Examining Eisegesis Non-Academically

Regardless of whether we think we have the whole picture or not, whether we think we have everything (or even just something) figured out or not, and no matter how humble our perspectives are, we all live out our beliefs.  When it comes to specific practical matters, about how the world is, how it functions, our role in that world, our principles and morals, and the plethora of other practical issues we face on a daily basis, we all must live out those convictions, beliefs, perspectives.  There is no uncertainty when it comes to the objective way we interact with the world, and regardless of what we claim, our actions do speak louder than our words.
This means that we all, to greater and lessor degrees, think we have a correct perspective on the way things really are, even if we remain agnostic about some particular issues.  We all live our lives as though certain things are true.  Therefore, even if we know we don’t know something for certain, we still live our lives, conduct our business, speak our words, and perform our actions, dwell in thought, and even react to the world, according to those beliefs, perspectives, ideas and opinions about the way things really are.
 Even if we are tentative in some of those beliefs, when forced to interact with things, when confronted with the living out of the things we think, we act in such a way that belies our true beliefs, and sometimes, our actions give voice to the paradoxes, contradictions, and tensions of our beliefs because of how they interact with the world.
I guess where I am getting at is that we all “eisegete” the world around us every single day, as we take in the world and filter our experiences through our particular perspectives in such a way that how I view the world may differ greatly how you view the world, especially in the nitty-gritty details where personal experience has such a large influence on perception of reality.
The laity of the Church universal, and the  Evangelical Protestant Church in particular, is in a very sorry state of affairs when it comes the actual issue of eisegesis and reading our own lives into the text and putting in our own truths and perspectives into the text, rather than drawing out the truth that is there.

This shouldn’t be surprising though.  I mean, on the whole, the laity of the Protestant Evangelical Church is mostly non-academic individuals who have not been taught very much at all about proper Bible study, who don’t often have a proper mentor whom they can disciple under, who attend, on the whole, large congregations that are ever increasing in size, filled with people whom they don’t actually know (yet supposedly are having fellowship, worship, and communion with), who pick up various “verse-a-day” devotionals that take a random bit of Scripture and slap a life-lesson onto it.

We then take these individuals, who barely get a half an hour’s worth of a sermon about what the Bible is saying that was gathered for them by their pastor through his or her hard work that week actually exegeting and studying the passage, and send them into a world full of hurt, broken people, some of whom are very hostile to the idea of God in the first place, and we expect them to not only interact with and engage the world in loving Christ-like manners, but we expect them to do it with perfect theology and criticize them as heretical when their perspective differs from our own on trivial theological issues.

Is there any wonder why there is such great division in the Protestant church?  Is it any wonder why we have so many denominations whose differentiations only serve to further isolate ourselves from other members of the body of Christ, simply based on minor doctrinal issues?

(Please take a meta-moment with me and notice how my own interactions with and experience of Protestant Evangelical Christianity has painted that picture of Protestant Church laity and how my entire post is tainted (for good or ill) by my personal experience with said institution and the world around me.  No one can escape how their interactions with the world taint their understanding of reality, and therefore their beliefs about what is true and not true about the world.)
There should be no surprise that people eisegete Scripture, especially under such circumstances.
Hell, isn’t that what Post-Modernity is telling us to do anyways?  Don’t we all have our own truths, and no one else can tell me what is true?  When we stress individualism, as our society especially does, and we stress relativism (or at the very least, live in a world that is saturated with it), this kind of “personal message” perspective is going to be prevalent.
And on that note, doe we necessarily think all forms of eisegesis are a bad thing?  I fully get and support the idea that we should not be making the Bible authors say things they weren’t saying, and that we must be vigilant about our anachronistic tendencies, especially with Scripture.  I also agree that it isn’t proper bible study to read what we are seeing (as opposed to reading what they are saying), since what we are seeing is tainted by our own perspectives.
However, I find myself wanting to make a distinction between true eisegesis, and simply allowing the Spirit room to speak to me a poignant and prophetic point in my personal devotion time, through a passage that may not directly be addressing the issue in my life the Spirit is speaking to me on. I believe the Spirit does at times bring forth truths during my Scripture reading that aren’t directly addressed by the topic of this particular pericope, and yet the Spirit is only able to bring forth this truth to my mind BECAUSE of my anachronistic perspective when approaching this passage.
In other words, the only reason the Spirit is able to bring this truth to my mind (and therefore speak it into my life) is because when I read this passage, my specific perspective imposes a particular understanding or awareness based on my experience.
For example , say I am reading the really boring sections of Genesis where there are just pages of genealogies.  Say during this reading, I start to have a sort of spiritual unease, and I realize it is because I couldn’t trace my family heritage back more than two generations, and I know nothing about where I come from, and my family history, and it is the Holy Spirit prompting me to start investigating my family tree to get to know my heritage.  I eventually do and discover some truth about my family line that helps me better understand myself, which in turn helps me to better live out my Christian convictions and witness to the world though my actions as well as my words.
The passage in question doesn’t have anything to do with any of the stuff I learned about myself, about my heritage, hell, it doesn’t even advocate being in touch with our heritage, it merely lists out the descendants of Adam until we get to certain ones that we then read about.  That said, I would still credit the Spirit with using this particular passage to speak a truth into my life because of my particular circumstances and how they skewed my perspective of the passage in such a way that He could bring this to mind in a way that produced the eventual fruit.
The problem, however, is when we try to take the “personal revelations” and make them universal realities.  We can’t expect that our experience aligns with everyone else we interact with, and therefore can’t expect that something that seems profound to us through the revelation of the Spirit is going to hit home for (or even make sense to) others.  We also of course run into problems when our anachronistic perspectives begin skewing our reading of the actual texts in such a way that we are reading our own lives and experiences into the Scripture, and saying that this is what the Authors meant, because that it what it seems to mean to me.
When we start thinking that we know what the author is saying or trying to say, based on our isolated and anachronistic perspective, is when we start straying from the text, and missing the mark by introducing errancies.
I get that what I described in the example isn’t actually eisegesis, because I am not reading into the passage things that aren’t there and making the passage say it, but I am taking a passage and getting truths about my life from it even though the passage doesn’t directly deal with my dilemma.  I guess I am just wanted to distinguish between the problems of eisegesis and what I see as allowing the Spirit to speak truths into our lives from unconventional sources.  These sources aren’t always directly addressing the truth the Spirit is speaking to us, but He is speaking to a truth that is  relevant.  Sometimes that source is Scripture, other times it is some album we are listening to, or a movie or tv we watched.  I believe the Spirit has the power to take the “ordinary” things of our lives, and speak divine and profound truth to us through those things.  We just can’t expect to universalize these “personal truths” and expect them to apply to all persons. “S0 whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.” Romans 14:22
[META-MOMENT: did I just eisegete that passage when I use a quote from Paul to say something Paul didn’t originally intend when he wrote it?   Can we ever utilize the words of Scripture to speak our own truths into the world, without meaning or intending to imply that this message we are speaking is what the original speaker/author intended or meant with the passage in question?]
These are the things that I sometimes struggle with, because some people intentionally use old familiar phrases sometimes from scripture, sometimes from elsewhere, that didn’t originally say what the new speaker is saying, and they use these familiar phrases and passages to grab the attention of the audience and then speak new truths into their lives, and others simply don’t realize that they are imposing their perspectives onto the authors writings and reading their own thoughts into the text.  Where is the line of inappropriate and appropriate “poetic license” in this sense?  I personally don’t know at this stage and simply pose the question for further input from others.
As a bonus, during the course of writing this, I came up with a succinct summary of what I see as a simple juxtaposition of the differences between eisegesis vs. Exegesis:
Eisegesis is taking our words making it their Gospel, whereas Exegesis takes their Gospel and puts it into our words. (“their” in this sentence referring to the Biblical authors).
I hope you have enjoyed this as much as I have, and I hope the reading of this benefits others as much as writing it benefitted me.

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