6. The Reformed Perspective
Those trained in the Reformed system of interpretation will read the Bible deductively through the lens of the sovereignty of God. Although I resonate much with this system, I have also seen some go to extremes and become passive in regard to fasting and prayer related to winning souls, and extending God’s mission and kingdom on the earth, since some proponents of this perspective de-emphasize human responsibility more than Scripture does.
7. The Free Will Perspective
On the opposite extreme from the Reformed (Calvinist) perspective is a free-will (Arminian) perspective that over-emphasizes human responsibility to the extent that God’s sovereignty is sometimes compromised. This leads to superficially interpreting difficult passages regarding divine calling and election (e.g. Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4) by replacing predestination with foreknowledge (Calvinists don’t really separate the two), so that God chooses someone based on Him already knowing that person would (of their own free choice) choose Him in the first place.
Also, an over-emphasis on free will leads to process theology and open theism, which teaches that God doesn’t really know everything in the future because much of it is unknowable! This extreme emphasis on free will makes it very hard to trust in the relevance of Scripture since, if God is still learning and growing as the future unfolds, it makes it extremely difficult to have a biblical worldview in economics, science, politics, law, ethics, morality, family and sexual orientation because of the inability to have trans-historical universal principles that we can trust! Also, if God is not sovereign, then humankind is semi-autonomous—which historically has flung open the doors to liberalism.
8. The Kingdom Perspective
The kingdom perspective interprets much of Scripture and biblical themes as emanating out of the original cultural commission as found in Genesis 1:27-28. The primary theme of the New Testament is not the church, soul-winning or even discipleship; it is the kingdom of God, which is the rule of God over all creation. This perspective motivates people to understand the sacred calling they have in regard to stewarding their God-given gifts and abilities, to serve with excellence in the marketplace.
Discipleship in this perspective does not just involve the teaching of individual sinners, but the discipleship of whole nations in accordance with their interpretation of Matthew 28:19. They believe that the gospel is holistic and should not only redeem sinners but also transform the systems of culture (politics, economics, art, law, ethics, music, family, education, science, etc.)
The challenge for this perspective is the tendency to think we are doing God’s kingdom work just by improving the quality of life in our communities, even if we are not winning souls and making disciples.
9. The Individualistic Perspective
This is a common perspective that can arise out of our national culture (e.g. rugged American individualism as personified in our iconic action heroes like John Wayne and Rambo).
The weakness of this perspective is that much of the Bible was written either to the nation of Israel (Old Testament) or the Body of Christ (New Testament). Thus, we cannot fulfill our destiny and accomplish our mission in life merely by ourselves; we need to submit to a local church, and function in the corporate context of Scripture if we want to reap the fullness of the blessings of the promises of Scripture.
10. The Ecclesial Perspective
Those with this perspective think that the church is the kingdom of God; that we are not called to infiltrate and disciple the nations of the world with the gospel, but that we are to focus on building our own subcultures within our congregations. Those with this view have a great understanding of the corporate nature of Scripture. But many in this camp fail to understand how the church should be sent into the world as salt and light.
In this view, the church is to function as heaven on earth—which I agree with. But I believe they fail to understand the breadth of the mission of the church to bring God’s kingdom and will on earth as it is in heaven (see Luke 11:2-4).
In conclusion, there are many more perspectives I could have mentioned. For the sake of time, I have only mentioned ten of the main perspectives I have seen influencing the people of God today in the global church.
As stated earlier, these are only based on my observations and, because of this, they are limited by my own perspective and experience. I also realize that articles of this sort merely paint pictures with a broad brush and miss the nuances and overlap of many of these perspectives.
My prayer is that we will try to be more open in regard to the interpretive system we bring to the table, based on our perspectives, and that we ask God to help us see what ways we may be limiting our capacity to interpret the Word, based on the biblical authors’ original intent as inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Joseph Mattera has been in full-time ministry since 1980 and is currently the presiding bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York, a multiethnic congregation of 40 nationalities that has successfully developed numerous leaders and holistic ministry in the New York region and beyond. Click here to visit his website.
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