Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hermeneutical Philosophies for Interpreting Narrative Literature Part 8 - Conclusion


Luke had a very specific intent when composing his singular history, but did not have the good graces to write his own commentary, thus leaving the bewildered reader the arduous task of deciphering his design. All theologians recognize that Luke desired to provide religious instruction through his narrative. This problem lies in one's ability to create their own rules of interpretation in order to justify a theological preference. Yet if we treat Luke like any other author we can find his purpose with ease. The principle of repetition provides initially inductive reasoning by measuring how much Luke talks about one subject in relation to another. This enables us to see what subjects Luke wanted his audience to contemplate. Inductive reasoning of Luke shows Spirit inspired miracles to be a predominant theme. With this information we can deductively conclude that Luke intended his readers to be inspired by the miraculous work of the Spirit. If one believes Luke's intent to be different you must ask the question why practical miracles play a predominant role in the Lucan narrative. If Luke wanted his readers to think less on the subject, then persistent repetition was a flawed strategy. Thus, if anything from the narrative is normative, it is the numerous.

 Luke wrote this book for an audience, and like any adroit author, formed his writing in the most comprehensible form possible. Discovering how those to whom the text was intended interpreted the text helps us see through the fog created by the separation of language, geography, and culture. The objective facts gleaned from reading the church fathers shows how those by whom the Lucan narrative was received interpreted it. And these readers' interpretation corresponds with the pentecostal interpretation. If one interprets Luke-Acts differently from the initial audience is it possible that our contemporary theological culture has provided an element non-existent to the early church that Luke did not account for? Also, if we believe the early church perpetually interpreted Luke-Acts incorrectly, one must ask what cultural variable did Luke neglect to account for that caused his contemporary readership to err, but those separated by millennia to rectify their blunder? Author intent through the principles of repetition and early reader perception induce the objective information and deduce the normative intent of Luke.

God Love You -- Rev. Sheen

Hermeneutical Philosophies for Interpreting Narrative Literature Part 7 - A Narrative from Silence

A Narrative from Silence

The Pentecostal Hermeneutic is criticized for forming a theology exclusively from the narratives, which mixes the unique with the programmatic. There are those that reject the entirety of the charismatic as having no contemporary relevance to ministry. Some theologians have surmised that the gifts of the Spirit were a temporary endowment granted for a special purpose. It was confined to the age of the apostles and is not present in the modern era (Eerdman 1919, 28). Those who reject the pentecostal hermeneutic may not be cessationists, but unable to find a satisfactory hermeneutical principle by which to interpret the miracle-laden text ,many abandon the practice of miracles altogether. Yet this approach has neither a didactic nor a narrative from which to base itself. The book of Acts is the singular post-pentecost history in scripture, and however one interprets that account, it cannot be denied that those whom Luke recorded performed copious amounts of miracles. Miracles constituted a significant portion of their ministry, with what regularity it is to be repeated is disputable. What is indisputable is that for decades miracles generally accompanied their outreaches, and the following generations of the church followed suit. Those today who neglect the miraculous forge a new ministry pattern that bears no resemblance to the early church. Thus, in rejecting the narrative due to the absence of the didactic, they are left with neither. The cessationist has no biblical justification of any kind; for this reason the number of cessationist scholars are rapidly declining and it is becoming an increasingly marginalized viewpoint

The cessationist position is found in a reaction against the pentecostal position, as opposed to scripture. Cessationist theologian John MacArthur believes if pentecostals were honest with themselves they would concede that personal experience, not scripture, forms the foundation for their belief system (MacArthur 1992, 26). This position comes at the beginning of a book that does not provide a single verse to support the cessation of spiritual gifts; but rather is polemic against abuses by those who misuse spiritual gifts. Cessationist thought finds its most complete and developed doctrinal expression in B.B. Warfield's Counterfeit Miracles (Bicket 2001, 82), who, like MacArthur, appeals nearly exclusively to what he perceives to be spiritual abuses from those touting miracles. The cessationist, in the absence of biblical support to malign a doctrine, must depend upon their negative experience with pentecostals, as opposed to solid biblical support to support their doctrine.
A miracless ministry is not one found in the scriptures, and to envision one is to create a new theology and ministry: a ministry without the apologetic resource of healing, exorcism, words of wisdom, and prophecy that defined the apostolic ministry. This form of outreach must base itself around alternative forms of evangelism that scripture neither endorses nor provides a narrative for example. Essentially, in doing so, this position is based on a narrative that doesn't exist. There are areas of valid criticism hurled at pentecostals, but that is an appeal to emotions, experience, and a narrative of silence. Thus their ministry may bear resemblances to the early church in charitable works and teaching, but in avoiding the miraculous set a precedent based on experience and tradition, rather than scripture.

God Love You -- Rev. Sheen


Eerdman, Charles R., The Acts, An Exposition, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA, 1919

MacArthur, John, Charismatic Chaos, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1992

Bicket, Zenas J., Introduction to Pentecostal Doctrine, Gospel Publishing House, Springfield, Missouri, 2001.

Hermeneutical Philosophies for Interpreting Narrative Literature Part 6 - Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

      Another area of differentiation is the baptism in the Holy Spirit; between those who deem it as a necessity of salvation and those who believe it to be a post-conversion adventure. The latter being the pentecostal view, and the former being the cessationist view. James Dunn adroitly explains the Pentecostal understanding of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit in the following points:
  1. Pentecostals relate baptism in the Holy Spirit to the experience of the disciples on Pentecost.
  2. Those who experienced the event were already saved.
  3. Baptism in the Holy Spirit was subsequent to Christian conversion.
  4. All Christians should be baptized in the Holy Spirit post-conversion (Dunn 1970, 38).

It is the position of the Pentecostal that these dogmas are consistent with the biblical narratives. Their modern-day parallel would have Christians experiencing a post-conversion experience with the Holy Spirit. Dunn supposes the bases of the Pentecostal theology are found in John 13:10, 15:3, 20:22 and Luke 10:20 (Dunn 1970, 38). But by Dunn's own description, Pentecostals associate themselves with the day of Pentecost. Thus forming a theology around an event using solely scripture before the event took place was ludicrous. If one wants to relate the day of Pentecost to the modern Christian experience one would depend almost entirely on the post-pentecostal narrative. Since only one post-pentecostal narrative exists in the scriptures, it stands to reason that Pentecostals would depend primarily on this account. This is the case and to establish a post-conversion, post-pentecostal theology we must look to depend primarily on the Lucan narrative. With this in mind, let us examine Dunn's characteristics of the pentecostal understanding of baptism of the Holy Spirit using the principles of repetition and early reader perception.

Principle of Repetition of Spirit Baptism

Seeking the principle of repetition for a post-conversion Spirit baptism is simple in that the process occurs throughout the text but problematic as it is under peculiar circumstances. There are several famous occasions when believers experience a subsequent baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8, 19), and the fact that Luke is so purposeful in repeating it gives cause for attention. Some have suggested that those within the narrative were not Christians at all, and these chapters are tales of salvation. One must wonder why if these unfortunates were damned the apostles merely laid hands upon them, an action generally reserved for anointing for gifts and office (Acts 6:6, 1 Tim 4:14), instead of sharing the Gospel. The obvious answer is that they were believers who did not know of the Holy Spirit and their error was an insufficient presentation of God's designs. One single reference would be insufficient to establish such a case, but a repeated incident implies a case for normative. This is compounded when we realize that the disciples were saved before Pentecost. Jesus' soteriology is based entirely around His person and work on the Cross, and gives no hint that baptism of the Holy Sprit equates to salvation. The Lucan references to Jesus discussing the Holy Spirit speak in terms of empowerment for the Great Commission. The disciples themselves, therefore, had a salvific experience prior to Pentecost, and Acts 2 could easily be added to the list of post-conversion Spirit baptisms. By the principle of repetition we can conclude that Luke intended post-conversion Spirit baptisms to be normative.

Early Readers Perception of Spirit Baptism

The early church does not provide us with a wealth of material on the subject, but scant references establish a practice of post-conversion baptism in the Holy Spirit. The church fathers rarely use the term "Spirit baptism" but sporadic inferences establish post-conversion theology. A few theologians analogized the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ and concluded the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs at the convert's baptism. Ambrose believed salvation occurred at water baptism, and baptism of the Spirit was synonymous with baptism (Schaff 1896, 99). But this theology did not arise from biblical grounds and is largely because of the early church's belief that a water baptism and Spirit baptism should be initiated by a Bishop, and owing to their scarcity, combined the sacraments for the sake of the Bishop's schedule (Ratzinger 1994, 326-327) The preponderance of references to a post-conversion baptism of the Holy Spirit is that it is induced by the laying on of hands (Roberts 2007, 415) (Roberts 1886, 669). The basic premise of the Pentecostal view of Spirit baptism, that one may receive later effusions of the Spirit post-conversion, can be clearly traced in Christian history to what later became the sacrament of confirmation in the Western churches (Synan 1997, x).
God Love You -- Rev. Sheen


Dunn, James D. G., Baptism in the Holy Spirit, An Examination of the New Testament Teach on the Gift of the Spirit in relation to Pentecostalism today, SCM Press LTD, London, UK, 1970.

Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace, A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Volume X, The Christian Literature Company, New York, NY, 1896.

Imprimi Potest, Ratzinger, Cardinal Joseph, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Liguori Publications, Liguori, MO, 1994.

Roberts, Rev. Alexander, and James Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Translations of The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, Christian Literature Company, Buffalo, 1886.

Synan, Vinson. The Holiness–Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1997.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hermeneutical Philosophies for Interpreting Narrative Literature Part 5 - Early Readers Perception

Early Readers Perception

Another objective standard by which we can interpret the Lucan narrative is by reading how the initial readers understood his message. This is called early readers perception. While this does not provide an objective standard, if we can show that the readers of antiquity universally adopted a certain principle of hermeneutics, it makes any variation extremely unlikely. These witnesses were closer to the original recipients of the letters and thus more able to distinguish nuances, customs, and culture more readily than modern readers. This does not necessarily indicate a proper understanding of tongues, but a more relevant understanding of the cultural phenomenon (Kraeger 2010, 46). Many of the apostolic fathers were mere decades removed from those who wrote the scriptures, and established the paradigms we are trying to verify. The church fathers were also the result of the paradigms the gospel writers were establishing; hence their doctrine is likely the result of normative behavior on the part of the first generation church. A brief review of the early church's doctrine shows that they believed the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit to be normative and the baptism of the Holy Spirit to be a post-conversion experience. If the first Christians experienced the miraculous as methodological and normative it strongly suggests the Gospel writers intended it as such.


The miracles discussed by the early church were not symbolic or representative but used as a sign to establish divine approval. Some theologians view the miracles as ceremonial, and rather marking dispensation in God's approach. F.F. Bruce suggests that the speaking of tongues on Pentecost was ceremonial rather than practical. Tongues were not designed as a method of bridging the language gaps between Christians and foreigners, but as a one-time declaration in preparation for the worldwide proclamation of the gospel (Bruce 1955, 53). This conflicts sharply with scant
references to the miraculous amongst the early church. Irenaeus says “many brethren in the church” speak in tongues. Irenaeus does not use the term speaking in tongues, but rather “through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages” (Schaff 2001, 892). These gifts are not equated with evangelism, gentile or otherwise, but the edification of the church. For Ireneaus, the gifts had a purpose that extended past the apostolic age. Other authors, such as Hippolytus, explicitly state that miracles should follow, such as: exorcisms, tongues, serpent handling, and healings. The fathers indicate that the tongues-gift also served an important evangelistic purpose (Busenitz 2006, 66). So fundamental was this practice, that Tertullian speaks of groups who mimic the Christian practice of using miracles to evangelize for their heresy (Reid 1987, 385). In relation to miracles, the early church firmly believed that the gifts of the Spirit were used to practically accomplish the work of evangelism. This is a result of a normative understanding of the Lucan narrative, which many directly quote.


As shown above, the original readers of the Lucan texts interpreted the miraculous as normative, and used these miracles as a practical tool of evangelism. Yet this view is not shared by all; Bruce believes events, such as Pentecost, were not practical, but rather God showing His pleasure with the gentile introduction into God's fold (Bruce 24, 1990), whereas Menzies concludes Luke and Acts consistently portray the gift of the Spirit as a prophetic endowment which enables its recipient to fulfill a divinely ordained task (Menzies 1994, 273). The latter is the view that dominated in earliest Christianity and is best preserved in Luke-Acts (Turner 148, 2003). Miracles are multipurpose in nature but the advantage that elucidates our area of interest is to display the approval of God. Miracles are a violation of the natural laws. When a task that only God can undertake is completed in unison with a human it testifies that the human enjoys divine approval. Miracles were used to prove the Gospel as the ultimate apologetic (Ruthven 2008, 18). The early church recognized and utilized this form of apologetics so successfully heretical groups mimicked it.

Miracles hold that same capacity for a testimony of divine approval today as they held then. On this point Dunn disagrees; Dunn claims Jesus never used miracles to prove the uniqueness of His identity. Dunn believes that the apologist is faced with the dilemma of differentiating the miraculous claims of Christ with that of the pagan (Dunn 1975, 74). It is apparent that Dunn misses the apologetic nature of miracles and their contemporary use. Firstly because Jesus does, in fact, use miracles to prove His unique identity. When John the Baptist appealed for Christ to emphatically confirm His unique identity as Messiah Jesus did not use self-affirming claims but depended entirely on a testimony of miracles (Matt 11:4-5). Jesus and His followers repeatedly appealed to the use of miracles to confirm divine approval (John 10:25, 38, 14:11-12, 1 Cor 15:2-8). The Book of Acts constantly speaks of miracles in conjunction with evangelism (Acts 5:12-16, 13:9-12, 16:25-34). By the principle of repetition we can easily establish that miracles can and were used as a method of apologetics by several biblical authors and that Jesus used miracles to establish His uniqueness.

 The early church adopted the approach of using miracles as a form of evangelism. Dunn rejects the normative use of miracles, thus would also doubt their apologetical advantage. Where Dunn fails in equating the miraculous claimants of Christians versus the pagan claimants is that generally the pagan is just that, a claimant. In Dunn's view the miraculous is not a persistent theme of the Christian experience, so all we have is what the pagan has, ancient stories of supernatural, and our apologetic abilities remain the same. But this hypothesis is only valid if miracles have ended. Yet there is nothing within scriptures to suggest that is the case. In fact using the interpreting principles of the principle of repetition and early reader perception we can safely say that Luke intended holy phenomena to follow the Christian experience. Thus miracles can still be used with the apologetic flair adopted by Jesus, the apostles, and the early church.  

God Love You -- Rev. Sheen

Part 6 - Baptism in the Holy Spirit


Kraeger, Shane M., Toward a Mediating Understanding of Tongues: A Historical and Exegetical Examination of Early Literature, Eleutheria: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article 5., 2010.

Bruce, F.F., Luke's Presentation of the Spirit in Acts, Criswell Theological Review, Buxton, Derbyshire, 1990.

Schaff, Philip, Ed. Rev. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 2001.

Busenitz, Nathan, The Gift of Tongues: Comparing the Church Fathers with Contemporary Pentecostalism, TMSJ, 17/1, Spring, 2006.

Reid, Patrick, Readings in Western Religious Thought: The ancient world, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ, 1987.

Bruce, F.F., Luke's Presentation of the Spirit in Acts, Criswell Theological Review, Buxton, Derbyshire, 1990.

Menzies, Robert Paul, Empowered for Witness: The Spirit in Acts, Sheffield Academic Press, Sheffield, UK, 1994.

Turner, Max, The Work of the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts, Word & World, Volume 23, Number 2, Spring 2003.

Ruthven, Jon Mark, On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Post-Biblical Miracles, Word & Spirit Press, Tulsa, OK, 2011.

Dunn, James D. G., Jesus and the Spirit, A Study of the Religious and Charismatic Experience of Jesus and the First Christians as Reflected in the New Testament, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA, 1975.

Hermeneutical Philosophies for Interpreting Narrative Literature Part 4 - Author's Intent

Author's Intent

Principle of Repetition

        The suffix that theologians have added during this shift in hermeneutics is that the normative Christian experience can be deciphered if the author intended to do so (Fee 2003, 110), and Luke relates the importance of certain topics with the frequency of their use. The author's intent is an immutable objective fact that cannot change. At one point in history the author meant to communicate something, and even if they later recant of that statement it does not change the initial sacrosanct intent (Stein 1994, 26). While the Biblical authors have long since departed, and their original intent cannot be definitively ascertained, there are tools in the text that can highlight what theology Luke intended to be normative. The first rule we will examine is asking which events are repeated? Do we see a particular event happen more than once? Repeated events give us objective clues into the author's intent. If there were something Luke intended as a regular component of the Christian experience, it would be reasonable that Luke would reference the occurrence in relation to their popularity. A normative process would appear regularly in the first Christian history. The biblical standard for veracity is having at least two witnesses (John 8:17), thus we would not be unjustified in seeking at least two examples of a normal Christian experience.
There are a variety of reasons why we should expect repetition upon normative events: firstly, the events that are normative must be repeated. A singular event cannot be normative by definition. If Luke believed that the events are to be a regular occurrence in the life of the believer then they should make several appearances in the three decades that Acts cover. In reference to Stott's concern on Saul's conversion, which was accompanied by bright lights and an audible celestial voice (Stott 1990, 8), we can see that the events are not repeated. There are many conversions, yet none with such pomp and circumstance. If Luke intended for the reader to imagine this manner of conversion to be normative there would be hints in other accounts, but they are entirely absent. The same could be said of church administration. There is only one instance of deciding a matter by lots (Acts 1:26), hinting Luke may have intended this to be an anomaly. Lots could be deemed a typology, as it is present in Pro 16:33. Yet Luke never mentions lots again, but makes abundant references to dependency and guidance from the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:8) (Horton 1981, 52). Fee mentions some examples that pose problems of translating into the normative from Luke's writings, such as: selling all ones goods and giving to the poor, and ritual snake handling (Fee 2003, 110). Looking for repetition for these events will come up empty. In the case of snake handling there is only one instance of its occurrence. (Acts 28:3-6) These and many other singular events exemplify that Luke was likely not building a case for the normative; as no author would record a single instance of something intended to occur with regularity.
        Luke furnishes his readers with abundant examples of repeated events that can be depended upon to be normative. For example, Luke retells multiple examples of tongues being spoken. Clearly this was not intended to be an anomaly but a persistent character of the Christian life (Warrington 2008, 120). The same is true of miraculous healing. The Lucan narrative is replete with stories of supernatural healing thus showing that Luke intended them to be viewed as normative. The same is also true of preaching the Gospel, and establishing Christian communities. Doubtlessly Pentecost was a unique event, but was unique in that it launched a methodology, as opposed to a singular instance. The act of tongues resurfaces in the book of Acts, causing it to be normative. The activity of the church such as preaching, founding churches, and doing good works form a consistent role in the Acts narrative, and the activity of the Spirit in the form of tongues, prophecy, and healing are just as persistent. By applying the hermeneutical principles of seeking repetition, we can expunge from our normative practices that which prudence should disqualify, and cement the practices Luke intended to be normative.

Principle above Particulars

       There are some incidents in the Lucan narrative that the particulars of the incident are unique and not to be repeated but the 
overarching concepts of the affair are normative. This is best accomplished by reviewing events of a similar nature and noting the commonalities. For example, there are several episodes of healings in the scriptures and most are achieved through a sentient medium. In a break with tradition Luke records three occasions where the vehicle of healing was a soulless conduit (Luke 8:44, Acts 5:15, 19:12). The latter situation has been used to justify the healing virtue of religious relics (Foote 2005, 184), yet there is little in the Old or New Testament to support what became a cult of relics (Nickell 2007, 16). While the incidents are related, there are stark differences; as only in Acts 19:12 are inanimate objects intentionally used for healing. This does not follow the principle of repetition for healing through objects, so one could not willfully recreate the actions. Acts 19:12 were exceptional and not normative (Horton 1981, 322). The overarching principle is that healing does not always occur through a predictable procedure. The principles of unpredictable mediums of healing is given credence to by the principle of repetition.    

God Love You -- Rev. Sheen

Part 5 - Early Readers Perception


Fee, Gordon D., How to Read the Bible for All it's Worth, A Guide to Understanding the Bible, Zonderman, Grand Rapids, MI, 2003.

Stein, Robert H., Playing By the Rules, A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 1994.

Stott, John R. W., The Spirit, The Church, and the World. The Message of Acts, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1990.

Horton, Stanley M., Acts, Logion Press, Springfield, MO, 1981.

Warrington, Keith, Pentecostal Theology, A Theology of Encounter, T & T Clark, New York, NY, 2008.

Foote, G. W., & J. M. Wheeler, Crimes of Christianity, TGS Publishing, Frankston, TX, 2005

Nickell, Joe, Relics of Christ, The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 2007.

Hermeneutical Philosophies for Interpreting Narrative Literature Part 3 - Typology


          One method of gleaning normative Christian experience from narrative sections of scripture is to seek typologies between the Old and New Testament and decipher modern parallels; yet this method presents the dangerous possibility of justifying obscure practices with loosely related narratives. Roger Stronstad notes that Luke's gospel is rife with typology; where particulars of processes and characters from the Old Testament are mirrored in the New Testament. Stronstad notes that Old Testament history provides a programmatic or paradigmatic function when it is first reported, but may develop a typological function from the vantage point of subsequent history (Stronstad 1995, 46). Essentially, if the events of Acts have an Old Testament parallel then they are likely to be programmatic for the modern Christian life. For example the Old Testament is replete with examples of the transfer of the Spirit or responsibility for ministry, such as Moses placing the Spirit on the seventy elders (Num 11:25), and the transfers of Spirit from Saul to David (1 Sam 16:13-14), or Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2:9-15). In an account designed to parallel Old Testament narratives, the day of Pentecost signifies the transfer of responsibility and Spirit from Christ's ministry to the disciples (Stronstad 1995, 154-155). These and many other types secure a lengthy trans-testamentary form which is a biblical paradigmatic that spans millennia. Luke's dependence on these typologies signifies his intentional use of timeless principles that, being normative for both testaments, are likely normative today.

          Discovering these typologies provide a case for the normative Christian experience, but not an objective case. The problem with using a typology is the author does not announce that they are using a typology and one could base a theology on a typology the author never intended. If one had a mind to, they could match an Old Testament narrative to a New Testament narrative and create and unjustified typology. For example, upon exiting the Ark Noah farmed grapes and became drunk (Gen 9:21), Jesus' inaugural miracle was turning water into wine (John 2:9), His crucifixion began with wine at the last supper (Luk 22:20) and ended with drinking wine on the cross (John 19:30), and the gifts expressed on the day of Pentecost was thought to be the product of being drunk on wine (Acts 2:13). In relation to typology: Noah's first activity on a newly cleansed world was wine induced drunkenness, and Jesus was a type of Noah as His last act of cleansing the world was accompanied by drinking wine. Jesus inaugurated His ministry by providing wine for drunkenness at Cana, which was a typology for the apostles who were accused of being drunk on new wine upon the inauguration of their ministry (note that Jesus claimed to bring new wine, Luke 5:38). Thus a normative Christian experience could be that one must become drunk on wine to bring cleansing, or commencing a ministry must be accompanied by heavy drinking. Of course such a proposition is ludicrous, but it does highlight the possibility of abusing typology in scripture and the potential for error. While much is to be learned by Luke's obvious use of typology, it cannot be used as an objective rule for the normative Christian experience, and thus cannot be relied upon to accurately decipher what sections of the narrative are repeatable.

God Love You -- Rev. Sheen

Part 4 - Author's Intent

  1. Stronstad, Roger, Spirit, Scripture & Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective, Asia-Pacific Theological Seminary Press, Baguio City, Philippines, 1995.

Hermeneutical Philosophies for Interpreting Narrative Literature Part 2 - Hermeneutical Philosophies

        The conflict as to the place of the miraculous in the contemporary church stems from the problem of deciphering programmatic approaches in amongst the singular events found in the Lucan narrative in lull of didactic statements relating to their continuation. The Pentecostal may be tempted to base their entire ministry approach on the first century church, but before proceeding they must seriously consider the repeatability of certain events. John Stott questions the possibility of modern relevance for holding church elections by drawing lots (Act 1:23-26), selling all our goods and treating our resources as common property (2:44-45) and conversions being accompanied by bright lights and an audible voice (Acts 9:3). Stott believes that the narrative is largely impotent unless accompanied by the didactic (Stott 1990, 8), hence the narrative needs the didactic before being appropriate for doctrine. Doctrine cannot be rooted in the narrative alone, for the narrative is too slippery, too elastic, too imprecise (Menzies 2000, 39). It may seem obvious that not all elements of the narratives are to be repeated but upon which principle do we reject some and endorse others? If a Pentecostal is to reject certain practices endorsed by the narrative, but reject others, it is not unreasonable to ask for an objective standard to decipher which earns imitation and which is relegated to a singular instance. Stott's standard provides a concrete foundation for the subjective narrative to stand upon. But in doing so, Stott demotes the narrative's genre to undependable. If the narrative needs the didactic but the didactic does not need narrative then the narrative by itself is not able to teach us anything. This means that the narrative genre is only capable of complimenting the didactic, but not capable of independent instruction. A position such as this is entirely untenable for any theologian, as the narrative genre comprises 40% of the Old Testament and 60% of the New (Stein 1994, 151). Fee notes that the principle of the Pentecostal is to fashion their church entirely after the book of Acts. Yet they routinely reject practices such as church enforced communism and snake handling, thus violating their own hermeneutical principle. One camp cannot dismiss massive portions of scriptures as secondary only to the didactic, whereas the other cannot claim to abide by all, whilst rejecting those practices sound sense deems as absurd.

         Stott succeeds in the creation of an objective hermeneutical principle, but the principle fails to treat the narrative as a genre in its own right. In doing so, Stott, and theologians like himself reject the explicitly didactic principle of finding teaching in all genres (2 Tim 3:16). Yet this theology has become increasingly untenable. Thus in Klein, Bloomberg, and Hubbard's 1993 work on hermeneutics they “rejected” the maxim of those who believe narratives without commandments are not normative (Klein 1993, 349 – 350). Yet in their 2004 edition of the same work they note that those same theologians “correctly” suffix their previous dictum that narratives without didactics may be normative if it can be proven the author intended it to be read as such (Klein 2004, 424). This transitional suffix has shown that even those who birthed this hermeneutic of didactic primacy have seen the error of their approach, but they are silent on how to decipher whether or not the author intended the narrative to be normative. Over these years a paradigm shift has occurred that has given new life to the New Testament narratives (Menzies 2000, 42). Yet while the outright rejection of the commandless narrative seems unjustified, those doing so are searching for an objective standard by which to interpret the living narrative. Pentecostals, such as Menzies and Stronstad, provide critics of the issues associated with demoting the narrative and provide evidence of Luke's aptness as a theologian. But they do not provide principles that allow us to extract the normative from the unique. This approach creates a neat and simple hermeneutic philosophy, but rejects the obvious theological intent of the narrative author. Thus, when interpreting the Lucan narrative in relation to the miraculous, we cannot merely reject Luke's theological teaching because they are without didactic, but must discover which principles allow us to extract the doctrines Luke intended to be normative to the Christian experience.

God Love You -- Rev. Sheen

Part 3 - Typology


Stott, John R. W., The Spirit, The Church, and the World. The Message of Acts, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1990.

Menzies, William W., Robert P. Menzies, Spirit and Power Foundations of Pentecostal Experience, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 2000.

Stein, Robert H., Playing By the Rules, A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 1994.

Klein, William W., Craig L. Blomberg, Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville, TN, 1993.

Klein, William W., Craig L. Blomberg, Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville, TN, 2004.