The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Text

Here is one of the hermeneutical fallacies John Walton identified as common in children’s lessons in a recent Koinonia post.

1. Promotion of the Trivial: The lesson is based on what is a passing comment in the text (Josh 9:13, they did not consult the Lord), a casual observation about the text (Moses persevered in going back before Pharaoh over and over) or even a deduction supplied in the text (Joshua and Caleb were brave and strong). The Bible is not being properly taught if we are teaching virtues that the text does not have in focus in that passage. We would like children to be virtuous, but we dare not teach virtues rather than the Bible. The plague narratives are not teaching perseverance nor is the feeding of the multitude teaching sharing (as done by the little boy in one of the accounts).

One young friend of mine (a truly good fellow, but young to biblical studies!) was recently planning to preach a message encouraging teenagers to be faithful in their labors no matter how mundane. Why? Because David, if you read 1 Samuel, kept going back to his sheep even after serving in the court of the king!

He overheard me talking about biblical theology and OT interpretation, and to his great credit he recognized that what I was saying called his message into question.

So he asked some relatives of his about it. They supported his initial plans. One argued that his sermon was perfectly justified because, after all, “The whole Bible is profitable for doctrine!”

So let’s get some feedback from my target audience, seminary-students-younger-than-me.

  1. What do you think I said about biblical theology that made my young friend think twice about his message?
  2. Was his relative right? If not, wouldn’t that mean that some details of the biblical text are insignificant? Doesn’t that shoot our doctrine of inspiration?

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

2 thoughts on “The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Text”

  1. I don’t think I qualify as your intended audience, Mark, but I do teach primary Sunday school :D. One thing I think you might have said is something about the interpretation of narrative–and how especially Old Testament narratives can be fragmented or allegorized instead of treated as stories with a God-breathed point.

  2. 1. I would imagine that your BT comments had something to do with redemptive history and interpreting specific texts in view of the whole-Bible story line with perhaps a comment on the “be like such-and-such a Bible character” danger. Definitely a needed emphasis – it seems like on a popular level, preaching is often characterized more by independent passage exposition without the appropriate big picture view.

    2. I don’t have much situational context for the relative’s comment, but I agree somewhat with a clarification: “The whole Bible is profitable for doctrine, but not any doctrine in any verse!” The details are NOT insignificant at all; they are significant as a part of the whole, not as fodder for tangential application.

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