Category Archives: Theology

The Lens Through Which You Read

I recently sent out a tweet regarding my reading in Paul’s Letter to the Church at Rome.


Spent some time reading Romans tonight. A great letter. Funny how it affirms free will theology for me, yet not others.

This tweet was definitely influenced by my anti-Calvinist theology. Perhaps “anti” is too strong a word, rather my opposition to Calvinist theology. This tweet brought about a very healthy conversation on Facebook with a friend of mine. Our conversation revolved around the fact that our presuppositions play heavily into our interpretation of Scripture. My tweet is good example of this, being that I subscribe to Open Theology I read Romans in light of that theology and that influences my interpretation. The question that I want to pose is whether or not an individual can come to a reading of Scripture that isn’t tainted, even in the slightest way, by their preconceived ideas and presuppositions. If our reading is constantly marred by the lens through which we read how do we come to a point of finding Truth. I believe that, as with all problems, the first step to healing is admitting that the problem is there. It is my opinion that most people are not willing to recognize that they are reading Scripture through a lens which influences their interpretation. If we can admit that read through a particular lens then we can begin to see Scripture beyond our particular lens and come to a better outcome, although there are those, including my friend whom this conversation took place with, who maintain (and for the most part, rightly so) that it is nearly impossible to remove our lenses. These issues are not necessarily bad in and of themselves but left unchecked or held accountable they can lead down a path that is completely off-chart for accurate Biblical Interpretation.

An example of how lenses influence reading is looking at the Letter to the Romans. Luther viewed the letter as the definitive argument against a works based Christianity. The lens that he was viewing through was his reaction against practices in the Roman Catholic Church. N.T. Wright however reads the letter as being primarily about God’s righteousness. The two views are not necessarily incompatible but it is obvious that these two men read the Letter through different lenses with different presuppositions which ultimately influenced the outcome of their interpretations.

So here are my questions that I hope will stir some honest debate and conversation.

First, I want to know what lenses you have identified that influence your reading, whether that be Calvinism, Arminianism, or even secularism.

Second, what is the antecedent that you hold your interpretation against in order to preserve truth, allow for freedom in non-essentials, and to determine what the essentials are?

To give some other examples of how this has played out in theology here are a list of people who have influenced traditions of theology that would be contrary to other persons in theology.

Alexander Campbell, Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, McLaren, Bell, Driscoll, Piper, Boyd, C.S. Lewis, etc…

Part of the purpose of this conversation will be to show that while we may have different interpretations and disagree that we can all appreciate each others pursuit for Truth and sincere devotion to Christ.

This is a mere academic/theological conversation all responses will be viewed with respect. I welcome differing opinions as long as they are open to constructive and polite criticism.