On the Warning of Interpretation

2 Peter 1:19-2:10

Peter offers up a very strict warning against those who would interpret the words of Holy Scripture in their own understanding and wisdom, rather than in accordance with the “traditions handed down” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). He states that “we (first person, the Church) have the prophetic word confirmed” and warns that “no matter of prophecy is of private interpretation.” This is possibly the strongest refutation of “Sola Scriptura” in all of Scripture. By definition, if Scripture alone is the sole authority, then no one has the right to change the meaning of Scripture itself through interpretation. The moment you make the declaration, “what this means,” it is no longer Scripture which is the authority, but rather that particular interpretation of it. Thus, the authority is given by Scripture to those who hole the “prophetic word confirmed,” which is the Church, and thus the traditions that the Church hands down.

And then he continues this grave warning by stating the repercussions when people deviate from these teachings. He warns that just as God cast down the angels, just as the ancient world was destroyed save for Noah and his family, just as Sodom and Gomorrah were reduced to ash for living ungodly lives; so will He do to those who live unjust and ungodly lives, walking according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness.

And such is the outcome of those who seek to interpret Scripture for just themselves, or (and just as dangerous, if not moreso), follow a teacher who does the same thing and eschews the teachings handed down for 2000 years. Its easy to find a verse that will allow you to justify any sin that you seek to justify. It’s easy to interpret the words of Scripture based on current social trends and opinions. And that’s precisely why it’s so imperative that we hold to the wisdom of generations past. It’s the very reason the C.H. Spurgeon stated that “those who are involved in Bible reading seldom wander off into modern theology.” Precisely because the traditions handed down to us are not tempered with current political agendas and social biases. When we interpret something ourselves, we have our own opinions on a topic and no system of checks and balances to correct us if we are found to be in error.

Peter declares here that those who do so are “presumptuous, self-willed, and not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries.” Think about it, how presumptuous are we if we consider our wisdom to be greater than 2000 years of Church councils convening, with anointed men of God presiding, to determine our doctrine? How self-willed must we be to say that no matter what wisdom is available to us, we are going to assume that they are wrong and we are right if we happen not to like what they have given to us? And Peter warns us of the end result of such mentality, errant doctrines tempered with current social opinions that lead to self-justification of ungodly lives and behaviors.

May we all, instead, cling to the teachings which the Church has maintained and handed down from generation to generation, from the teachings of St Athanasius and the affirmation of the Trinitarian God, and St Basil and the affirmation of the divinity of Christ (each of whose writings still remain) all the way through our local diocese and priests. And let us all, through the wisdom that they have given us, continue to seek after the grace of God, which alone can lead us into all manner of holiness and godliness.

Christ is in our midst.

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