Monday, May 2, 2011

Hermeneutics by John Wesley

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect". - Matthew 5:48

Wesley claims that God would not require of us something that is impossible. This premise has been the subject of ridicule especially from the Classical Hyper-Calvinist camp. A close look at this proposition, however, yields for sound hermeneutics.

To comment on the counter-view, if one disagrees on the Wesleyan premise, he begins to subject Scriptural commands to meaningless rhetorical statements....something like God thinking aloud but not really telling us anything for our benefit, which is quite ridiculous. This makes Scripture interpretation arbitrary and ultimately meaningless and of no value to everyday life or personal sanctification. But then, under the hyper-classical view, a good two-thirds of Scripture have no meaningful interpretation nor value to them.

This violates the whole intent of divine revelation if 2/3 of what is revealed (or even a small portion of it) does not qualify for 2 Timothy 3:16.17. On the other hand, and emphatically, ALL of God's word has value. In fact, I would safely surmise that ALL of God's Word has PRACTICAL VALUE simply because it is uttered and/or "inspired" by an Omniscient and all-wise God!.

The hermeneutical pursuit should then be, "What could the inspired Word of God mean by this?" This is where Wesley is correct in deriving that this could mean simply a perfect motive (which is synonymous to a perfect heart in Wesleyan thought). It is in this sense, that Scriptural passages like this come to have practical value. Hence, imperfect man will always have imperfect behavior or actions or attitudes. However, redeemed man, is highly capable of having a perfect motive and acting it out in his daily life (even if the manifestations are imperfect!).

For example, a friend may do something to another out of love (yes, self-less, sacrificial, and redeeming love). However, because we are imperfect and live in a cursed world, the expression of that love may be imperfect yielding hurtful words or misunderstood actions. Nevertheless, it does not at all degrade the imperfect person's perfect motive of love.

It is in this sense, that the command, "Be perfect" makes sense, because it can be obeyed and is doable.

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