How hard it is to avoid theï¿½innate desire that we all have to confirm our prejudices through our theological inquiry. Our studies,ï¿½more times than not, resemble an exercise ofï¿½a passionate pursuit of making the evidence fit our presupposed conclusions. We have our belief, then we seek to confirm that belief. Why? Because it is more comfortable to be than to become. Becoming involves humility whichï¿½brings aboutï¿½change. Change is not really on the agenda for most of us. Yes, we may call ourselves sinners and express the need to change, but when change presents its resume, we reject it, contriving a long list of excuses. It does not matter whether it is matters of theology or an argument with your spouse, we believeï¿½we are right and we will do everything to present our case in the best possible light.
It is a weakness to resist change. It is a fearful thing to even consider it. The problem is, this innate methodology is dishonoring to God, no matter what you are trying to defend. This methodology is sin. We are advocates of truth, not our prejudices,ï¿½and we must follow it whereverï¿½it leads, even if it takes us where we do not want to go. God help us all to stop shaming His name by seeking our truth rather than the truth.
The following except is taken from Interpreting the New Testament Text Darrel Bock and Buist Fanning eds. (Crossway, 2006), p. 156.ï¿½David Lowery, New Testamentï¿½professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, writes about the importance of validating our studies.ï¿½I don’t thinkï¿½I have ever read a finerï¿½exhortationï¿½concerning the integrity that we must possess when pursuingï¿½truth. While this is written specifically to exegetes (those who interpret the Scripture), you can also apply it to all those who seek truth in any area of study. Please read it carefully.ï¿½
“This process may be better understood by clarifying what it is not. It is not a matter of coming to a conclusion about the interpretation in question at the beginning of the process and arguing the case for that point of view by citing the data that seems supportive of it. In other words, an exegete is not an advocate, like a lawyer representing a client. A good lawyer will try to put his client and his case in the best possible light. He knows what conclusion he wants to reach before the trial begins and will seek to discount (or exclude) the relevance of any data that may prove problematic for winning agreement on the point of view he is putting forward
Most of us would welcome a lawyer like this arguing our case in a trial. However, many biblical interpreters are confused about their proper role, and function for all practical purposes like lawyers arguing a point of view. They decide at the beginning of the process what view they regard as most compatible with their theological or ecclesiastical or personal conviction and then work to demonstrate the reasonableness of this interpretation against all competing interpretations. If certain data are problematic for their interpretation, they are ignored or discounted. It is a regrettable fact that many sincere (though misguided) people carry out research and writing as theological lawyers rather than biblical interpreters. Please do not be one of them
I hesitate to belabor this point but want to say as clearly as possible that manipulating the data of the text to support a particular point of view is not authentic exegesis or interpretation, and it is not validation that has any integrity of method associated with it. When you as a researcher detect this bogus approach to exegesis in the writing you are reading (or the lecture you are hearing), regard it as the wishful thinking of its author that it is. If you own writing of this sort, the only reason to read it is as an example of what not to do (libraries, by virtue of their role, routinely find shelf space for work of this sort and must be excused). Let no one say of you that you made up your mind about your conclusion before you started the process of validation. Instead, aim to follow the data to the most probable conclusion. Practice integrity of method. Your conclusion may be unsettling to you and may create more than a little personal tension (a circumstance that may never be resolved for some issues: welcome to life in an imperfect world). But you (and those you minister to) will be better for it if you treat the data with integrity (and you will not be a phony exegete).”
Would it be that every Christian would read this and take it to heart.