Reverse Engineering God: Part 0–The Influence of Profession on Biblical Interpretation

The problem-solving mindset of our profession adds a new hermeneutic framework for Biblical interpretation.

After completing the first draft of my Bible Study guide on Genesis, I pulled together a small group of men and, together, we gave it a test run. Within our group, we had a Ph.D. research psychologist, an executive, a lawyer, and myself, an engineer by trade. All of my guides are designed to draw out discussions, and early on, many of the discussions in this group became intense as we each tried to sort out what God was trying to share with us through this first book of the Bible.

Driving home, after the study, I think we all wondered why we had such a hard time convincing the others of the logic of our own positions—after all, our own views just made so much sense to us. What I came to realize is that each of our approaches to understanding and interpreting the Word was heavily influenced by our own professional training. This revelation occurred to me after one particularly frustrating discussion. As an engineer, I was trying to pull the conversation to the bigger picture Step back and look at what God is doing here … I would argue. The lawyer countered with But you have to look at the wording of the verse. The text says … . I realized that this is exactly what a lawyer would say in court. To a lawyer, the words of a contract are truth. Engineers, on the other hand, used to the fact that documentation is often misleading, have learned that truth can only be discovered by looking at what the system is actually doing.

Hermeneutics, the branch of Biblical scholarship that explores the differing principles of biblical interpretation (e.g. literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical), provides one framework for understanding how to read the text. Understanding that our occupations have shaped our overall approach to sifting through the complexities of life reveals that there is an additional framework at play as we read and interpret the stories in God’s Holy Word.

Being cognizant of our own approach to seeking to understand the text is valuable for several reasons: it helps us to understand that, when sharing the gospel of Christ, our approach to explanation needs to be tailored to fit our audience; there are different dimensions to thinking about what God has written to us; our default approach to understanding truth may have limits; and the truth of God, as conveyed on the pages of scripture, may be discovered through many different paths.

Lee Strobel was a journalist who didn’t believe. He’d heard plenty about the Bible, but it never rang true until he was motivated to prove it wrong his own way. He began investigating Christ as any investigative journalist would do. Digging up resources, interviewing experts, and putting all the facts together. In the end, this journalistic approach led him to faith in Christ, as he documented in his book, The Case for Christ.

Josh McDowell was a law student who didn’t believe, and so he set about to discover the truth of this Jesus character as any good lawyer would do, by looking at the evidence, and in particular the testimonies of the witnesses. Josh’s examination led him to become a believer, and like Lee, he documented his work in The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict.

In the early 90’s, I wasn’t a journalist and I wasn’t a lawyer. I was a young engineer whose atheistic views were wavering after meeting a few good men who lived their life in faith. Their lives led me to believe that something was missing, and so I began my own journey toward truth.

Just as Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell’s books undoubtedly helped many like-minded people come to see the truth of the Gospels in a new light, so might my own journey, as an engineer, help others see the truth and logic of the Bible in a new light. Much of what I’ve learned through this journey is embedded in God Worth? A Short Course in Christianity, but the journey itself remains to be documented. In the meantime, some of the additional insights I’ll share through a few blog posts. So stay tuned.

Up next: Reverse Engineering God–Part I: Where is Truth?

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