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Friday, July 24, 2009

Good sense and nonsense

"When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; Therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning
Unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light
Of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths indicate clearly otherwise."

This rule was published regularly in the monthly magazine, Biblical Research Monthly, and is generally credited as David L. Cooper's "Golden Rule of Interpretation."

It is often shortened to this:
If the plain sense of Scripture makes good sense seek no other sense lest it result in nonsense.

This rule might be alright if any of us had the good sense to distinguish between sense and nonsense.

8 comments:

Will Fitzgerald said...

Robert, I know you mean that last comment as a kind of joke, but it really is at the heart of the matter. One man's common sense is another woman's nonsense in many cases--and we (at least) therefore need an interpretive community willing to pray and reason together.

Lots more to say on this, but back to work ...

R. L. Vaughn said...

Well, it's kind of a joke and kind of not...often too true.

I agree that we need therefore need an interpretive community willing to pray and reason together. I disagree with the top down approach that tells everyone what to think and believe, but the renegade who doesn't listen to anyone is also wrong. As Spurgeon said, some who makes a lot of what the Holy Spirit says to him ought also appreciate what the Holy Spirit is saying to others. (Not a very exact quote, but I think that captures the substance of what he meant.)

R. L. Vaughn said...

Let me try that last part again.

I agree that we need an interpretive community willing to pray and reason together. I disagree with the top down approach that tells everyone what to think and believe, but the renegade who doesn't listen to anyone is also wrong. As Spurgeon said, someone who makes a lot of what the Holy Spirit says to him ought also appreciate what the Holy Spirit is saying to others. (Not a very exact quote, but I think that captures the substance of what he meant.)

GCope said...

I like the post, Bro. Vaughn. In fact, I agree with it. Seems to me there is a connection between the Holy Spirit and common sense!

Will Fitzgerald said...

Thanks for reminding me to include the Spirit in the interpretive community. (1 Cor. 2, eg)

User Copeland, Roger said...

Great post, Bro. Vaughan. We all need to be reminded of that principle often. Would you think this was probably the primary hermeneutic after the canonization of Scripture up until Augustine?

R. L. Vaughn said...

Bro. Gary, good to hear from you. Hope all is going well. As they say sometimes "common sense isn't all that common". I guess there is a common sense in the natural, but I'd say common sense in the moral/spiritual realm is definitely connected to the Holy Spirit.

Bro. Will, that is a good point about the Spirit's influence in the interpretive community. Only with the Spirit can we understand spiritual things.

Bro. Roger, welcome to 'Seeking the Old Paths'. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Early church history certainly isn't my area of expertise. I believe that you are probably right, at least in early times among the closest Bible believers. The Gnostics had a non-literal approach to the Scriptures, but then again, it would be hard for me to call them Bible believers. I believe Origen (ca 185-254) was an early pioneer of the allegorical method. But I would guess that this gradually outran the literal method. Perhaps others more familiar with this history will weigh in.

R. L. Vaughn said...

I found the Spurgeon quote:
"It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others." (Commenting and Commentaries, Charles Spurgeon)