Monday, April 28, 2008

Adventures in Eisegesis: Jeremiah Wright Distorts Christ's Teaching On Salvation

From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary entry for eisegesis:

Main Entry:
eis·ege·sis Listen to the pronunciation of eisegesis
\ˌī-sə-ˈjē-səs, ˈī-sə-ˌ\
Inflected Form(s):
plural eis·ege·ses Listen to the pronunciation of eisegeses \-ˌsēz\
Greek eis into (akin to Greek en in) + English exegesis — more at in
: the interpretation of a text (as of the Bible) by reading into it one's own ideas — compare exegesis

Ah, yes, eisegesis. We all commit it unintentionally time and again in our walk with the Lord. But of course a pastor should take due diligence to not deliberately or unintentionally through gross negligence do violence to the teaching of Scripture (see James 3:1-2).

Yet that is precisely what Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Sen. Barack Obama's former minister, did this morning in a Q&A session at the National Press Club when he pitted Jesus Christ against Jesus Christ on the clear teaching of Scripture about salvation through no other name than Jesus (Acts 4:12).
Question to Rev. Jeremiah Wright: "Jesus said, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father but through me.' Do you believe this and do you think Islam is a way to salvation?"

Rev. Jeremiah Wright: "Jesus also said other sheep have I who are not of this fold."

[loud applause from attendees at National Press Club]
Either Wright is saying that Jesus is contradicting himself, or that Jesus' claim of exclusivity of salvation has been historically misunderstood by the church. Either way, Wright is placing himself outside the bounds of historic, orthodox Christian teaching, and he's doing so by plucking out of context Jesus's parable of the sheepfold.

Let's look at the passage from the tenth chapter of John's gospel account:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's back up a second to verses 7-9, particularly verse 9:
7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
Jesus is "the door" by which "if anyone enters" he "will be saved" and "find pasture." Jesus emphasizes that His people know Him and He calls them out by name (vv. 3-4). What's more, these sheep know to flee false shepherds (vv. 5) who would lead them astray from the one true Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

What's so special about Christ? He's the good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep (v. 15). But what's more, after laying down His life, he picks it up again (v. 17), AND He goes out to bring in sheep who don't belong to "this fold" so that "there will be one flock, one shepherd."

That one flock is the whole church under one shepherd, Jesus Christ. The other sheep "not of this fold" are Gentile believers who would come to trust in Jesus after His resurrection thanks to the witness, preaching and teaching of the apostles. This becomes clearer later in John's gospel in chapter 17 in what is commonly referred to as the High Priestly Prayer:
I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.


I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Jesus here is praying for his apostles after the Last Supper and before His betrayal by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane. But He's not only praying for their faith but for the faith of ALL who would come to believe upon Jesus for salvation thanks to the spoken and later record (in New Testament Scripture) of the Apostles.

This High Priestly Prayer essentially sweeps the whole scope of church history. Everyone who comes to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior today comes to such a knowledge thanks to the preaching of the Gospel, as Paul made clear in his letter to the Romans (10:14-17):
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? [3] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
But back to John. It's perfectly clear that Jesus's claim of exclusivity of salvation is just as urgent in the John chapter 10 passage as it is in John 14 where He proclaims Himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). And that famous passage from John 3:16, well, that goes without saying.

Same urgency, same claim of exclusivity, and it's all predicated on Jesus Christ as THE provision from God the Father for atonement of sin and the satisfaction of God's holy wrath against sinful man. To trust in the teaching of Muhammad for salvation, or on the teachings of any other religious figure or leader in history is to vainly trust in a false shepherd.

Jesus clearly taught as much and his apostles bore witness to the same in Scripture.

Rev. Wright should make no mistake: any and all imagined paths to peace with God the Father without trusting in the death and resurrection of Christ are illusory. Jesus Christ is THE Way. THE Truth, and THE Life. He's the Door of the the sheepfold and THE Good Shepherd who calls his own sheep into safe pasture.

This is the glorious Gospel that Rev. Jeremiah Wright SHOULD preach. Sadly, one has to conclude he either doesn't believe it, or he chooses to eschew it in favor of a powerless, though bombastic social gospel.



Anonymous,  April 29, 2008 at 3:51 PM  

You gave a much more thorough explanation than I did. You made your point very well. I enjoyed reading this article.


SolaMommy April 29, 2008 at 7:56 PM  

Oh Reverend Wright, how can you be so wrong? ;) Did this man not go to seminary? Or did he go to Fuller? ;)

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