Tag Archives: biblical interpretation

On the danger of turning norms into absolutes

(Old Facebook Post)

One danger in biblical interpretation is the temptation to turn pragmatic norms into absolute rules. I’ve been thinking about this in relation to the question of who may baptize or serve the Lord’s Supper.

It is only natural and right, given biblical teaching about the responsibility pastors/elders bear to lead churches, and given socially-driven expectations placed upon leaders, that they will regularly perform baptisms and serve the Lord’s Supper. However, besides the command in the Great Commission about baptizing (Matt. 28:19), no biblical text gives any explicit instructions whatsoever about who should perform either of these tasks. Yet most Protestant and Anabaptist congregations have created a near-absolute rule that only ordained ministers may “administer the ordinances.” I think this does violence to Scripture, turning norms into absolutes.

Indeed, it could be argued that the more mature a local church is, the freer its individual members will be to all baptize and serve the Lord’s Supper without direct ministerial participation. As I understand it, Ephesians 4:11-12 does not say that leaders are given “for the work of ministry” (as KJV wrongly indicates), but that they are to given “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (ESV). Should not a well-equipped saint be prepared for “every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16), including baptizing new believers and celebrating the Lord’s Supper with fellow saints?


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“When people add to the Word of God”

(Old Facebook Post)

Satan and His Kingdom: What the Bible Says and How It Matters to You Buy on Amazon Dennis McCallum on adding to God’s Word:

“How much should we make of Eve’s addition to God’s Word–that even touching the fruit would cause death? [See Genesis 3:2. God had only said, “If you eat it’s fruit, you are sure to die.” Genesis 2:17, italics added.] Some commentators think this is significant, and I tend to agree.

“Remember, Eve wasn’t around when God spoke his directive to Adam… Therefore, Adam probably had to convey what God had said. Perhaps he decided to play it safe and, just in case, add a restriction that God never mentioned. If so, his addition is similar to what believers have historically done with God’s Word. Instead of sticking with what God has said, we tend to add extra restrictions, as layers of protection or control…

“When people add to the Word of God, they tend to add more boundaries and guidelines than he gave in the original. Such additions can become openings for Satan because they represent God as being needlessly restrictive and portray the Christian life as stuffy and unlivable. Satan then uses this to call God’s character into question.”

Excerpts from Satan and His Kingdom: What the Bible Says and How It Matters to You (Bloomington, Minnesota: Bethany House, 2009), page 29. (The bracketed comment and the boldface were added by me.)


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