OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew




A.             Hebrews 13:9a


Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.


B.              A new doctrine, a strange doctrine that began to make its way through the brotherhood in the late 1980s and early 1990s was the New Hermeneutic.

1.                The promoters of this doctrine wanted unscriptural change within the church.

2.                The only way to promote the changes effectively was to call for a “new way” to interpret the scriptures.

a.         This new method would do away with the old method of command, example, and necessary inference.

b.         This method was not really new.

                                                1)         Ecclesiastes 1:9


The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be, and that which is done is that which shall be done:  and there is no new thing under the sun.


2)                Many of the arguments and approaches used by the change agents were used by denominations, especially the Christian Church in days gone by.


C.              In this lesson, we will begin a study of some of the major aspects of the New Hermeneutic.




A.             This concept sees certain doctrines as being “core” doctrines.

1.                These are the doctrines that establish or disrupt fellowship.

2.                If a doctrine is not a “core” doctrine, then it should not be a cause for division when disagreed upon.


B.              Marvin Phillips:


“The ‘Fundamentals of the Faith’ must be held onto at all costs…They are the only ‘absolutes’ I know.  All other matters must be arrived at ‘hermeneutically’ (that is, by a process of reasoning!)…But any conclusion reached by such a process should not be made a test of fellowship” (Image, May/June 1990, “Free to Differ,” Marvin Phillips, pp. 5-6).





C.              There are several points that need to be made about this “core doctrine” approach.

1.                Isaiah 1:18


Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord…


                                    a.         Why would God call us to such an approach?

b.         Anything that must be “reasoned out” cannot be made a test of fellowship according to the New Hermeneutic.

2.         If reasoning is out, then we cannot refuse to fellowship those who say that the Bible does not apply to us.

a.         Note:  Not one book of the Bible is specifically addressed to us.  We must us “reason” to determine that its message is for us today.

b.         If someone disagrees, we must fellowship him because reasoning cannot be made a test of fellowship according to Marvin Phillips.

                        3.         Who is the one to determine what the “core doctrines” are?

a.         Brother Phillips listed the “Fundamentals of the Faith” as:  “the existence of God, the lordship of Jesus, Bible authority, the one church, the new birth,” and “genuine commitment to the will, way, and word of God.”

b.         Leroy Garrett, Carl Ketcherside, and Edward Fudge defined the gospel as “believing Christ was born, lived, and died, rose again, was seen, ascended and was crowned.”  (This sounds like the call of the denominational world to “give us the man, not the plan).

c.         Rubel Shelly argued that the seven ones of Ephesians 4:4-6 were the core doctrines of fellowship.

d.         Jeff Walling is on record as saying that only belief in Christ is essential to our fellowship.  He based this on John 17:20.

                                    e.         Now let’s listen to the words of an apostle.

                                                1)         Romans 16:17


Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them.


                                                2)         II Thessalonians 2:15


Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.


3)                II Thessalonians 3:14


And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.





4.         In the past, this speaker knew a young member of the church, also a deacon, who held this view relative to instrumental music.  He noted that because we had to reason to show that instrumental music was sinful, that God would not hold someone accountable who came to a different conclusion.

5.         This doctrine makes each man his own “god.”  Each person is free to determine for himself which doctrines are “core” doctrines and which ones are not.  Man, not the Bible, becomes the standard of fellowship.




A.             Back in the 90s, the phrase, “What Would Jesus Do?”, was very popular.

1.                “WWJD” bracelets, pendants, and t-shirts were seen everywhere.

2.                The phrase is based upon the Bible.  Jesus is said to be our example (I Peter 2:21; John 13:15; I John 2:6).


For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in his steps.


B.              This concept was taken and projected into the realm of hermeneutics.


“The veil clouding our understanding can be removed if we agree to ‘turn to the Lord’ and let the Lord Jesus be the lens through which we view the written Word.  Just as it is necessary to look through the Word to understand the Lord, so must we now turn and look through the Lord to understand the Word.  Jesus must become the lens through which we view every doctrine, every relationship, every facet of life.  Nothing must be allowed to lie outside that perspective”  (The Church in Transition, James S. Woodroof, p. 37).


C.              Question:  What in the world does this concept mean?

1.                Basically, it is a subjective approach to scripture interpretation.  Let’s look at two examples.

a.         A member of the church is living in open fornication.

1)         We turn to I Corinthians 5 as an authoritative way to deal with that individual.

2)         Someone says that we need to look at this through the lens of Jesus as found in John 8:11.  Here, Jesus is dealing with the adulterous woman and says:  Neither do I condemn thee:  go, and sin so more.

                                    b.         An element of the church wants to use women in public worship.

1)         Some condemn the practice based upon Paul’s words to Timothy in I Timothy 2:11-12.


Let the women learn in silence with all subjection.  But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.


2)                Those looking through the “lens of Jesus” would argue that Jesus exalted women in His ministry.  Therefore, He would not hold them back and oppress them today.

D.             There are at least three problems with this approach.

1.                It is subjective in its application.  One can “force” Jesus to think just as we would think in a certain situation.

2.                This view pits Jesus against other inspired writers of the New Testament.

3.                This view fails to see the complete New Testament as the words of Jesus.  Jesus is the mediator of a “better covenant” and not just four books of the New Testament (Heb. 8:6).




A.             As I thought about these two concepts, the “core doctrine” concept and the “WWJD” approach, one verse kept coming to mind (II Tim. 3:16).


All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.


1.                Note:  All scripture, not just core doctrines.

2.                Note:  All scripture, not just the gospels.


B.              Proverbs 30:5.


Every word of God is pure:  he is a shield to them that put their trust in him.