exWitch Australia
What's Wrong With Rebecca Brown...

Part 1 - Christian Fundamentalism and the Interpretation of Scripture

"If there is a God, a God worth worshiping,
then God is not afraid of the search for Truth.
  A compassionate search for Truth is not in any way
incompatible with Christianity.
It can be uncomfortable, it can be challenging,
it can mean placing our own prejudices on the line
and saying 'maybe I'm wrong', but the search for Truth
is tremendously important."

- Peter Vardy,
interviewed in ON BEING magazine,
September 1996

According to some estimates there are as many as 250 different religious bodies in Australia that identify themselves as being 'Christian', varying in beliefs from extreme 'left wing' to extreme 'right wing', from extremely liberal to extremely conservative.

Some are large international organizations with many thousands of members in Australia, while many are small 'splinter groups' or 'independent' churches with relatively few adherents.   Nevertheless, all have one thing in common.   Each group believes it is a vital repository of Truth and therefore has a duty under God to maintain its separate witness.

Though the 'True Church' is invisible, being made up of people of all denominations who love God in sincerity and try to serve Him the best way they know how, some believe themselves to have a particular claim upon God's favour, often due to their 'purity of doctrine'.

Christian Fundamentalist groups as diverse in other doctrinal beliefs as the 'Assemblies of God', the 'Independent Baptists' and the 'Exclusive Brethren' tend to see themselves in this light, stressing belief in the literal and verbal inspiration of the Bible - that is, its sixty six books not only contains, but is the very Word of God.

They profess that "all Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."1

Such was the attitude of the Apostle Paul.   Yet today, many who claim to revere the Bible as the inspired Word of God seem to trust the word of a friend, colleague, Pastor, Priest or even a favourite author as being 'Gospel', so that the need for confirmation from Scripture is considered marginal at best.   Indeed, many Christians seem to be ready to believe any book rather than the Book that they claim to hold most dear!

Local churches are commanded to appoint Elders able to pass judgement on what those who claim to speak in the name of God teach.2   Luke, the writer of the New Testament book, 'Acts of the Apostles' praised the Bereans for testing what the Apostle Paul taught them:

"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians,
for they received the message with great eagerness and

The risen Christ commended the Church at Ephesus for testing those who claimed to have Divine Authority: "I know that you have tested those who claim to be Apostles, but are not, and have found them false... "4

If one truly believes the Bible to be the Word of God, then it is obvious how vital it is to use it to judge every doctrine and experience.   Each Christian is responsible to search the Scriptures themselves and to test what is being taught.5

One can not abdicate responsibility in this area by claiming that, "those who teach will be judged more strictly."6   For each Christian is commanded to "test EVERYTHING, and hold onto the good."7 and to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once and for all delivered to the saints."8

How then, are the faithful to "test everything" with Scripture?   First one. must know how to interpret, and thereby understand, the Bible.

Christian Fundamentalists of all denominations agree that one must first find the meaning of a passage before applying it, not start with your conclusion and then find a 'proof text' to support it...

The two basic methods used for finding the meaning of any given passage of Scripture are:

  • EXEGESIS - This method draws the meaning from the text itself. Its goal is to let the normal meaning of the words, grammar and context speak for itself.
  • EISEGESIS - This is to read a meaning into the text that is foreign to the normal sense of the words, grammar and context. In other words, reading an allegorical or symbolic meaning into the text that is different from the natural reading of the passage.

For the Fundamentalist, the single most important principle in determining the truth of any doctrine or alleged 'New Revelation' is that one must start with the clear statements in Scripture that apply to it then use those to interpret the parables, allegories and more obscure verses.   In this way Scripture is used to interpret Scripture.   Many quite strange beliefs have been bullt upon the exact opposite!   By this we mean that, obscure verses, parables and allegories are used to reinterpret what would otherwise be clearly understood passages.

The Second most important principle in Fundamentalist Interpretation of Scripture is to consistently use the 'literal, grammatical, contextual' method.   This means:

  • Each word should be understood in its normal, ordinary usage that was accepted at the time of writing.
  • Each sentence should be understood according to the rules of grammar normally accepted at the time of writing.
  • Each passage should be understood in the light of its immediate context and that of related passages.

Dr Henry M. Morris puts this in a nutshell, "The Bible is written to be should normally be TAKEN LITERALLY - unless the context both indicates a non-literal meaning AND makes it clear what the true meaning is."9

The issue is to let the text dictate when to interpret allegorically instead of one's own theological presuppositions.   Biblical Fundamentalism contends that one can not allegorize a portion of Scripture that is intended by the Divine Author to be taken literally simply because it does fit one's already established doctrinal system and/or personal beliefs.

Further, when the Bible uses an allegory or a figure of speech it is usually fairly obvious, but, when one arbitrarily takes a passage that is intended to be taken literally, and treats it allegorically they are twisting Scripture and perverting the Word of God and risks falling into heresy!

The following pages give some examples of how these principles for understanding the Scriptures can be applied to various teachings in order to discern whether or not they are in accord with Fundamentalist belief.


1  II Timothy 3:16-17
2  I Corinthians 14:29
3  Acts 17:11
4  Revelation 2:2
5  I John 2:26-27
6  James 3:1
7  I Thessalonians 5:21
8  Jude 3
9  Dr Henry M Morris, 'The Genesis Record', [Baker Book House, 1981] p 109





Due to its sheer size, this article has been broken down into three sections, each of which can be read as a separate article in their own right.   However, it is strongly recommended that all three sections be taken together as a whole and read in their entirety.
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