Gateways usualy open into something, but every so often I come accross gateways that go nowhere.
When something interesting, troubling, enlightening or important comes my way, I like to write a short article about it. Just the other day, someone sent me a booklet titled, ‘Gateways of the Threefold Nature of Man’. A quick scan revealed that the author had built a fanciful ‘spiritual’ teaching based largely on two texts from the book of Revelation. Here they are:
Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me”. This verse is part of a letter the Lord Jesus dictated to the church of Laodicea. The author of the ‘Gateways’ booklet claimed that Jesus discussed this verse with him and revealed that He, Jesus, was actually referring to the door to a believer’s spirit.
The second key verse for this author was where Jesus wrote to the Ephesian church and told them that, “You have forsaken your first love” (Revelation 2:4). He identified this as meaning the ‘Gateway of First Love’ leading to the Tree of Life located right in the centre of the human spirit. Good grief! If you don’t understand this, then don’t worry becuase I don’t get it either.
Now how can a responsible reader of scripture extract this sort of thing from the texts mentioned? I think that the answer to this question is, ‘because of a flawed understanding of biblical inspiration’. Some folk, most probably like the author in question, believe that the Bible is a form of holy magic book where texts contain mystical information quite unrelated to the intended meaning of the passage. This is a form of the irresponsible allergisation, which I address in my book Truth is The Word. It is a way of interpreting the Bible where any text can mean anything the reader fancies it to mean.
So, what do those verses mean?
Take the two examples I have cited here. In Revelation 3:14-22 the Lord Jesus reprimands the church of Laodicea for being lukewarm and worldly. Yet despite their pathetic spiritual condition, He offers to come into the church to commune with them if anyone is prepared to open the door to his presence. And no, this is not a text to use as part of an altar call inviting individuals to respond to Jesus – this is also faulty interpretation.
The Revelation 2:4 quote is where Jesus commends the church for its healthy condition, but then writes that He had just one thing against them in that they have forsaken their first love. The biblical text does not explain just what He meant by that statement, but in the context of the letter and the whole book of Revelation it is much more likely to mean that they had lost the love they used to have for him when first they believed.
My two main take-away points from this recent re-exposure to faulty interpretation are:
- We get into a terrible doctrinal mess when we play fast and loose with interpreting the Bible. The foundational elements of sound biblical understanding remain as Context, Christocentricity, and Exhaustive Reference. (See HERE for an explanation of what I mean).
- We should be sceptical and critical of any theory, system, or understanding of a Bible verse based on flawed interpretation. At best, it will be an expression of an individual’s own philosophy or imagination.
Bear in mind that it is one thing to believe that the Bible is inspired and quite another thing to interpret it responsibly.
If you have any particular biblical passage that you still can’t understand even after applying the three principles I have mentioned, then post your problem as a comment to this article and I will try to help you with it.