAR entails the Greatest Rule: Love others as Christ has loved you — which will produce some very specific behaviors:
• Don’t wave IAR in the face of others just so you can act like an idiot. Kindness, honor, and patience always applies.
• Don’t use IAR if you’re an pastor/teacher to abuse others as you exercise your privilege of speaking up in front of others.
• Don’t use IAR out of pure laziness!!! [Again — Don’t use IAR out of pure laziness!!!] Ideally, read the Scriptures only in Light of the leading of the Holy Spirit Who will always keep one’s focus on Jesus Christ and His Love. This kind of diligent reading of the Scriptures demands precision and the appropriate use of whatever interpretive “tools” God has released to you.
• Don’t use IAR in such a way as to divide people one against the other! If IAR is handled properly, in Love, it cannot create divisions amongst friends and colleagues but will bring about a unity in attitude and care one towards another! If you’re going to use IAR as an interpretive rule, watch out for anyone who causes divisions or creates obstacles contrary to mutual love; in fact, seeing anyone like this, avoid them. By smooth talk and flattery they can deceive the minds and hearts of any friends or colleagues who are new to interpreting by IAR and only beginning to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Those who are adept at IAR are always eager to maintain unity and peace.
• And, finally, don’t try and use IAR to get around consensus amongst your friends and colleagues. IAR is not a license for simply denouncing or casting aspersions on other people’s ideas concerning passages or themes in Scripture. IAR demands honoring others, especially when one disagrees with a perspective or idea. Think of IAR as like the First Amendment to the American Constitution which reads, in part, that no one (not even the government) can abridge “the freedom of speech“. Free speech exists under the IAR rule — but still there are limitations — so use your common sense!