Vern Sheridan Poythress on God Centered Bible Interpretation

Granted, you can read this entire book online. But I just wanted to share this from Vern Poythress. He could not be more on the money on all the different ways Christians (and non Christians)  approach the Bible. He lists some types of Christians here and their approach to the Bible:

Peter Pietist: The central purpose of the Bible, and of Christianity as a whole, is to promote a life of intimate personal devotion to the Lord. In Luke 4:31-37 the Lord speaks with authority to the sinful tendencies in my heart (v. 32). I react to him by acknowledging him, but also fearing him (v. 34). He says to my sin, “Be quiet,” and “Come out of him!” (v. 35a). The passage promises that as a result I will be delivered, (v. 35b) and that I should be amazed at Jesus’ work in my life (v. 36). I should be zealous to tell others about my deliverance (v. 37).

Dottie Doctrinalist: No, you are missing the point. The central purpose of the Bible, and of Christianity as a whole, is to promote doctrinal soundness. This passage teaches the deity of Christ by using the title, “the Holy One of God,” and by demonstrating Christ’s divine authority and power. It teaches that there is a realm of evil spirits, and that these spirits can take control of a person. But it also shows the sovereignty and the grace of God in saving and delivering people from these spirits.

Curt Cultural-Transformationist: You are both missing the point. The central purpose of the Bible is to promote a transformed approach to the whole world. The passage shows Christ transforming the world, so that we ourselves may engage in active transformation under the authority of Christ. The passage shows us the authority of Christ not as a doctrinal abstraction, but as an active, powerful authority engaging in world transformation. The overthrow of the demonic realm, and the entry of the Christ Holy One with his power, implies a reordering of political, social, aesthetic, and linguistic structures. The passage illustrates this reordering by the language of utter destruction of evil, by the sweeping, totalizing character of the change in the formerly demonized man, and by the obvious social consequences in the reaction of the crowd and the surrounding region. It energizes us to attack the demonized structures of evil in the institutions of our day.2

Laura Liturgist: The central purpose of the Bible is to restore true worship. Out of worship will flow healing that affects all of life. The passage sets forth a pattern for an order of worship: first, proclamation of the authority of God (v. 32); then, awe and fear at the holiness of God (v. 34); next, reception of the saving word of God (v. 35); next, response in amazement and gratitude (v. 36); finally, dismissal to go out to tell others (v. 37).

Missy Missiologist: The story ends with the news spreading “throughout the surrounding area.” It’s reminding us that our task is spreading the news of the gospel throughout the world. In some areas of the world the Christians have to deal with spiritual warfare against evil spirits and against demon-possessed people. This passage is a basis for casting out demons when the missionary church comes up against the powers of darkness. We in the West tend to have too narrow a horizon. If we don’t see demons in our own situation, we imagine that they don’t exist. We imagine that our problems with personal piety or with modern corrupt institutions are the only ones. We have to hear what’s going on in other parts of the world and in other cultures in order to see the full force of this passage.

Fatima Factualist: I think that we are letting our imaginations run away with us. The message is simple and obvious. The passage is just saying that these things happened when Jesus was on earth. The evidence of miracles shows that Jesus is who he claimed to be, and that the Bible is what it claims to be. It furnishes us with historical evidence with which to confront unbelievers.

Amy Affirmationist: You are all saying such wonderful things! I think everyone is right. The Holy Spirit can bring different messages to different people. Maybe the Spirit intends to minister in different ways to each person’s need. He is speaking to each of us according to our needs. We don’t need to be upset when people see different ideas in the same passage.

Oliver Objectivist: Amy, affirming everything is no solution at all. Look. We’re in a pickle because we haven’t got a clear objective when we read. Everybody is being swept along by his own prejudices. To have a clear objective, and for agreement even to be possible, there must be only one meaning to the passage. The meaning is the intention of Luke the author. That meaning is there objectively, for all time, before we start our discussion. Our task is to locate that meaning. Everything else belongs to what E. D. Hirsch calls “significances,” that is, the relation between the one meaning and our outside interests. These outside interests naturally differ from individual to individual. So there are many possible significances; but there is only one meaning.

If you are as interested in this topic as I am, feel free to read the book here:


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