Hermeneutics: What Difference Does It Make?

Speaker: Categories: Oct 14, 1995


[1hr, 15min, 26sec / 41min, 57sec]


Each of you is likely also a reader of the Bible. Some might even confess to studying the Scriptures. But the thought of there being more than one way to do such an essential task is disturbing to many -- for they know that whatever way they've been doing is right!

"Delegates to the General Conference Session at Utrecht last July who voted for or against the ordination of women," notes our October speaker, "were motivated by different ways of understanding the Bible. As never before, that highly emotional vote riveted the attention of the church on the importance of biblical hermeneutics."

Dr. Cottrell further contends, "The subject of hermeneutics has also been at the root of other doctrinal differences in years past, such as Dr. Desmond Ford's questions about the investigative judgment at Glacier View fifteen years ago. (Incidentally, Australia reports that more than one-hundred eighty ministers who agreed with Ford left the church as a result.)" It would appear then that this is a topic of major importance to those who have, like reformers before, advocated sola scriptura.

"There is a heightened awareness in the church today," observes Dr. Cottrell, "of the need to face up objectively and realistically to the question of hermeneutics, in order to provide a firmer basis for evaluating both doctrine and church policy and practice (and resolving issues before they arise)."

That sounds good, doesn't it? But is it likely to happen? What are the prospects of the far right and the far left reaching a common understanding of how to go about biblical research and, in so doing, agree on the hermeneutics dilemma?

While teaching biblical exegesis at Pacific Union College fifty years ago, our speaker became aware of the importance of hermeneutics for an accurate, reliable understanding of the Bible. He has made this the central focus of his research and study ever since.

In the process of writing more than two thousand pages for the SDA Bible Commentary and Encyclopedia, and editing the Commentary from Genesis to Revelation, he was afforded opportunity to refine his own biblical hermeneutic. Since then, he has written more than a score of papers on this topic, the best known of which is probably the article, The Role of Israel in Old Testament Prophecy, in volume four of the Commentary.


Dr. Raymond Cottrell has been a presenter at the San Diego Chapter, Association of Adventist Forums, on eleven occasions during the past fifteen years. His most recent visit, just one year ago, addressed the topic: Whither Adventist Creationism? His forty-seven years of full-time denominational service have included pastoring in this Union, mission service in China, Bible teaching at Pacific Union College, and serving as editor, Review and Herald Publishing Company, from which he retired in 1977. He has continued active in numerous roles of university teaching, Conference committee membership, and most recently as editor of Adventist Today. Past experience would affirm that, whenever he speaks at a San Diego Forum meeting, those in attendance learn and find their thinking challenged!

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