Those of us who believe the Bible is the inspired authoritative word of God believe that it is relevant for our lives today. In fact, we believe that the Scripture guides our thoughts and paths, giving us instruction on a daily basis. But what do we mean by that? Does the Bible speak to everything? Does it tell us whether to marry this person or that? Does it tell us what our career should be? Does it tell me whether I should go out to dinner tonight?

I have talked a lot about the proper way to conduct a Bible study in my “Bible Study in a Nutshell.”

In sum, I believe Bible interpretation must assume three audiences:

1. Original audience
2. Timeless audience
3. Contemporary audience

We must start with the original authors and readers, taking into consideration the history, culture, grammar and syntax, and type of literature of the particular book. You are asking the question: “What did it mean then?” Next, you extract the timeless principles (if there are any), comparing the Scripture with Scripture, asking “What does it mean for all time?” Once this step is complete, you contextualize the principle for today asking “How does this apply to me?”

This is what it looks like:

Let me be brief and expand upon a Bible interpretation fallacy that uses a very different model of interpretation.

Practical Eisegesis Fallacy:

Gk. eis, “in” + hēgeisthai, “to lead.”
Also called “reader response”

The process of conforming the text to your current circumstance, making it more relevant and applicable.

This is where you open the Bible and treat it like a magic book. Since its inspired, this method assumes that the Bible must apply to my current circumstance. By merely opening the Bible and randomly finding a verse or a passage, we find out what God’s will for whatever is on our heart. It may take some interpretive gymnastics, but this method is intent on making any passage immediately applicable.

For example, right now I am wondering if I should go with my wife and kids to “The Main Event” here in Frisco, TX. It is a dinner place with games and rides and all sorts of fun stuff for the kids. My sermon is all prepared for tomorrow, but I do have a “Bible Boot Camp” to finish by Wed. Plus, I like to keep Saturday nights before a sermon calm. Should I stay here at  the hotel or go have fun with the wife and kids?

Wait! Don’t you answer as I am going to look to the inspired word of God to find out what he wants me to do…

Here is where I “landed” (seriously):
“So Jonathan told David saying, “Saul my father is seeking to put you to death. Now therefore, please be on guard in the morning, and stay in a secret place and hide yourself.” (1Sam: 19:2)

In the morning, I have to preach. I believe that God is telling me to stay away from the crowds and business of “The Main Event” so that I will “be on guard” in the morning. I need to “hide” myself in the Lord. Therefore, sorry Kristie, the Lord has instructed me not to go.

Of course many of you will immediately see the fallacy here. You will recognize that this has nothing to do with me in my immediate circumstance. Nothing to do with The Main Event and nothing to do with priorities. I have to read into the Scripture (eisegesis) what is going on in my life. This was a completely irresponsible use of Scripture.

If I am going to do this, why bother using the Scriptures? Why not use the television program guide here at the hotel? Why not use the “Big Gulp” sign on the side of my soda? If we are going to take things out of context, disregarding the circumstances of the past, why do we need the Bible? God can use anything!

The fact is that while the Bible speaks to many things, it does not speak to everything in every verse. It is not a magic book that can be manipulated in such a way. The verse above is part of the narrative of the Davidic rise. It has meaning only when understood in that context. Even if it is in the Bible, it does not tell me whether or not to go to The Main Event.

What did it mean then?

What does it mean for all time (if anything)?

How does it apply to me?

In that order…

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    19 replies to "Should I Go Out to Dinner Tonight? Let’s See What the Bible Says"

    • Ed Kratz

      Don’t laugh, I actually used to do this. The book of Isaiah in particular, was chock full of personal messages :-/

    • davidbmc

      I like John MacArthur’s take: the will of God for your life is that you do the things the NT commands believers to do and you don’t do the things the NT commands believers not to do. Other than that, go eat wherever you want.

    • Leslie Jebaraj

      Recently, my marriage counselor told me that the Lord led him and his wife to each other through the Bible. I can understand that the Lord led his wife to him, as his name is Joel; but I wonder what passage the Lord used for him, as his wife’s name is Carol. I didn’t ask him, because he was my Counselor, you see! 🙂 Funny, but that’s how it goes even with folks in the ministry. Really, sad!

    • mbaker

      Oh my, you could have been talking about me a few years ago when I got caught up in charismania! In those years, I used to routinely play Bible roulette, opening it at random and closing my eyes and picking out a scripture which I thought God meant as my daily operating orders for my immediate circumstances. Duh! You can probably imagine some of the weird scenarios that brought about. Now you would have thought knowing the Bible as well as I did, having been raised in the SBC, I would have known better.

      However, I had never been introduced to hermeneutics as a method for properly understanding the Bible. When someone outside my religious circle finally educated me on the fallacy of proof texting and explained the the difference between prescriptive and descriptive passages, it was eye opening.

      Hopefully more churches will start teaching this the way you are doing with an eye toward guiding folks to a more accurate understanding of what they are reading.

    • Gary Simmons

      Jer 29:11 clearly says that God already has a wife for me planned out. Clearly.

    • whoschad

      I’m not so keen on your second set of comparisons. Is there a blog which sets out your reasoning for listing these four (is it your own take on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral?):


      Are these in order? I’d give emotions the boot myself.

      The Wesleyan quadrilateral has Scripture as primary (of course), and then Tradition, Reason and Experience working in harmony. I personally tend to put Tradition working with Reason as the second step and lastly turn to Experience working with Practice as a final consideration.

    • Susan

      Michael, I will pray for you tonight, that God will use you tomorrow to speak to many for His good purposes! Enjoy the day…and post the sermon for us.

    • xulon

      It has been said that the Pilgrims would not plow a field without first writing out a biblical justification of their actions. While the flopping open Bible is a common cliche, the question is what is proper application of biblical teaching to our lives?

      I think the best answer I’ve heard is Friesen’s, that we are to live in biblical wisdom and we live there by practicing it. As you practice the use of wisdom, you grow in your ability to apply biblical wisdom. This all sounds circular, but that’s the way. The line “you make good choices by experience and you gain experience by making bad choices” applies far more than we would like, as if making a mistaken choice ALWAYS brings God’s frowny face and so don’t decide until you know it’s the perfect choice. That leads to paralysis. I think the parable of the Talents applies here.

    • Bhanu Tiwari

      The instant I found a link to the incredible The Top 12 Reasons To Burn A Quran On 9/11 opinion piece I realized that Parchment and Pen’s commenters totally have to be able to pass judgement on this link:

    • Michael T.

      I heard about the church that is doing that and agree that it should be harshly condemned by Christians everywhere as completely contrary to the teachings of Christ.

      That being said whoever wrote that “Top 12” has no concept of Constitutional Law or the true freedoms of America. For instance one of his reasons was “To establish that there is no effective rule of law in the United States and that justice exists only on paper, otherwise Florida State Troopers would place themselves in a phalanx between you and the pile of Qur’ans”.

      This is the complete opposite of what America stands for. If those State Troopers truly believe in the freedom of speech they will do just the opposite and protect those who are burning the Qur’an. Why?? Because there is no rule of law?? Because they agree with them?? No – Just the opposite – they will protect them precisely because there is a rule of law which protects the freedom of speech, even speech I myself and likely the officers involved find vulgar. Just a few months ago a small group of KKK members held a rally on the steps of the MN State Capital – and it was their right to to do so. If someone wants to use there freedom of speech to be a racist idiot that is their prerogative. Furthermore the guy then states in another reason “To risk a fatwa upon you and your families for your brutish ignorance and xenophobia”, which is just intolerance the other way, except he is threatening to injure life and limb, and not a book. This guy who wrote this list simply does not understand America.

      Truth is people burn Bibles and openly mock Christianity every day in this country, many times on national television. Yet you don’t see Christians threatening to kill anyone over it. At the end of the day the only thing that I find more despicable then the acts of this “church” is that someone would kill them for doing it.

    • Lucian

      Here’s a new blog-poster & blog-name for you, Patton! — just that instead of “eXistenZ” it should read “eXegesiS”. 🙂

    • Brad

      I think you are right Michael, and no responsible believer should be relying on the random page turn method for clear instruction.

      However- I will admit that a major turning point in my own coming to faith came from a very eerie and accurate use of this method, and I know that I am not alone in this. I think this may be one of those instances where God meets people wherever they are, even if that means speaking through a really poor understanding of scripture. (I can cite my example if anyone cares)

    • nazaroo

      In the O.T. they cast lots to find the Lord’s will (urim and thumim = ‘fire and lights’).

      The practice seems obscure now, but how does that differ from gambling or magical thinking?

      Also, I believe Mark/John in Codex Bezae are filled with marked out passages, used to do predictions. Christians seem to have done this as far back as Egyptian Monasteries in the 2nd century.

      But besides Egypt being a land of superstitious nonsense (observe magic “christian” talismans etc.), does anyone have any light on when ‘casting lots’ is a legitimate activity?


    • Susan

      Nazaroo, interesting question. I can’t answer, but I have a story. Once, in college, I was trying to get into a logic class I needed but there were several other students also trying to get in. The prof finally took us up to his office one day and had us draw straws. I drew a winning straw. I told him that I had prayed about it and I knew that God controls the lots. He asked what if I had lost. I told him that I would have accepted that God didn’t want me to get into the class. I wasn’t trying to manipulate God into an answer by lots, but I think that He was in it. Providence.

    • Ed Kratz

      BTW: I did go to the Main Event Sat night 🙂

    • ScottL

      Most of us are aware of the grammatical-historical method of interpretation. But I think it would do us good to also consider more and more what Peter Enns refers to as the apostolic hermeneutic, which refers to understanding the interpretative world in which the NT was written. We might be surprised how the NT writers didn’t always use the grammatical-historical method when quoting OT texts. In all, they were utilising texts in order to point to the ultimate end point of Israel’s history – the fulfilment of God’s purposes and promises in Messiah.

      I highly recommend Peter Enns’ book, Inspiration and Incarnation.

    • Mike

      davidbmc: Where can I find that John MacArthur quote? Thanks!

    • davidbmc

      Mike: It’s not an exact quote from MacArthur but a summary of his stance. He has a great small book on the topic called Found: God’s Will.

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