Keeping Oneself Unstained From Unbiblical Interpretations

Keeping Oneself Unstained From Unbiblical Interpretations

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27 MEV

I’d like to take a look at the last part of this verse, namely, “to keep oneself unstained by the world”. This verse and many other similar ones have had various interpretations by different groups of Christendom. The antinomian (one who believes Christians are not under obligation to follow the moral law of God), simply must ignore or explain it away. The legalist (used in the sense of enforcing unbiblical doctrines) inserts his favorite tradition and preferences. In both extremes, they seem to be making the same mistake. They are both inserting what they want into the text. Granted, the antinomian is more likely the rebellious one of the two, yet they both can fall into the same category of sin. Namely, “I make up my own rules”.

One of the grievest results of this type of interpreting is that unity is absolutely impossible. Eisegesis (imposing your own foreign interpretation to the text) is unlimited in its possibilities. How can two differing views ever unite if they are based on one’s opinion, taste, tradition, preference? Your Amish friend would say reading this internet article is being “stained by the world”. Your hippy antinomian friend would say… actually I don’t know what he would say, probably some line from a 1960s rock band. These are extremes, I know. Yet, I’m meaning to illustrate the possible diversities of building upon a relative foundation, which is no foundation at all.

So what is the correct way to interpret such texts? Well, I think it’s this…
With the best of our abilities, we must stay close to Scripture. We must allow the text to define its own terms. So when we find a Scripture verse that tells us to be separate or unstained by the world, we must first consult the immediate context and move our way out into the rest of Scripture. We must remember that we are the ones learning from the text, not vice versa. So it’s good to ask Questions. Here are some examples…

  • What did James mean by the use of the term “world”?
  • What does the term “unstained” mean in James context?
  • What does the larger context of the Bible say about worldliness?

When we submit ourselves in humility and ask questions of the Scriptures, immediately we are put into the position of a “student” who lets his master do the teaching.

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