Elder O. B. Mink
Now In Glory
“...We use great plainness of speech” (II Corinthians 3:12).
At the risk of seeming to be inconsistent with the text, I am going to give a subtitle to this article; namely, Hyper-Allegoricalism. This is a high-sounding phrase, but it simply means the over spiritualizing of Scripture. Already a great gulf exists between the Holy Spirit taught Bible expositor, and the average hearer. To spiritualize Scriptures that do not lend themselves to the allegorical method of interpretation, is to broaden this gulf.
Over spiritualizing Scripture causes the true meaning to grow thin, nullifies the force, creates confusion, and ascertains nothing. Spiritualizing calls for an imaginary description. Being aware of this, the Gospel minister needs to exercise extreme caution so as not to be-cloud with mystery the truth he is attempting to convey. But, alas, it appears as if there always will be those around who think they are capable of a higher conception of God’s Word, and laboring under this false premise, they take the plainest narratives of Scripture and turn them into vague abstractions. Spiritualizers are often guilty of trying to improve upon the Scriptures. In this hour of apostasy I would not be surprised to learn that some of them which claim great ability in this method of interpretation, have corrected, enlarged and improved upon the Sermon on the Mount. It might be to their dismay, but they need to learn, God is never going to quote them for verification of His Word.
Interpreting Scripture by Scripture
There are many Scriptures, especially in the Old Testament which are to be allegorically interpreted, but we are to get our interpretation from the interpretations found in the Bible itself. That is what Paul meant when he said, “Rightly dividing the Word of truth.” So it goes with all Bible allegories. The Divine explanation is all that is necessary to understand the exact truth conveyed. We should ever be aware that when we are interpreting any verse of’ Scripture, we are dealing with the very words of the Holy Spirit. The explanation is not left to the powers of finite intellect, but must be totally the work of the Holy Spirit, unalloyed with the wisdom of man. This does not rule out the fact that God works mediately. He does, through His church, the written Word, Holy Spirit called ministers and by any means He pleases to work through. He has given to His churches, pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). Yet the hearer is responsible to prove all things, holding fast only to that which is good (II Thessalonians 5:21). That is, make sure what you receive as good comes from the crucible of the Holy Spirit.
Various Forms of Language Used in Scripture
Many forms of language are used in the Scriptures. Such as, similes, parables, riddles, fables, types, symbols, metaphors, allegories, proverbs and other forms of human expression. All of these are used in Scripture to clarify rather than confuse. These are given so the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work (II Timothy 3:16). But irreparable damage has resulted from the abuse and misuse of these various forms of language. Every text of Scripture being interpreted is to be subjected to the whole of Divine revelation, conclusions that are not perfectly consistent with the whole are at their best erroneous conclusions. The wise student will exercise double censorship where figurative language is being interpreted.
ALLEGORICAL - “Having hidden spiritual meaning transcending the literal sense of a sacred text.” (Webster)
HYPER - “Above, beyond, super, excessive.” (Webster)
HYPER-ALLEGORICAL - By combining the above definitions, we get, imaginary meaning which transcends, is beyond, and excessive of the literal and spiritual sense of a sacred text.
What is a Hyper-allegorist?
a. It is a person that takes undue liberty in assigning allegorical meanings to passages of Scripture that are to be taken literally.
b. It is a person that takes an allegorical passage, and distorts the true meaning to fit his heretical notion.
To the hyper-allegorist there are no difficult passages in the Scriptures. All he need do is lay his patented rule upon any passage, and he will get the desired dimension. The allegorical method of interpreting Scripture is a real comfort to the reckless exegete. To him it is like a safety valve whereby anything that does not suit his mood, he just drains into the gutter and the truth disappears under his feet. Great pain is taken by them to find a hidden meaning when, in fact, there is none, (but the hyper-allegorist will not be denied,) so he invents one. To the honest and sincere student of the Word the hyper-allegorist appears as a mad bull in a china shop, by him everything in Scripture is reduced to shambles. I do not want to be unduly critical of the allegorical method of interpretation, but it is the height of theological irresponsibility to adopt the allegorical method as an overall technique of interpreting the Bible. To take a text of Scripture which is to be received literally, and immerse it in the unfathomable waters of allegoricalism is PLAIN subverting the Word of God.
The fundamental hermeneutical principle in Bible interpretation is: NEVER AVOID THE CONTEXT. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (II Peter 1:20).
Secondly, whoever takes it upon himself to give other than a literal meaning to a text is under obligation to prove from the balance of Scripture that his interpretation is correct.
Third, ascertain who is talking, unto whom he is speaking, and the subject of discourse. (Try this rule on the parables spoken by Christ, and much confusion will be eliminated as to the distinction between the Kingdom of God and the Church of God).
Fourth, a passage of Scripture which appears to be general in its application, but has been limited in another passage, the passage then must be interpreted in the light of the passage that restricts the application, and the interpretation made to conform thereto. (It is by ignoring this rule that the Arminian is given to wild excess in interpreting Scripture. He takes the words; World, All, and Every and preaches universal redemption from them. They do this with a flagrant disregard for the many other passages of Scripture limiting the application of these words).
Fifth, in the word of God the expression of one thing excludes all else unless otherwise indicated by the Scriptures. By way of illustration, consider Noah’s commission to build the Ark. “Make thee an ark of gopher wood …” (Genesis 6:14). Noah was a literalist. God had specified “Gopher wood” and Noah knew God meant what He said. Therefore, oak, pine, hickory and all other trees were disallowed. God instructed Noah to put “a window” in the ark (Genesis 6:16). If Noah had been a super-spiritualizer he would have said, “You know God must have meant more than one window for an ark so large.” Noah obeyed the literal command of God and his family was saved from perishing in the flood.
To further illustrate let us note God’s commission to King Saul to destroy the Amalekites. “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Samuel 15:3). God gave Saul a literal command with specified action, but Saul was a spiritualizer. He spared King Agag and the best of the sheep and the oxen. What could be wrong with this? He said he was doing it for a sacrifice unto the Lord. Was there anything in the command given him which forbid this action? If not, then God would be pleased with Saul, but God had told him in detail what to do regarding the Amalekites. God’s command excluded every other action that would spare a single Amalekite. But old spiritualizing Saul had to exalt his wisdom above that of God’s. Charges of idolatry and witchcraft (Hyper-allegoricalism borders on witchcraft) were brought against Saul, and he was rejected from being King (1 Samuel 15:23).
Hyper-allegoricalists have gone in the way of Cain (Jude 11). They are following the evil example of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron in offering strange fire before the Lord (Leviticus 10:1). In every single instance in Scripture where the literal was disregarded or spiritualized, the guilty incurred the disfavor of God and in this age end time men have taken unto themselves license to do what they will with the Word of God, disparaging the literal, substituting pure assumption for the old established principles of Bible doctrine. God holds these charlatans in holy contempt, and will cause them to know of His displeasure with them.
“... without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). The word “blood” in this text excludes all other would be ways of receiving forgiveness of sins. It is by the merit of Christ’s shed blood, and that ALONE one is cleansed from sin. Romanism and Protestantism have spiritualized away the power of the blood, making ineffectual the meritorious sacrifice of Christ. Protestantism destroys the efficacy of the blood by teaching baptismal regeneration. While it is incumbent upon Baptists to speak out against this damnable heresy, Baptists are not allowed to go to the other extreme and spiritualize away the Divine prerequisites which God has set to insure the proper administration of this glorious ordinance. True Baptists have for over nineteen centuries labored fervently to keep salvation detached from the ordinances. However, they have never minimized nor spiritualized away the facts, blood before water, and water before church membership, neither have they agreed with the spiritualizers which say that immersion constitutes baptism no matter who administers it. True Baptists have never spiritualized away wine in the Lord’s Supper. Some so-called fundamental Baptists have denied Christ the title of “Perfect Saviour” by substituting grape juice for wine in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.
Read the following paragraph copied from Baptize-Dip-Only, by W.A. Jarrel, and note the progress from allegorical interpretation to hyper-allegoricalism. “When Ralph Waldo Emerson was pastor of a Unitarian church in Boston, he told his church that wine was not necessary to the observance of the Lord’s Supper; that water could be used as well. So they used water instead of wine. After a while Mr. Emerson told the church that it was not necessary to partake of the water and the bread; that they could get the same spiritual benefit by sitting in their seats and contemplating the water and the bread. So they sat in their seats and looked at the water and the bread. After a while Mr. Emerson told the church that it was not necessary to put the water and the bread on the table; that they could get the same spiritual benefit from sitting in their seats and thinking about Christ; so the Lord’s Supper was eliminated in his church. After he once departed from the Scriptural example substituting water for wine, Mr. Emerson’s course was strictly logical.”
Rome mocks the efficacy of the blood by the invention of a super-duper (duper = literal) church and teaching inherited church membership. With equal daring and influenced by a strong spirit of competitiveness, some Sovereign Grace Baptists have, by their teaching, gone far down the road toward church membership salvation. The superior quality of the Lord’s true churches over the false does not depend upon the over-spiritualization of Scripture. The Lord’s churches can do without self appointed interpreters who think they have been singled out by the Lord to keep His churches from going in to apostasy. The Lord’s promise (Matthew 16:18) is all the guarantee we need that our Heavenly destination will be realized. Special blessings have been promised to the church by her prospective Groom and we need not steal the blessings promised to the Kingdom of God by spiritualizing Scriptures that pertain to the Kingdom. The church at its beginning was richly endowed with spiritual graces, and it has never seen the need of borrowing support from any organization, though it be the Kingdom of God. God has put an eternal distinction between His church and His kingdom and what God has eternally separated let no man bring together. Eternal distinction is promised to His churches (Ephesians 3:21).
Far from untangling the meshes of religious error, allegoricalism and spiritualization (Hastings Bible Dictionary uses the terms allegory and spiritualize synonymously) have been the source of infinite error, and is the handmaiden of the devil in furthering heresy. Baptist spiritualizers need be careful, for an act often repeated becomes habit, and habit is often unconsciously practiced. One may start out limiting his allegory to allegorical passages, but the history of allegoricalism proves to the contrary, this method of interpreting the Scriptures has often degenerated into magic. For instance, look at Rome’s hocus-pocus, transubstantiation, purgatory and the supposed ascent of Mary into Heaven, etc. The cult and the occult are the fearful harvests being reaped from the seed of spiritualizers and the ecumenical movement could not possibly succeed without the ability to spiritualize away the difference between the “mother of harlots” and her daughters.
Historically, Baptists have been literalists in regards to Bible interpretation. They have written their confessions of faith in plain and literal language. Though they knew the words they were writing would condemn them to the stake to be burned, yet, they did not hide their convictions under a blanket of spiritualization, or ambiguous language. Plain and literal language is yet sufficient to proclaim the Baptist message. We need not resort to deceitful handling of the Word of God. Our self conceit and ego may need it, but the Holy Spirit will allow nothing to negate the literal meaning of the Divine precepts. I repeat, there are Scriptures which may be allegorically interpreted without doing any violence to the Word of God, but let us bear constantly in mind this rule, the literal interpretation is to be given the primary place. No matter how attractive a spiritualized interpretation may be, it should never be allowed to overthrow the literal meaning.
(Sovereign Grace Advocate - November, 1983)
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