That's Just Your Interpretation

Jason Dulle

I was having a conversation with some coworkers some time ago in regards to same-sex marriage.  They brought up the relationship of homosexuality to the Christian religion, at which point I affirmed that the Bible—and hence Christianity—is opposed to homosexuality.  Immediately I received the “Well, that’s just your interpretation” response.  My response to this charge was to explain the process of exegesis, which took several minutes of my time and got us off the real issue at hand.  In retrospect I thought of a more efficient and tactful response I would like to share with you.

The next time you are discussing some aspect of Biblical teaching with someone, and they give you the “Well, that’s just your interpretation” response, respond by saying something off-the-wall like, “So you are saying I don’t like pickles?!”  A blank and confused stare is sure to follow proceeded by the expected question: “What?!?!”  Explain to them that you have just demonstrated the fundamental principle of interpretation.  Valid interpretation only comes about when the receiver accurately understands the intent of the sender/author.  This is accomplished by correctly employing the use of grammatical and semantic rules, and considering the cultural/historical perspective of the sender.  If the sender’s intent is not properly understood, communication has not occurred and the result is misinterpretation.  If interpretation is rooted in authorial intent only one interpretation can be valid.  As long as the interpreter employs the proper tools they can walk away with the correct interpretation.

The Bible is no different.  There is a correct way and an incorrect way to interpret the Bible.  The same tools and rules we use to correctly interpret our modern conversations and writings apply equally to the Bible.  When those tools and rules are used properly the interpretation we walk away with is sound.  No, it’s not just our interpretation.  It is the meaning inherent within the text itself, discovered (not invented) by the interpreter using the universal rules and tools of language.

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