How can a person who defends the Trinity, for example, properly and accurately from Scripture, then turn around and defend the idea that God’s sovereignty is a chimera, and that man is actually sovereign over God, so that man’s libertarian free will is actually supreme, in the great matter of salvation, over God’s? The answer has become clearer for me over the years. Indeed, the best way to detect the insidious activity of human tradition is to note when someone abandons their normative hermeneutic and embraces, without notice, some new means of interpreting the text. It is this unadmitted variation in exegetical methodology that creates so much frustration when differences are discussed between believers.
An illustration has been floating through my mind of late. The vast majority of Trinitarians would read Titus 2:11-14 in such a fashion as to see the text giving us a reference to the deity of Christ, especially in the words of verse 13, “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (an example of Granville Sharp’s Rule). The following verse backs this up with important references from the Old Testament regarding Yahweh’s work of forming for Himself a special people, here applied to the work of Christ in redemption. Now, some of those who deny the deity of Christ attempt to read the text in Titus as having reference to two individuals, Christ, and Yahweh, as a separate person, so that there are two appearances in the text. Of course, the only reason for reading the text in such a fashion comes not from the text itself, but from an over-riding tradition, an external controlling belief that demands that the text be read in that fashion (so as to avoid contradiction with the theological system). The vast majority of Evangelicals would detect the unwarranted insertion of a second person into the text, would see the role of the higher authority, and would object to the pretended exegesis on that basis.
And yet, the vast majority of those same evangelicals will engage in the identical activity when the central platform of human religion, man’s alleged ability to have the final say in God’s self-glorifying work of salvation, is under discussion. Example: John 6:44. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” The text is simple, clear, pure (i.e., no textual variants get in the way), and compelling. And yet, to avoid the weight of the text, what do the vast majority of readers do? They insert the very same kind of eisegetical conclusion that we just examined. In v. 44 the Father draws, and the Son raises, and there is nothing in the text that even suggests that the one raised is someone different than the one drawn. Indeed, “the Father…draws him, and him I will raise up” expresses the textual actions with clarity. Yet, the reading “understood” by the vast majority of non-Reformed Evangelicals is, “the Father…draws him, but someone else the Son raises up [since not all who are drawn will cooperate with God so as to be saved, thus protecting their libertarian free will and their ultimacy in the work of salvation].” When you ask for a basis, from the text, for the insertion of a second “him” that differs in identity or extent from the first “him” that is drawn, you never get a textually based reply, but instead get, “Well, it must, because…” followed by the immediate abandonment of John 6.
So watch for the sudden shifts in hermeneutical methodology. It is a clear sign that you are about to encounter a human tradition dressed as biblical theology.