Eclectic Hermeneutics


All Scripture Quotations are from the King James Bible


By Dr. Ken Matto


It is quite interesting when a free will pastor comes across the word “election” in the Bible, they explain it away that election is not really election. However, when they come across the word “tithing, tithe, or offering” it definitely means tithe or offering with no explanation needed. I call it “Eclectic Hermeneutics.”


I remember many years ago I was in a Sunday School class at Green Brook Baptist Church in Green Brook, New Jersey.  The Sunday School teacher came across Jeremiah 1:5 and instantly in one breath stated “this is not predestination.”


Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.  (Jeremiah 1:5)


Let’s take a look at the language in that verse.  Before Jeremiah was even born, God knew him.  What is one of the great principles in Scripture concerning the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and his people?  He knows them by name, remember Lazarus come forth?  To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.  (John 10:3) Then what about the relationship between Jesus and the unbeliever?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.  (Matthew 7:23)  He didn’t know them because they were not his.  Then Jeremiah was sanctified.  Sanctification is salvation language.  By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  (Hebrews 10:10)  When a person becomes saved they are instantly sanctified, that is made holy, then the rest of their lives they experience progressive sanctification where they become more set apart for the things of God by rejecting the ways of the world and replacing them with the ways of God.


Then Jeremiah was ordained a prophet.  The word “ordained” in the Hebrew carries with it the meaning of “to put or to make.”  Before Jeremiah was born he was to be made a prophet and the only way a person could be a true prophet of God was to be saved.  It also carries the meaning of “being appointed.”  And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.  (Acts 13:48)  That same principle is carried over into the New Testament when dealing with believers as we read in Acts 13:48 where believers are “ordained” to eternal life.  The New Testament term “ordained” also carries with it the meaning of “appointed.”  If Jeremiah 1:5 is not predestination then I am six feet tall.


Here is the definition of predestination from the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary:

PREDESTINA'TION, n. The act of decreeing or foreordaining events; the decree of God by which he hath, from eternity, unchangeably appointed or determined whatever comes to pass. It is used particularly in theology to denote the preordination of men to everlasting happiness or misery.

Predestination is a part of the unchangeable plan of the divine government; or in other words, the unchangeable purpose of an unchangeable God.


Since many Christians believe in free will, I have two questions for them:


1) Did Jeremiah make a decision to follow God before he was formed in the womb? 


2) Did Jeremiah make a decision as to whether he wanted to be a prophet or not before he was formed in the womb?


The answer to these is no, how could he since he was no yet born.  His life was already pre-determined by God who appointed him a prophet before he was born.  Even Webster defines it as “unchangeably appointed or determined.”  Just like every other true believer, Jeremiah was named before the foundation of the world.


The term “Eclectic Hermeneutics” is not a subject which is taught in Bible schools yet it is encouraged in all the schools which espouse free will.  It is just another method whereby pastors and theologians can position their theological bias by explaining away passages, phrases, and words which do not fit their theological bias.


What is taught is Hermeneutics which is the science of interpretation.  The word “hermeneutics” is taken from the Greek god Hermes who was the god of trade, the messenger of the gods, and the guide to Hades.  In Biblical Hermeneutics, exegesis focuses primarily upon the word and grammar of texts. 


The science of interpretation and explanation; exegesis; esp., that branch of theology which defines the laws whereby the meaning of the Scriptures is to be ascertained. Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia


The Law of interpretation which governs the Bible is that the Bible interprets the Bible and not outside sources such as newspapers or news broadcasts.  The Bible is not to be interpreted through the biased eyes of any particular belief system.  The Roman Catholics interpret their Bible through their system of beliefs, the same with the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and any other non-Christian religion or organization along with all the free will churches.  We find the true principle of interpretation to be comparing Scripture with Scripture and that is found in 1 Corinthians 2:13:


Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  (1 Corinthians 2:13)


The Bible is a spiritual book and it must be interpreted according to itself.  Here is a quote from the SBC Issues Blog.  I want you to notice something in this paragraph which is common among all those who have espoused Eclectic Hermeneutics.


“I do not believe the Bible comes close to teaching that God hand picks who is and is not saved. I do not believe that the Bible teaches that Jesus died for a select group of individuals and that eternity is reserved for “God’s four and no more.” I do not believe the Bible teaches that man is dead in his trespass and sin to the extent that he is totally incapable of responding to God’s revelatory work found in the Scriptures nor His reconciliatory work rooted in the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of an unbeliever. I do not believe a lost person must be “born again” so that he MAY repent and then exercise believing or saving faith to become part of God’s forever family. I do not believe the Bible ANYWHERE teaches that God’s call to salvation is an irresistible

call that the lost person automatically responds too… like Lazarus did when Jesus called him by name to come out of the grave.”


Here is the link so you know I am not making this up:


Did you notice it?  All five statements begin with “I don’t believe.”  Something else to notice, what is his source for these statements?  Is it the Bible?  No because I don’t see one verse in this paragraph, in fact, if you look at the entire rant, you will not see one Scripture verse used.  His source is himself and his personal opinion.  In every article I write, I do not fail to back up everything I present with Scripture and I will not misrepresent or force any scripture to say what I wanted it to or to adhere to any presented teaching.  Many times we will see the Greek word “nekrous” being used which carries with it the meaning of “dead, lifeless, and useless,” it contradicts most of the wrong teachings found in the free will movement.


Did you also  notice one other thing in this paragraph?  He states that “dead” is not “dead.”  God could have used the term “man’s understanding is darkened” but he chose to use the term “dead.”  What happened in the Garden of Eden was man died spiritually and not just darkened in their understanding.  What this man wrote is a perfect example of Eclectic Hermeneutics where he claims dead is not dead when the word means dead!


Is there any precedent for understanding the Bible in the Bible?  Yes there is and you will see that no personal opinion is involved.


Let us attend to this Biblical Example!


So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense and caused them to understand the reading. (Nehemiah 8:8)


And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam.  {5} And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up:  {6} And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. {7} Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place.  {8} So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. (Nehemiah 8:4-8)   


In Nehemiah 8:4-8, we read of the time when many Jews went back to Jerusalem from Babylon and had repaired the walls of the city.  Here we have the scenario where Ezra the Scribe was now attending to the reading of the word of God which at that time was the Law of God.  Ezra was given a high wooden pulpit to begin the reading of the word of God to the people.  As we plainly see in verses 4 and 7, Ezra was not the only one who did the teaching.  In verse 7 it names 13 other teachers plus the Levites which caused the people to understand the law.  Verse 4 tells us that there were 13 others on the platform with Ezra but it is not known if they were temple workers or if they joined in and helped Ezra to teach the word of God to the people.  All in all Ezra had 26 people to help him in this task.


If you notice there was no division among them as the people stood and listened to the word of God being interpreted and proclaimed unto them by as many as 26 preachers or as little as 13.  It did not matter because they were all teaching the same message which affected all the people as many of them wept knowing they had broken God’s law. 


In our theme verse which is Nehemiah 8:8 we find the following three very important words. 


So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. (Nehemiah 8:8)   


The first word we will look at is the word “distinctly” which carries with it the meaning in the Hebrew of “to give instructions, to show, to declare.”  The first thing that Ezra and his entourage did was to read directly from the word of God, in other words, their first task was to declare the word of God to the people.  There was no fooling around with commentaries, spurious or personal interpretations.  It was a direct reading from the word of God.


The second word we will look at is “the sense” in the Hebrew it is one word and carries with it the meaning of “insight, understanding, wisdom.”  Not only did they read the word of God but they interpreted it in such a manner that the people received insight and understanding.  They understood the word of God and the meanings of the passages which were read to them.  You can tell that the people received the straight understanding of the Scriptures because it affected them to the point of weeping.  A neutralized interpretation would not do that to someone. There was no filtering or mollifying of the message.


The third word we will look at is “caused…to understand” which is one word in the Hebrew and carries with it the meaning of “to perceive, have intelligence, discern, prudent.”  After you hear the straight word of God and are given the proper interpretation, which is what hermeneutics is supposed to supply, then you will have the discernment and intelligence of a good solid Christian who will now possess good understanding of the word of God.   This, of course, depends upon two important factors: 1) That you are hearing the true word of God and not a counterfeit; and, 2) that the hermeneutic you are being subjected to is not biased but based strictly on the word of God regardless of the fact that it may come up against established belief systems which are derived from Eclectic Hermeneutics.


What is Eclectic Hermeneutics?  


The following is from the 1913 Webster’s Dictionary:


1. Selecting; choosing (what is true or excellent in doctrines, opinions, etc.) from various sources or systems; as, an eclectic philosopher.


2. Consisting, or made up, of what is chosen or selected; as, an eclectic method; an eclectic magazine.


Since I have not read the name then I will coin that phrase.  Eclectic Hermeneutics is the interpretation of the Bible based upon what meaning is chosen or selected by the person doing the interpretation rather than directly harmonizing links of Scripture to each other.  It is also the intentional misrepresentation of the words in Scripture which do not fit into a specific belief system. 


Is there another example in Scripture?  I am glad you asked because here it is.


In 2 Kings 22, we read about King Josiah giving money to the workers in the Temple who were doing repairs to it.  Then all of a sudden they discovered a copy of the word of God.


And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.  (2 Kings 22:8)


Then Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan the Scribe and he read it and then brought it to the king and the next verse shows the impact the word of God had upon King Josiah.


And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes.  (2 Kings 22:11)


The king was so convicted that he rent his clothes, that is, he tore his clothes in humility because of what he heard read out of the law.


12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king's, saying,  13 Go ye, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.  (2 Kings 22:12-13)


Josiah wanted to know what the words of God meant so he dispatched his priests and scribes to inquire of the LORD what is to happen to Judah since they had disobeyed the LORD and that resulted in his wrath being kindled against Judah.


As you can see that as soon as the King had read the book of the Law, he knew Judah was in trouble and instantly acted upon it by having his spiritual team inquire of the LORD as to what their future would be.  Do you see the urgency in which Josiah proceeded?  As soon as he got the word, he was convicted just like those in the time of Ezra when they wept because they knew something was wrong.  This is the way the word of God deals with us, it convicts us to the point of realizing our error so we can repent and get on the right road.  Do you think that there would have been such reaction to the word of God by Josiah and the people hearing Ezra if the word was interpreted using eclectic hermeneutics so the people would be pacified?  When they read the word, there was instant conviction because none of the preachers placated their hearers.  When was the last time you heard a convicting sermon in church?  If you attend a church and all the people leave as happy and jovial as when they arrived, then your pastor has used eclectic hermeneutics because the Bible on its own is a convicting Word.


Let us look at a second word which applies to the Eclectic Free Will Movement.  It is the word “Assumption.”  The 1913 Webster Bible states the following definition of assumption:


1. The act of assuming, or taking to or upon one's self; the act of taking up or adopting.

2. The act of taking for granted, or supposing a thing without proof; supposition; unwarrantable claim.


Number two fits perfectly as it is used in Eclectic Hermeneutics today.  Let me give a further definition of Hermeneutics before we go on.


Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation of the Scriptures.  It concerns itself with exegesis, that is, extracting the true teachings from passages of Scripture and giving the meaning of those truths.  In other words, true hermeneutics is concerned with bringing the message of Scripture directly from Scripture without any buffers of bias such as theological systems or denominational peculiarities.  True hermeneutics is the only thing that stands between the Scriptures and a Christian’s understanding of them.


Many times you may hear or read the following statement, “If the Plain Text Makes Perfect Sense, Seek No Other Sense.”  Remember dead is dead and that is plain, isn’t it? That statement is totally violated by the very ones who espouse it.  Eclectic Hermeneutics has literally supplanted true hermeneutics in our day.  How you ask?  When theologians write books, pastors preach, or any Christian who belongs to a certain belief system will read and write only within the confines of their chosen theology.  Let me give some examples:


1) A Dispensationalist will only write according to their belief system.  They will interpret verses, correctly or incorrectly, according to dispensationalism.  They will train themselves so that everything they read will be filtered through dispensational belief.


2) A Preterist will see only eschatology as far as 70 A.D. believing that all prophetic events were fulfilled by that time and that nothing is future.  So when they look at eschatological passages, they only see verses understood within their system of beliefs.


3) A person who believes that Christ died for every person in the world will look at all passages of Scripture within that belief system.  They will eschew the idea that Christ only died for a certain group of people, namely His Elect.


4) A person who espouses a belief in free will believes that all a person has to do is just “accept Christ” and that person has the ability to receive salvation any time before he or she dies.  So when they read the Scriptures, whether Old or New Testament, they will read them with the understanding that God have given mankind free will.  This is why when free will preachers preach, they will make incessant altar calls believing that a person can make that decision.


These four examples prove that the understanding and interpretation has become compartmentalized in our day and Christians only see through the glasses of their chosen belief systems.  The belief systems are no longer subject to the Bible but the Bible has become subject to biased belief systems, whether personal or denominational.


That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Romans 10:9)

Let us look at Romans 10:9.  Romans 10:9 is a verse which teaches us that we must believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead and that we must confess it with our mouths. The word for “confess” in the Greek text is the word “homologeo” which literally means “to say the same thing.” In other words our testimony must be in line with the Word of God. That principle is found back in Amos. Amos 3:3 (KJV) Can two walk together, except they be agreed? To be agreed is to agree with the Word of God. Before salvation, the Bible was a book we were unable to understand and our lives were in opposition to the Bible but once we became saved, we are in agreement with the Scriptures.

Then we are to believe in our heart that God raised Jesus from the dead but with the old heart we were at enmity with God. However, when God saves us and resurrects our soul, He also gives us a new heart which would be able to understand the things of God.  A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26) Now Romans 10:9 tells us to confess and believe. If we did these things from a state of spiritual death, it would be an attempted work for salvation but because God has already saved us and then given us spiritual abilities, they would be considered exercising the faith that we have and it would not be a work for salvation but a work in salvation which is what the believer is to be engaged in.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

You will see plainly there is no verse manipulation, that before a person is saved they are spiritually dead and dead means dead. They do not have the ability to generate faith, to believe, or will themselves into salvation. You will also see that a person must be saved prior, and it could be just a few seconds, to believing by means of faith which is given as a fruit of the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer and then gives them the ability to believe the things of God, simply because regeneration has already taken place. So let me just list the order of effectual salvation it is from Spiritual death to Spiritual resurrection to receiving the Holy Spirit to be given faith as a fruit to be able to believe the things of God. No unsaved person can will themselves into spiritual resurrection. It must be performed by God or the person stays spiritually dead. It is that simple.  We did not have to assume anything but in our investigation of the doctrine of salvation, we find in the Scriptures, by means of a clear hermeneutic that before one can believe, God must perform a resurrection on our souls and that all takes place simultaneously.  So when a person responds to a gospel call and is truly saved, that means God has resurrected that soul and because of the indwelling Holy Spirit, they now know their need for a Savior whereas before they became saved, they didn’t even care about the things of God being in a state of spiritual death. 


Christians cannot continue to interpret the Bible in the way that we wished God had written it or the way we want the Scriptures to imply .  If the church is ever going to get back to a place of strength, it must begin to look at the Scriptures from the way God wrote them and not the way we want to read them.  The majority of Christianity has become very man-centered in that we view the Bible in a way that pacifies man instead of the way God wrote them.  The fact that man sinned against a thrice holy God means that the way back to God is not one of ease because it cost the life of the Son of God to pay for the sins of His people.  Living the Christian life does not wholly consist of jumping up and down in church on Sunday or hearing some false preacher pacify his audience in a mega-church with all kind of sweet platitudes while completely ignoring the reality of sin.  The true Christian will search the Scriptures diligently before accepting any teachings to ascertain whether they have heard the Scriptures being interpreted according to eclectic hermeneutics or through clear, harmonious hermeneutics which connect the teachings of Scripture without over-justification with many words.


Christians assume that everything they hear, especially from a well-known preacher, is correct according to the Scriptures and that is just not true.  In fact, the more famous a preacher is, normally the more compromised they are with the Scriptures but because they are famous, everything they teach is accepted willy-nilly.  For example, go to John MacArthur’s church and say he is wrong about Mark 16:9-20.  You will be escorted out the door.  Go to Joel Osteen’s church and say he is a false teacher.  You will be escorted out the door. 


This is why the Christian must spend time searching the Scriptures to either confirm or reject what they heard.  God gave us the Bible for wisdom and understanding, neither of these can be obtained if we refuse to search the Scriptures and instead accept everything we are told.  The reality is that when we hear a popular preacher speak, we automatically go into acceptance mode, that is, based upon who is speaking we accept the belief they are correct.  This is very dangerous territory and is the reason that Christianity has so many confused Christians.  There are a great number of teachings which are taught from the pulpits that are just not true and the reason that Christians become confused is because these teachings do not create a harmonious hermeneutic and if they clash with one another, it creates confusion and results in weak Christians and churches.  This is why Christians can no longer rely on what we hear preached or what we read without confirming the teaching in Scripture.  If the findings go against a popular preacher then so be it.  This is why it is important for Christians to know whether they heard a teaching through eclectic hermeneutics or through real hermeneutics.   If they pass on a false teaching, then they have become a false teacher themselves and no true Christian wants that moniker attached to them.  Brethren, let us get serious!