We just confirmed that next Tuesday and Wednesday, July 28th and 29th, I will be debating Harold Camping on the Iron Sharpens Iron radio program on the topic of Camping’s teaching that the church has ceased to exist. As some of you may know, Harold Camping has been teaching for years now that the church age has ended; that no one can get saved in the church any longer; that true believers should flee the churches, etc. I wrote my book Dangerous Airwaves in response to Camping’s teachings on this topic. Well, Chris Arnzen has once again found a way to make a debate happen that nobody thought could ever happen. So, for two days next week we will debate this topic. I will defend the biblical position that Christ’s church remains His bride and that Christians are to be faithful in their service to Christ through her, and that Harold Camping’s wild-eyed gymnastics with the text, his use of allegory and numerology, etc., is a gross abuse of inspired Scripture. Make no mistake about it: this will end up being a debate over how you handle the Bible and allow God to speak. As I said in response to Camping years ago in Dangerous Airwaves:
The grammatical-historical method of interpretation is a means of guaranteeing that we are hearing what the text says, not what we wantthe text to say. This is a vitally important point, especially when it comes to the Scriptures. When reading secular texts we are not nearly as tempted to insert a foreign meaning into the words of the author, since it is rare that such a text would be given sufficient importance to warrant the effort. We naturallyapply sound rules of interpretation to such documents since we are not at all threatened by theresults. But when it comes to the text of the Bible, much more is at stake. But if we are consistent in our beliefs, and truly want to hear what the Scriptures are saying and not what we want them to say or feel they should say, we need to have a means of reading the text that does not allow us to slipour own thoughts into the text under the guise of interpretation. The Bible needs to say the same thing in each language, in each culture, in each context, or it cannot be the means of communicating the truth to us that Christians believe it to be. The grammatical-historical method allows us to be both honest and consistent with the text of the Bible.
The fundamental reason we must reject allegorical interpretation of the biblical text is really quite simple: it is unverifiable. That is, there is no possible way to determine that the results of using allegorical methodology have anything whatsoever to do with the actual meaning of the text. One man’s allegorical understanding can have no compelling force upon the thinking of another, for that person may well seesomething completely different in the text. Since the means provided by human language to communicate meaning are by-passed in the allegorical method, there are no “safety nets” to keep one from wandering off into the most fanciful of “interpretations” of the text. Hence, the person who says “the allegorical meaning of this text is such and so” cannot claim the actual authority of the text for his interpretation, for the actual source of the interpretation is not the text itself but the mind of the interpreter. This is why we say there can be no compelling force to one’s allegorical interpretation, for it is merely personal, and if anyone else accepts it, it is because they choose to trust the allegorical interpreter rather than the text itself. Allegorical interpretations can have no more authority than the one proclaiming them.
When applied to the biblical text this methodology is devastating. The authority of the text is destroyed. No allegorical interpreter can honestly say, “The Word of God says,” for in reality, the Word of God has been replaced with the more or less fancifulthoughts of the interpreter himself. The Christian doctrine of inspiration sets the Christian Scriptures apart from all other claimed divine revelations in that Christians believe the Scriptures are God-breathed. This means the written word communicates to us infallibly the very speaking of God in a miraculously personal manner (Matthew 22:31). The authority of the Word is not based upon the interpreter but upon the inspired text itself. The message of the written Word is the same through the course oftime. Without this affirmation, the Word becomes a purely subjective document, incapable of communicating divine truth with certainty.
This point cannot be over-emphasized. Allegorical interpretation destroys biblical authority. It replaces the divine message with the imaginations of the interpreter, and as such opens the door wide for every kind of abuse of the text. False teachers, seeking to draw away disciples after themselves (Acts 20:30), utilize such means to release themselves from the unchanging standards of Gods Word and insert, under the guise of thus sayeth the Lord, their own pet doctrines and teachings. The Christian who is untaught and unstable, a novice in the Word, can easily be taken in by such a teacher who exudes confidence and often hides the false teachings behind a veneer of self-professed orthodoxy. So when we defend proper exegetical methodology, we are not merely arguing about tangential issues, we are, in reality, defending the very authority of the Word, and its ability to speak with clarity and force to each generation and in every place.