Hermeneutics is a core belief of the local church (how the Bible is interpreted and understood) which is strongly influenced by worldview. At present, the local church faces a significant challenge in that arena from the dominant worldview of our day – expressive individualism. In expressive individualism, the highest good is one’s own freedom and happiness found in self-discovery and self-realisation leading finally to self-actualisation. This is ultimately summed up by the phrases, “be true to yourself” and “follow your heart”. This worldview permeates our western culture, including the local church. It also shapes our hermeneutic. When we read the Bible, asking the question, “what do I feel this means for me?”, our hermeneutic is informed by expressive individualism, rather than a biblical worldview.


The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics defines hermeneutics as: “the study of right principles for understanding the biblical text”. Bernard Ramm develops this in his Protestant Biblical Interpretation:

“Hermeneutics is the science and art of Biblical interpretation. It is a science because it is guided by rules within a system; and it is an art because the application of the rules is by skill, and not by mechanical imitation. (p.1)”

We believe that hermeneutics forms part of the HUB of Core Beliefs in our ‘wheel analogy’ because it informs both our biblical worldview and biblical theology. Our hermeneutic arises out of several convictions about the nature of God and of the Bible, as found in our Confessional Statement:

“God has revealed himself in the Bible, which consists of the Old and New Testaments alone. Every word was inspired by God through human authors, so that the Bible as originally given is in its entirety the Word of God, without error and fully reliable in fact and doctrine. The Bible alone speaks with final authority and is always sufficient for all matters of belief and practice”

Since God has revealed himself through the Bible in human language and since the Bible is perfectly inspired, inerrant, reliable, and authoritative, we believe that the truth it contains can be known and applied to our lives.


This does not mean, however, that there aren’t challenges associated with interpreting the Bible. We are separated from the author and intended audience by a fair amount of temporal, cultural, geographical, and linguistic distance, which means, among other things, that we are not objective observers. We all bring various presuppositions to the table when we read and interpret the Scriptures. Further, determining ‘meaning’ is a complex process because we often mistake ‘significance’ for meaning, or, worse, we simply bypass the author’s intended message and simply ask what the passage “means” for us today. There is certainly room for error on our part, and therefore, the need for a biblical hermeneutic.


There are classically in the history of biblical interpretation, four major types of hermeneutics: the literal, moral, allegorical, and anagogical. Literal interpretation asserts that a biblical text is to be interpreted according to the “plain meaning” conveyed by its grammatical construction and historical context, within the culture of those who wrote and received it.  This means that every word is important since words have meaning within sentences that convey specific facts and thoughts.


We believe that this is the method by which Jesus and the New Testament writers interpreted the Old Testament. It is also how the OT writers understood the previous writers of Scripture, as God’s written Revelation was progressively unveiled (for further reading on this, please see HERE and HERE). (Progressive Revelation in the context of Biblical Theology, is key to this. Progressive Revelation is: the concept that through the writing, over time, of the Scriptures God has revealed more of Himself, and that it is all ‘congruent’ with itself – i.e. one part does not contradict another, but builds on it. We will cover this in a subsequent blog post).

A Biblical Hermeneutic would then understand what is written in its literary ‘literal’ sense.  It includes the grammatical makeup of words and sentences,  the ‘genre’ of the writings – are they presented as ‘historical fact’, poetry, or even allegorical (e.g. Gal 4, where Paul uses an allegorical interpretation of a factual story), are they short stories with a point – parables, or prophetic and apocalyptic writings (Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel)? Gordon Fee states it this way:

“The questions of content are basically four kinds: textual criticism (the determination of the actual wording of the author), lexical data (the meaning of words), grammatical data (the relationship of words to one another), and historical-cultural background (the relationship of words and ideas to the background and culture of the author and his readers” (Fee, New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors, p.5).


There are a variety of applications for us here. First and foremost, it matters because our knowledge and understanding of what God has said hinges on it. Further, proper interpretation is essential to proper application. If we misunderstand the meaning, we may find we have applied incorrectly. Hermeneutics matters because we want to accurately and correctly handle the Word of Truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Moreover, we want to avoid misinterpreting it either by adulterating it or by distorting it (2 Cor. 4:2; 2 Pet. 3:16). And lastly, as stated in our Confessional Statement, it matters because the Bible is our sole authority.


  • Andrew Berry

    Marcia and Andrew were with OM in the 80’s and rejoined in 2012. Ordained by the Christian & Missionary Alliance, they served churches in the USA and then in France and are blessed with 2 children, their respective spouses and grandchildren. Their experience pastoring local churches has given them a passion to assist and encourage church planting.

  • Timothy Berry

    Tim and Renske met and were married in Toulouse, France. They have three wonderful children: Matthijs, Anouk, and Jaana. Before planting City Church Wolverhampton, they served at Mendham Hills Community Church in Chester, NJ as the Pastor of Worship Arts. Tim is ordained by the Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA).