If an alien from outer space were teleported to the United States, given a copy of the Christian Scriptures, and asked to assess the sanity of our faith’s adherents, he would no doubt conclude that American Christians are a rather schizophrenic lot. Walking into one of our evangelical churches, he would probably observe men, some of them long-haired, greeting women, many of them short-haired and almost none of them wearing any kind of head covering, with both men and women stubbornly refusing to kiss each other (in a “holy” manner, of course) at all! In Gen-X churches, at least, our intrepid extraterrestrial would be astonished to see young men and women in their 20’s and 30’s failing to rise in the presence of any elders entering their worship service. Our stupefied spaceman would be baffled to discover Pentecostals dancing within the church walls but not outside of them, Presbyterians dancing outside the church walls but not within them, and Southern Baptists not dancing anywhere! Further, all of these bodies would rarely, if ever, be seen using tambourines and cymbals (unless, of course, the cymbals were part of drum set). And even if certain members of these churches might be found to occasionally take wine for medicinal reasons, probably none of them, to the utter confusion of our befuddled bystander, would even think of administering beer to the poor, downtrodden, and dying of their congregations. In the end, our marveling Martian would probably throw up his hands in resignation and blast away in a trail of stardust, desperately seeking a group of people who actually do what their Holy Book tells them to do. Our friendly foreigner, of course, has just dealt firsthand with the challenges of cultural hermeneutics and contemporary application. He seems to have assumed (quite naturally) that any command found in the Christian Scriptures would be binding upon Christians of all times, and that cultural differences would have little effect upon the application of an ancient text to a modern setting. Although most of us would probably claim to be at least somewhat more hermeneutically savvy than our vexed visitor, no doubt all of us could identify with the frustration of trying to understand why ancient commands may sometimes be applied differently in our modern context—or sometimes not at all.permalink source: Clay Daniel: As Easy as X-Y-Z: A Review of William Webb’s Slaves, Women and Homosexuals at bible.org
"Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators."permalink source: G. K. Chesterton
The preacher who preaches from Paul’s three “ready” statements (Acts 21:13—“ready to die”; Rom. 1:15—“ready to preach”; and 2 Tim. 4:6—“ready to be offered”) in the Authorized Version is heading for a homiletical hodgepodge. In the first text, the Greek word means “prepared”; while in the second, the word means “eager.” Paul was not eager to die, but he was eager to preach! The word “ready” is not found at all in 2 Timothy 4:6. “I am already being offered” is the sense of the original. A clever outline ruined by good exegesis. Preachers who are addicted to alliteration like to find words in their text that begin with the same letter and somehow tie them together in an outline. Sometimes this approach will work (e.g.,flee, follow, fight, in the KJV of 1 Tim. 6:11, 12), but usually it leads to a forced outline based on bad exegesis. There is no substitute for a knowledge of the original languages to set you free from bondage to a translation. Many fine basic tools are available today so that even the person with little knowledge of Hebrew and Greek may secure the technical help needed. The careful student of the Word will always consult several reliable translations, as well as the original, just to make certain he is on the main highway and not on a dangerous detour. One test of the validity of the sermon outline is this: can you preach it from any reliable translation? If your outline is limited to one translation, then you may be building on the accidentals and not the essentials. One exception to this rule would be when a translation gives a unique coloring to a phrase or a verse, and you point this out to your listeners. Just be sure that, with all its uniqueness, the translation is still accurate.permalink source: Wiersbe, W. W., & Wiersbe, D. (1986). The elements of preaching : The art of biblical preaching clearly and simply presented.
I am trying here to give you a flavor of the complexities of the world. The issue is not simply: this religion says this, that religion says that. After all, religions do not speak; we speak for them.permalink source: Ahmed Kamal Sultan, email regarding Islam
If Revelation is clear, why do so many people have trouble with it? And why is it so controversial? We have trouble because we approach it from the wrong end. Suppose I start by asking, â€œwhat do the bearâ€™s feet in Revelation 13:2 stand for?â€ If I start with a detail, and ignore the big picture, I am asking for trouble. God is at the center of Revelation (Rev. 4-5). We must start with him and with the contrasts between him and his satanic opponents. If instead we try right away to puzzle out details, it is as if we tried to use a knife by grasping it by the blade instead of the handle. We are starting at the wrong end. Revelation is a picture book, not a puzzle book. Donâ€™t try to puzzle it out. Donâ€™t become preoccupied by isolated details. Rather, become engrossed in the story. Praise the Lord. Cheer for the saints. Detest the Beast. Long for the final victory. The truth is, some teachers of the Book of Revelation have set a bad example. They turn the Book on its head; they turn it into a puzzle book. In their example they preach obscurity instead of clarity, and of course people end up feeling incompetent.permalink source: The Returning King, Vern Poythress, http://www.frame-poythress.org/Poythress_books/Returning_King/BRvCIntro1a.htm
Some modern people come to Revelation with the recipe, â€œinterpret everything literally if possible.â€ That recipe mistakes what kind of book Revelation is. Of course, John literally saw what he says he saw. But what he saw was a vision. It was filled with symbols, like the Beast of 13:1-8 and the seven blazing lamps in 4:5. It never intended to be a direct, nonsymbolical report of the future. People living in Johnâ€™s own time understood this matter instinctively, because they recognized that John was writing in a â€œapocalypticâ€ manner, a manner already as familiar to them as a political cartoon is today.permalink source: The Returning King, Vern Poythress, http://www.frame-poythress.org/Poythress_books/Returning_King/BRvCIntro1b.htm