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New Hermeneutic Again

By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs

religion, articles, christianity

Gary D. Collier once more favors us with a lucid and pithy definition of the new hermeneutic. Brother Collier did not intend to do this, but by accident he has performed a great service to the church.

Collier's most recent contribution to biblical ignorance is his 208-page book, The Forgotten Treasure, published by Howard Publishing Company. Brother Collier says he wants us to read the Bible, especially the book of Matthew, like Jesus. He, of course, does not mean that Jesus read Matthew, but that we ought to read it the way Jesus would read it, if he read it, which is a good way to start a book on the new hermeneutic.

In fairness to Gary Collier we take note that he now says there is no such thing as a new hermeneutic. Here is the background: Collier delivered a learned paper to the 1989 Christian Scholar's Conference in which he undertook to define the new hermeneutic. His explanation was so inconsistent, and said far more than most liberals in the church are willing to admit, that he embarrassed both himself and the entire Christian Scholar's Conference. Even the conference gurus thought Collier had egg on his face, but were unwilling to wipe if off in fear that it would get on them.

What to do? What to do? Collier came up the brilliant idea of saying there is no new hermeneutic and never has been. The very term, according to Collier, is repugnant and pejorative and used only by biblical illiterates and country hicks for the purpose of making fun of the educated and enlightened (by which he means himself). Well, Gary, you did it to yourself. Us bumpkins are simply quoting your own words.

Now, behold, wonder of wonders, brother Collier has done it again. In his book, published in 1993, he attempts to define the new hermeneutic without once using the words "new hermeneutic." Still, it is an attempt to give to us a new way of reading and understanding the Bible—through the eyes of Jesus.

"Interpretation" is what "hermeneutic" means, or did you think we did not know that, brother Collier? There is such a thing as a biblical hermeneutic, which includes learning by commands, examples, and inferences.

Don't change that channel! The good part is still to come.

In his book brother Collier gives us a new way to interpret the Scriptures (pest, new hermeneutic, but don't tell anybody). Are you ready? Here it is:

The law of God must never be read apart from who God is as he has shown himself through his actions, nor apart from the reasons God gave the law in the first place. This is Jesus' point. Jesus shows that the real issues of understanding the Bible go beyond being focused on the words of the text or even the context. We must instead focus centrally on the heart of God as it reaches out from behind those words and contexts to people (Gary D. Collier, The Forgotten Treasure, p. 98).

This is a wonderful explanation of the new hermeneutic, postmodernism, and deconstructionism all rolled into one. It is powerful. To help understand this new understanding consider this illustration:

A man — to keep from offending men generally, let's say a preacher — leaves his wife and children without a scriptural cause and marries another woman.

Jesus said, 'Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away cloth commit adultery' (Matt. 19:9).

Not to worry. Not to worry. This fornicating preacher can run right past the text and the context, paying no attention to the words, to the very heart of very God. When he gets to the heart of God, he finds that God is loving, merciful, full of grace, forgiving, kind, gentle, and unwilling to ever punish anyone, even adulterers (maybe especially adulterers). Now he finds relief. What a blessing! The words of Jesus don't mean anything. They're just words. We are interested in the heart of God. Don't be so rude as to bring up 'He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.' Those are just words, too.

Deconstructionism and postmodernism show us that words do not mean anything. Feeling is what matters—not words. Jesus should have said—and certainly must have meant—"His feelings that he hath, the same shall judge him in the last day."

Another example:

The Bible says, 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost' (Acts 2:38). But this is sure to offend the Baptists and the Methodists and the Lutherans and a whole bunch of other people. Solution: Forget the words and go to the heart of God. 'For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men' (Titus 2:11). That is the heart of God, surely. Therefore pay no attention to the words of Acts 2:38 because of the words of Titus 2:11. Get it?

Brother Collier's alter ego is a man named Brandon L. Fredenburg. Fredenburg once wrote: "Persons who have placed their faith in their Bibles more than in the God the Bible reveals, end up sending the signal that the 'real purpose' of the Bible is to mine it for doctrinal tidbits. I find this approach disgusting and spiritually malnourishing."

Jesus said, " The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." Paul said, "I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." James wrote, "Receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls." Jesus also said:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

Still, Brandon L. Fredenburg finds this to be "disgusting and spiritually malnourishing."

Thomas Olbricht of Pepperdine is the chief guru for the new hermeneutic. He often says that we must begin with God and not with the Bible. He also tells us that when he wants to know what the Bible teaches, he first searches throughout the whole world to find out what God is doing in the world (often called a world view) and then he interprets the Bible in the light of this knowledge. All of which sounds mighty like Collier's insistence that we run right past the words of the Bible and find in some mysterious limbo the bleeding heart of God. Sounds good, it's just not scriptural. The gurus of this chief guru are Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Buber and Barth. Kierkegaard said, "The passion of the infinite is precisely subjectivity, and thus subjectivity becomes the truth." Buber said, "God is, and is known, only in existential encounter." And "we endure as remembering Him whom we have recently encountered."

But Jesus Christ of Nazareth said, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." Just before he said that, the Lord said, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.

"Don't touch that dial! There's one more point to be made before I close.

Where do you suppose that Gary D. Collier got the idea that we should pay no attention to the words of the Bible or to the context of those words? Give up? He got it from the words of the Bible. How about that?

He went to Matthew 12:1-21 and found that Jesus did not use a "mechanical method" to understand the Old Testament scriptures, but used "dynamic perspective." Jesus found out reading the Bible that "the deeper concerns of God's heart are more important than the specific instructions of God's law" (The Forgotten Treasure, Gary D. Collier, p. 97).

David and his men, when hungry, ate the shewbread, which, Jesus said, "It was not lawful for him to do." What David and his men did was sin. They were punished for it. Eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod died as a result of their sin. Collier takes that to mean the law of God can be set aside with impunity. You sure cannot pay attention to the words of the text and to the context and come up with Collier's conclusion about this sin of David. Anyhow, Jesus did not approve what David did.

Then brother Gary takes up the Pharisees misunderstanding of the Sabbath law of God and accuses Jesus and his disciples of sin for rubbing corn and eating it on a Sabbath day. Jesus said they did not sin because they did not transgress the words of God.

There you have it! Gary D. Collier going to the words of the Bible to prove that the words of the Bible have no meaning. To simply study the Bible, understand and obey its teaching is mechanical methodology and that has got to be bad. What we need, according to Collier, is dynamic perspective.

Still, the Bible says:

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).

He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak (John 12:48-50).

Published November 1995