The R. C. Sproul Jr. Principle of Hermeneutics

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture describing someone sinning? Of course you have; almost every passage relates to sin in some way. But the question is this: how do we handle them?

Enter the R. C. Sproul Jr. Principle of Hermeneutics. It goes like this: When you see someone in the Bible sinning, don’t think “What a bad sinner.” Think instead “How do I sin like that?”

This principle applies most obviously to narrative passages. So when you read the book of Judges and see the Israelites repeatedly break covenant with God, don’t simply think “How awful are those Israelites!” Think “How do I break covenant with God?”

Or when you read the gospels and see the dullness and foolishness of the disciples, think “How am I also dull and foolish regarding the things of God?”

This can also apply to the didactic parts of Scripture. Take Colossians 2:18–19:

Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

In Colossae, the church was dealing with false teachers. Paul wrote his letter to combat them. When reading this particular passage, we can talk about how the false teachers were doing these things, and how Paul sought to warn the Colossian church away from them. But we can also ask ourselves “In what ways do I disqualify others?” or “How do I fail to hold fast to the Head?”

Thinking like this helps us to move from interpretation of the Bible to application of the Bible, and therefore into growth.


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