THE HERMENEUTICAL CIRCLE | Understanding Our Checked Baggage

“We’ve got to make room in the baggage we carry for the understanding of what God is trying to tell us.” – #ToddCPittman

Yep I Said It!

In late 2020 I was moved to commence graduate studies. My mind raced in a circle as to whether I should focus my time pursuing an MBA to further my professional career or enter a graduate-level Christian studies program to personally further equip me with knowledge in biblical and theological learning to enhance my Christian faith and witness. Well, after praying on it, a pursuit of investing money and time into a limited professional career did not outweigh the ROI of a personal pursuit and an eternal investment in God’s Kingdom. So since January 18, 2021, instead of reading one of the #1 books for MBA students, “The Lean Startup” I have received the opportunity to read new insights into biblical hermeneutics and ways in which interpretive models can help in my biblical understanding and interpretation. That pursuit has led me to look closer at this process of understanding called “The Hermeneutical Circle” and a question posed in Chapter 3 of the book titled, “Biblical Hermeneutics Five Views.” In the chapter, The Philosophical/Theological View” authored by Merold Westphal, the question was posed “What is going on, often behind our backs, when we interpret texts and other phenomena?” 

What Is the Hermeneutical Circle?

Hmmm, to get a better understanding of what the heck is going on behind my back, I wanted to settle on what’s first in front of me and my basic understanding of the hermeneutical circle. With that, I came to the understanding that the hermeneutical circle is about taking a body of scriptural text – meaning that text that has a concept or has a message – and breaking that text into the smallest parts by taking each one of those parts and relating it to the overall concept or the big picture of the text itself. What I believe is that by going through the hermeneutical circle I will gain a higher level of understanding of a certain concept of the Scripture.

But What about My Presuppositions to Scriptural Text?

I believe that my seminary Professor, Dr. Casey B. Hough, put it best when he said, “. . . none of us are ever unbiased, uninfluenced interpreters of the text. Every one of us reads the text with cultural, historical, and emotional baggage.” I think of navigating my own biases in biblical interpretation as to when I used to navigate my way to baggage claim after getting off a business flight. Often after a long business flight, I would navigate to the airline’s VIP lounge for a beverage and a snack and take a moment to unwind before picking up my checked baggage. Similarly, when it comes to reading and interpreting the text, there are times when we need to wait a while before we go to baggage claim to retrieve our cultural, historical, and emotional baggage. Before I fully settle on the specific biblical interpretation I realize that I need to not only become acquainted with the ancient biblical culture that is assumed by the texts, but I must also read the Bible from the macro-level perspective in which the text was written. I do not doubt that reading the Bible from its context will not only help me to understand what the Bible is speaking to but will also provide what genuine messages God wants to tell me. Checking my cultural, historical, and emotional baggage not just helps my Christian faith, but also helps those around me to have a logical understanding of the Bible and Christianity.

Righteous Anger or Self-centered Joy?

“I’m trying to practice a little more sorrow in humility than joy in pride.” – #ToddCPittman

Yep, I Said It!

. . . and so did Proverbs 15:1 | NLT | A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.

“Back to the practical tips for living, the Book of Proverbs. The scriptures in this book help me to put my self-centeredness in check. You know what I’m talking about. There have been times in the past when someone has brought to our attention our wrongs and we will make it right by cussin’ them out. Instead of receiving the heads up on a self-improvement opportunity, we would rather happily tell someone off than to reflect on what we’ve done wrong. There is a big difference between righteous anger and reactive anger that brings carnal joy. In the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus ran the money lenders out of the temple, that was righteous anger. But when our wrongs are brought to our attention and we, in turn, tell people off, block them on our phone, de-friend them on social media, and continue to develop our dysfunctional relationship with the truth – that my peeps are examples of us living an average, unconverted life – the type of life that leads from one mess to another. Let’s not let our feelings drive us to say and do things just to set things right as we see it. Remember, think before we speak, what we sow, we reap.” – #ToddCPittman

“Look Inward, Not Outward”

“Our facade will get us but so far and only fool those that don’t make a difference.” – #ToddCPittman

“1 Samuel serves as a good reminder that we are given choices in life. Two of the many choices we have are how we look at other people and how we present ourselves to the world. In other words, we can choose to limit our vision of who a person is by being impressed by their physical looks or wealth and we can also limit our prosperity by putting our energy into pleasing those around us whose accolades have no weight when it comes to our eternal fate. Let us learn from the prophet Samuel and how his limited perspective impacted his ability to see beyond outward appearances. Good looks don’t make a good leader and a fat bank account doesn’t give us perspicacity. We need to be careful to not judge a book by its cover and stop wasting our time and resources on being people pleasers. Instead, let’s put our attention to what we can do to transform the thoughts from our minds and the words that flow from our lips to ensure that they are pleasing to God. Let’s make fewer deposits into false narratives here in the natural and increase our investment in our treasure in heaven.” – #ToddCPittman

“Opportunists Have Been Busy for a Long Time”

“We can follow those who exploit circumstances to fulfill their agenda, or we can cast false narratives and heed to the warning from back in the day.” – #ToddCPittman

Yep, I Said It!

. . . and so did Matthew 24:4-5 | NLT | 4 Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, 5 for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many

“Sometimes I think we are reliving Michael J. Fox’s ‘Back to the Future”, but this time going back to somewhere around AD 80 – 90. No joke! That’s when Jesus gave a heads up to His disciples that they would be overrun by folks claiming that reality is not real and there will be so many fraudsters He warned folks not to be overwhelmed. Then is now. Just turn on the tv or take a peek at the divisiveness exposed on Tik Tok and you will find people exploiting circumstances for their advancement. Unfortunately, today we have those around us that will give us bad advice, spread mistruths to manipulate our opinion and work against us with the misperception that bringing us down will bring them up. Don’t be overwhelmed! Let’s not be tricked by people around us who would like to have the appearance of godliness, but deny His power!” – #ToddCPittman

Important Life Skill | Handling Anger

Yep, I Said It! – “We can’t control the way other folks act to circumstances, but we darn sure can control how we do.” – #ToddCPittman

Yep, I Said It!

. . . and so did Psalm 37:8 (NLT) – Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm.

“Handling anger is a life skill that if not mastered will lead to our destruction. I can speak for myself when I say ‘IT AIN’T EASY!” But when we realize how anger ruins our health and steals our joy, we will realize the need to stop justifying our anger and start taking accountability for it. A lot of folks pay for counseling sessions – and I am 100% for counseling – but let us not forget to include the most Wonderful Counselor. The counselor who prays for us. The counselor who through His salvation never leaves us. And the unsurpassed thing is His counseling is free! Outside of putting in the work to follow God’s Word – there are no financial costs to receive the principles on how we can handle our irritating circumstances in a godly manner and overcome sinful anger. Let’s master this ya’ll! Let’s not let anger become entrenched in our lives. When we habitually practice reliance on God’s Holy Spirit, we will not only overcome ungodly anger, but we will glorify Him in our response!” – #ToddCPittman

“We’ve Got to Be Accountable for Our Actions”

“We can hide behind our wrongs or we can acknowledge them out of love for our family and friends.” – #ToddCPittman

Yep, I Said It!

and so did . . . 2 Samuel 24:16-17 – (16) But as the angel was preparing to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented and said to the death angel, “Stop! That is enough!” At that moment the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. (17) When David saw the angel, he said to the Lord, “I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? Let your anger fall against me and my family.”

“This morning I read from 2 Samuel, and it was in Chapter 24:16-17 that reminds us of being accountable for our actions. Look we all have sinned and will probably sin again and David was no exception. But the question that comes to mind is are we going to own up to our sin or let others around us pay the price for our mishaps, missteps, and blatant mistruths and then sit back and wonder why family and friends show us nothing but mistrust? Let’s make today the day to be accountable. Let’s make today the day to ask for forgiveness. Let’s make today the day we own up to our wrongs and bear the punishment until God says enough! Oh, and believe me – true testimony – He will eventually say enough is enough. But first, we have to take enough ownership in the circumstances we create to realize that repentance might lead to discomfort and know that God does use evil agents and uncomfortable circumstances in us to accomplish His purpose. Bottom line, whether MAN or WOMAN, It’s time for us to man up!” – #ToddCPittman

“Alcohol Is a Creepy Controller”

“Whether its too much to eat, drink, or smoke we’ve got to control what’s under our control before we lose control.” – #ToddCPittman

Yep, I Said It!

. . . and so did Proverbs 20:1 – (20) Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls. Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.

“Whenever we need a dose of straight to the point knowledge, all we have to do is turn to the metonymical wisdom in Proverbs 20, starting with the first verse. Now I know most of us have gotten our drink on before – you know what I’m talking about – that substance of choice when we need to take the edge off. Back in the day, my substance of choice was Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum, but let’s remind each other not to let our substance of choice blind us from the substance in Proverbs 20:1. Look, whether we eat too much, drink too much, or we’re consumed by greed its all the sin of gluttony. So let’s not let those sins creep up and take control. We prevent the sin from controlling by PRACTICING control. We regain control from the sin by TAKING control. Either way, the key is to relate the sin to our relationship with God. Understand that whatever the sin – be it overindulgence of alcohol, food, drugs, whatever – we’ve got to know that it’s not just about our will power, but about how we view God and His work in our lives. Believe me, when we exercise gratefulness, gratitude covers many sins.” – #ToddCPittman

“More Gets Done Through Fellowship”

“There is no doubt working together in fellowship lightens the load.” – #ToddCPittman

Yep, I Said It!

. . . and so did Exodus 18:13-26

“This morning I was so glad I listened to those Angels encouraging me to open my Bibles instead of the devil’s soldiers screaming at me this morning to leave them in my bag, stick to the growing demands of my J-O-B, and open up my laptop. You see, we’ve got to be careful to not get caught up in putting our earthly work before our spirtual studies. The scriptures in Exodus 18:13-26 was a good reminder this morning that we need to be careful not to take on too much. When Moses was trying to cater to as many people of Isreal as he could, his father-in-law Jethro stepped in and gave him some good advice to avoid burnout. In fact, he gave him a job description which communicated to build a team, teach that team, and lead by example. We too can start to lighten our day to day pressures if we begin to strengthen the bond between our family and the people around us, share our wisdom and experience with those who can benefit from our testimony, and most importantly set an example of walking our path that can serve as a model for others on their own destiny walk. To get this job here on earth done, let’s work with in harmony not discord.” – #ToddCPittman

“Is it Tough Love or Godly Guidance?”

“The key to difficulties and discipline is how we receive and react in the follow-up.” – #ToddCPittman

Yep, I Said It!

. . . and so did Deuteronomy 8:5 (NLT) – (5) Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.

“For those of us who are parents we have been both the recipient and provider of tough love. When I read from Deuteronomy 8 this morning it was in 8:5 that had me thinking if the discipline to our children back in the day was tough love or Godly guidance. But when I read Webster’s definition of tough love and studied the biblical direction Moses gave his people before letting them move on, I found biblical confirmation that we can’t get soft on keeping our children on the right path, and I don’t care how old they are. Yep, I Said It! All of the discipline and restrictions we direct to our children are not done out of rage or fury, but in love! But hold on now, yes, these are times of Godly guidance but just as we expect our children to patiently endure times of discipline, WE TOO must patiently endure those times when our Father chastises us for our own good. Let’s remember that any difficulty that comes our way is appointed, sent, directed, and overruled by God for his own glory and our good!” – #ToddCPittman