Conclusions Out, Not Conclusions In
Recently, we bought a high chair. It’s a nice high chair, machine-washable cushion (a must), on rollers (a want), and big and bulky (a pain). It came in a box about 1/4 the size of the chair, packaged well in a nice box, each part in its own individual bag. Inside one of the bags near the bottom of the box was a set of instructions. And before you ask, of course I didn’t look at the instructions—I’m a man! To be honest, after years of assembling toys, electronics, and baby furniture, I’m a pro at spotting what goes where.
But I also remember the first time I bought a piece of furniture from IKEA. It was different than the other items I had bought from various stores. I’m not sure why, because I’m sure most everything is made outside of America at this point, but something about these Swedish ingeniousness made their furniture different. Let’s just say I did look at this instructions (which have no words) and I still didn’t get the furniture put together right. While it seemed that one part sensibly went with another, by the time I was 10 steps further in the process, I realized I had used the wrong piece way back. So, I’d disassembled and then reassemble correctly, until I made the same mistake again. I think I put that bunk bed together 3 times (but I only disassembled it 2 times so that’s a win).
We do this with the Bible. We sometimes are sure we know what part goes with what part, so to speak. We can get so familiar with the Bible that we stop looking at it’s instructions and just start glancing only when it’s needed. We can be guilty of interpreting the words our way instead of how the writers intended those instructions to be understood. And this is called eisegesis. This is the concept of putting our own meaning into the text. We interpret what we want to interpret, instead of what is the true interpretation. We sometimes call this “proof-texting,” but that is only one form of eisegesis. Proof-texting is the concept of finding texts that agree with us and ignoring the rest. Clearly, that involves forcing our meaning on the text. But eisegesis comes in other forms also. If we only see one interpretation instead of recognizing that the Bible isn’t definite either way. If we only see what we want to see even when the text argue something different. I see this often in evangelism.
I’ll say, “What does Mark 16.16 say?” They will read, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” I’ll ask, “What is necessary to be saved?” and they’ll respond, “Belief.” I’ll ask them to look again and they will respond, “Belief.” I’ll ask, “Then what is baptism for?” and they’ll not have an answer. I’ll point out that belief isn’t the only thing mentioned and they’ll respond, “But disbelief is the only thing mentioned as what causes someone to be condemned.”
This person is guilty of eisegesis. They believe something and can only see that conclusion in the text. We can clearly see that no one would be truly baptized if they didn’t first believe, but all they can see is an excuse for believing what they want to or have been brought up to believe. Let us be those who would let the Bible speak and let God’s answer be believed.