Friday, July 28, 2006

Determining if Scripture is Prescriptive or Descriptive

Lately I have been asking myself how to determine if a particular passage of Scripture is only descriptive of the first century believers or if it is prescriptive for the church today or if it is both. I do not claim to have all the answers to this hermeneutical issue, but it is one I think is important for us to answer in order to properly interpret and apply the Scriptures.

One approach to this question is to ask whether the action we see modeled in scripture is cultural to that time period or supracultural applying to all cultures. For instance, in Acts 2:42 the believers devoted themselves to prayer. This passage is clearly descriptive of the live of the early church. Is it prescriptive for believers today? Are we to devote ourselves to prayer? I would say yes, because prayer was not something that was unique to the Roman culture. In fact prayer is found as far back as the book of Genesis. It appears then that prayer is rooted in God's plan for how man would communicate with Him. Therefore, I would conclude that prayer is supracultural and devoting oneself to prayer is prescriptive for believers today.

The question becomes more difficult when we try to apply this principle to other patterns seen in Scripture. For example, Paul traveled from city to city to spread the Gospel. He went to the places with large populations instead of the towns and villages. Are we to see this as a pattern for how we are to spread the Gospel. Should we make it a point to concentrate on the cities first and then let the Gospel spread to the surrounding towns and villages from those cities? Another example would be that believers gathered in homes rather than in "church" buildings in the first century. Is this practice prescriptive for us today? (I do think principles of stewardship come in to play here as well.)

I would enjoy hearing your thoughts as to how you deal with these types of interpretive issues in the Scripture.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Currently Reading...

I am currently reading Ideas Have Consequences by Richard Weaver. So far I have been enjoying the book. In one paragraph he makes the following statement:

"Man is constatly being assured today that he has more power than ever before in history, but his daily experience is one of powerlessness. Look at him today somewhere in the warren of a great city. If he is with a business organization, the odds are great that he has sacrificed every other kind of independence in return for that dubious one known as financial. Modern social and corporate organization makes independence an expensive thing; in fact, it may make common integrity a prohibitive luxury for the ordinary man, as Stuart Chase has shown. Not only is this man likely to be a slavey at his place of daily toil, but he is cribbled, cabined, and confined in countless ways, many of which are merely devices to make possible physically the living together of masses. Because these are deprivations of what is rightful, the end is frustration, and hence the look, upon the faces of those whose sould have not already become minuscule, of hunger and unhappiness."

This book was written 58 years ago yet it stll rings true today. I have felt this sacrifice of independence for the financial return in my own life. Now don't misunderstand, I do believe that I should work hard to provide for my family. However, something does appear to be wrong with the current way that most organizations are set up to run their business. Many people will work 50 weeks a year, at least 40 hours a week, with only two weeks for time off. I do believe that someone's place of employment is a mission field for them. However, it is not the only place they can or should seek to spread the Gospel. What if someone desires to spend several weeks overseas spreading the Gospel? In the current corporate structure, they are imprisoned in such a way as to not be able to do this type of ministry. Have we sacrificed too much for financial gain? Are we devoting ourselves to the wrong pursuits? Working to provide for one's family is the right thing to do, but there must be other ways to do so beyond the slavery that Weaver speaks of above. I have a few thoughts in my mind of ways to accomplish this, but would love to hear from you on ways to have independence from "the man" in order to pursue taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Scot McKnight has written some great posts on zealotry lately. I agree with him that believers should be free to walk in the Spirit and follow Him wherever He lead. You can read his three posts