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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : Are we trying to be too clever?

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Heydave
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Joined: 2008/4/12
Posts: 1306
Hampshire, UK

 Are we trying to be too clever?

The purpose of Parables.

Reading various posts on here made me think about how often the simple truths Christ taught using illustrations and parables can become overly dissected to find meanings that I think He never intended.

A parable is a short allegorical story intended to illustrate a truth or principle. Christ used parables a lot to explain spiritual truths using every day common things for people to understand. The stories are normally intended to make simple points, but if we start looking for details within the story rather than see the basic point that is being made we end up causing confusion aynd constructing doctrines never intended.

For example in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins the illustration is based around a wedding tradition familiar with those Christ was speaking to at that time. The focus is on one aspect of this wedding, which is the virgins waiting for the bridegroom and the point being made is that just like these virgins who need to be awake and ready for the bridegroom, so should we be ready for when Christ returns. That’s the only thing He wanted to teach in this. However many dig into this illustration and explain who is the bride, what the oil is, who are the guests, etc , etc, and then use this to support a particular doctrine of the return of Christ. But this was never intended to form a doctrinal view of the return of Christ. It was only meant to illustrate the importance of being ready.

Recently I gave an illustration about being a passenger on an airline and how you get lots of information, primarily from the cabin staff about such things as safety, meals, duty free offers, etc. However when the captain’s voice comes over the speakers you really take note and are relieved to hear that the aircraft you are on is actually going to where you wanted and what the expected time of arrival is and everything is under control. The point of this illustration (or parable) is that although there are many voices in life that can give us useful information, the Captain’s (Jesus Christ) voice is the only one that can assure us of our destination and give us peace on our spiritual journey. Now if someone hearing my illustration started to try and say that the cabin staff are angels or because the seats recline in an aircraft that teaches us we can just relax and not work, I would have to say that is not the point of my illustration. It is just about which voice is most important to hear! In the same way I wonder if Jesus thinks the same about all the different interpretations people put on His parables, when the simple point is quite obvious?

Parables should never be used to form doctrine. They can illuminate and confirm doctrine, but not used to form it. Also we should not make the clear statements of scripture fit into parables, as parables are to complement and illustrate the clear teaching of scripture.


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Dave

 2014/3/19 17:08Profile
TMK
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Joined: 2012/2/8
Posts: 5389
NC, USA

 Re: Are we trying to be too clever?

I tend to agree with you in general. The problem is that we tend to pick and choose which parables we use to support a certain doctrine. Others are just nice stories.

For example, certain people use Jesus's story of lazarus and the rich man to establish a doctrine of hell as a place of eternal torment. I believe it is a parable about the hard heartedness of the pharisees. That story was a borrowed story that was already in existence, sort of like we might use an Aesop fable today.

We don't have to think that Jesus was talking about real situations when he told parables. He sometimes even said some things in real life that couldn't be right in order to make a point. for example, in the story of the rich young ruler, the ruler asked Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus told him to keep the commandments. but we know that isn't right. But he said that to convict the young ruler where he needed to be convicted. Jesus intention was not to give a dissertation on how to be saved.

In the case of the 10 virgins parable, I agree 100% that is is over-done. My response in that other thread was simply to show that there are alternative interpretations to a dogmatic insistence that it must mean one and only one thing, I personally agree with your interpretation and that is always how I have looked at it. "Be ready!" For what? It doesn't matter. Scripture is full of admonitions to be ready or to be alert.


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Todd

 2014/3/19 17:31Profile
savannah
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Joined: 2008/10/30
Posts: 2010


 Re: The purpose of Parables.



"The purpose of Parables." According to Jesus.


Matthew 13:10-13 And the disciples came, and said to him, Why speakest thou to them in parables? He answered and said to them, Because it is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
For whoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath. Therefore I speak to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

Mark 4:10-12 And when he was alone, they that were about him, with the twelve, asked of him the parable. And he said to them, To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but to them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

Luke 8:9,10 Then His disciples asked Him, saying, "What does this parable mean?" And He said, "To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest they are in parables, that 'Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.'

"A mystery does not denote an unknowable thing, but one which is withdrawn from knowledge or manifestation, and which cannot be known without special manifestation of it. Hence appropriate to the things of the kingdom of heaven, which could be known only by revelation. Paul (Phi_4:12) says, “I am instructed (μεμύημαι) both to be full and to be hungry,” etc. But Rev. gives more correctly the force of instructed, by rendering I have learned the secret: the verb being μυέω (from the same root as μυστήρια) to initiate into the mysteries." (W.E. Vine)

"To ascertain fully the meaning of the present passage, we must examine more closely the design of Christ, the reason why, and the purpose for which, these words were spoken. First, the comparison is undoubtedly intended by Christ to exhibit the magnitude of the grace bestowed on his disciples, in having specially received what was not given indiscriminately to all. If it is asked, why this privilege was peculiar to the apostles,181 the reason certainly will not be found in themselves, and Christ, by declaring that it was given to them, excludes all merit.182 Christ declares that there are certain and elect men, on whom God specially bestows this honor of revealing to them his secrets, and that others are deprived of this grace. No other reason will be found for this distinction, except that God calls to himself those whom he has gratuitously elected." - J.C.

 2014/3/19 19:34Profile
Heydave
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Joined: 2008/4/12
Posts: 1306
Hampshire, UK

 Re:

Savannah,

Yes I was aware that these points may be brought up.

The thing is, Jesus could not be saying that all the parables are only understandable to those who have special 'gnōsis' (knowledge). Jesus clearly explained some of the parables to the disciples that He did not explain to others. We know they could not understand any better than anyone else if it had not been explained to them.
For example the parable of the sower is clearly explained to them and to us who read it. Also the parable of the Ten Virgins Christ explains afterward by saying "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming." Many other times the parables are explained like this.

Also there were parables such as the 'Good Samaritan' given to a 'lawyer' who was testing Christ. In this he clearly answers his question 'who is my neighbour?' at the end of the parable by what he told the lawyer. Another instance is the parable Christ gave to the Pharisees about the vineyard in Luke 20 and how the tenants killed the owner of the vineyard's son, so the owner gave it to others. In verse 19 it says 'that the chief priests and scribes knew He had spoken this parable against them'. They knew exactly what He was saying.

My point is that you cannot say the parables were not understandable except to the 'elect'. Christ spoke things in parables to many different people and told them what He wanted them to understand. Some things He did only explain and tell his disciples. But if we are His disciples and we read His explanation to them, we can understand clearly what He is saying.

Now there is a truth that the gospel is spiritually discerned and the 'natural' man does not understand the things of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14), but this is not just parables but all spiritual truth even when clearly presented. In Luke 18:31-34 Jesus told the 'twelve' CLEARLY that He was going to be delivered up and killed, but on the third day He would rise. However it says they did not understand none of these things, because it was hidden from them! Now Jesus did not hide it from them. He told them clearly here and at other times. It was hidden from them because they were looking at things in the 'natural' and it just did not fit their perspective of what they thought.

It is a mistake to interpret 'it was hidden from them' as a verb that God was doing something to them to make it hidden. It is more likely that it is an adjective describing their condition of not seeing it. I have many times spoken what seems to be clear to someone in a cult and they just can't see it, even though it is blindingly obvious to everyone else. Why? Because their minds have been fixed to think a certain way and they just cannot process something that contradicts what they have established in their minds.


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Dave

 2014/3/20 7:37Profile
Sidewalk
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Joined: 2011/11/11
Posts: 706
San Diego

 Re: The Good Samaritan

It is my opinion that the story of the Good Samaritan could not have been a parable, because in the story He describes specific individuals making actual choices of behavior. To make up a story with the good guy being someone from the hated region of Samaria, and using the actual titles of the men who refused to help, Jesus would have been guilty of slander.

Rather, He most likely was fully aware of this actual event, and also it was likely that one of the actual participants was in the listening audience.

No proof of any of that, but I have a list of questions to ask one day, and this one is on it.


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Tom Cameron

 2014/3/20 11:24Profile
Heydave
Member



Joined: 2008/4/12
Posts: 1306
Hampshire, UK

 Re:

Hi Sidewalk,

Interesting what you say. Obviously we cannot know if it was a true story or not. However that does not disqualify it from being a parable in the sense that it's purpose is to illustrate a truth about what it means to be a neighbour.
A parable can use actual events to illustrate a point, like my 'parable' of taking a flight.

In my bible it does not give names, it say " a certain man", " a certain Priest", "a Levite" and " a certain Samaritan". Why would that be slander? He is just saying 'if this happened like this, who is the neighbour to the man needing help?'


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Dave

 2014/3/20 11:39Profile
twayneb
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Joined: 2009/4/5
Posts: 2002
Joplin, Missouri

 Re:

heydave: ...a priest, a rabbi, and a Pentecostal preacher...


I do believe the good Samaritan is a parable, and an indictment against the Jewish religious leadership. It was a very pointed parable.


Jesus spoke very plainly to the disciples, telling them off spiritual things that were a mystery to the people in general. I spoke to a man l last night who said before he was saved he tried to read the bible but just did not get it. now he devours the bible and understands. A case of having hearing ears for sure. That does not mean the people had no ability to understand the point Jesus was making, but they were deaf and blind to the things of the spirit of God, so he used parables to make his point.


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Travis

 2014/3/20 17:12Profile
Sidewalk
Member



Joined: 2011/11/11
Posts: 706
San Diego

 Re: Parables versus stories

In the case of the God Samaritan all the details are local, time congruent, and use what we would consider current titles for the participants.

In a parable, a King might go to a far country to receive a kingdom, a widow sweeps her house looking for a coin, a rebellious kid squanders a fortune and comes home in shame- but no class of person is besmirched by the narrative. Not so for the priest, the Levite, and even conversely for the Samaritan- the men with these titles lived under a strict social expectation and I do not believe Jesus had license to make especially the negative connections unless there had been actual men doing what Jesus described.

In reality, part of the teaching about being a neighbor in this case is another truth that titles do not guarantee good behavior.

I do believe, knowing just how wiley our Savior was in public ministry, that this particular illustration came to his lips because at least one of the perpetrators was listening.

And that is another truth, not a one of us will get away with a lie, a deception, a grasp at undeserved honor, a sweet secret sin without His knowing, and without His just response!

We could list famous preachers whose hidden sin has hit the front pages but we won't- because ours deserves to be there as well. He forgives, He restores, but He won't be mocked.

A real priest and a real Levite walked past a wounded man- and God graciously gave them a witness and an opportunity to repent, don't you think?


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Tom Cameron

 2014/3/20 23:59Profile









 Re: Are we trying to be too clever?

HI Dave,

In answer to your post's question, yes, I believe we are often trying to be too clever and somewhere along the way we lose sight of the simple but always profound truth. In part I think it is because of ego,( knowledge puffs up and men compete in the arena of knowledge for dominance) Also another part in my opinion is the pre-conceived notion. We take what we think we know, and then apply that grid to Scripture, parables included, and then we make it say what we want it to say.............bro Frank

 2014/3/21 9:51
twayneb
Member



Joined: 2009/4/5
Posts: 2002
Joplin, Missouri

 Re:

Frank: Very true, but this does not only apply to parables. We have a tendency to look at all scripture through glasses that are the color of our pre-established beliefs about God and His word. It often tempts us to tug scriptures just a little bit out of context or to choose one shadow of meaning for a word rather than another to make the scriptures say what we already believe that they should say. This is not always blatant, and does not mean that we are a heretic. But it can keep us locked into slightly erroneous doctrine that can blind is to wonderful truths in scripture. This condition is seldom easy for us to recognize in ourselves, and often hard for us to admit since it means realizing we were wrong and admitting as much.


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Travis

 2014/3/23 18:05Profile





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