EP 98: Guidelines For Interpreting The Bible In The Aftermath Of Abuse: Dr Steven Tracy

Diana WinklerDomestic Violence, spiritual abuse

We have another fantastic episode for you for our series on How Study The Bible For Abuse Survivors. We have back on the show, theology and ethics professor, and founder of Mending the Soul Ministries, Dr Steven Tracy! He updates us on what exciting things the Lord has been doing this past year with the ministry. He offers valuable insights into what the Bible really says about abuse, and helpful tips on reading and studying the Bible in the pain of abuse. Dr Tracy brings tools, empathy, and encouragement to help push you through those times when it is difficult to read God’s Word. Don’t miss this episode!

Transcript below!


Mending the Soul was conceived in 2003 when Steve and Celestia Tracy and a handful of men and women met with a passion to comfort those broken by abuse. Because there were few resources available to address the complexities of abuse and neglect, Steve and Celestia published Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse to educate on the nature and effects of abuse, and the Mending the Soul Workbook to guide survivors through an interactive and integrated process of healing and forgiveness in community with each other.

Together, the Tracys co-founded and co-direct Mending the Soul, mentoring and supervising collaborative teams of writers, artists, musicians, educators, students, mental health providers, and business professionals who create the sustainable healing models and curricula for Mending the Soul Ministries for global application.

Steve and Celestia have three grown children, who, with their families, partner with them in ministries of justice and mercy.

Steven R Tracy, Ph.D.

Steve is the President and International Director for Mending the Soul, and professor of theology and ethics at Phoenix Seminary where he has taught since 1995. He has also served as a church pastor for fifteen years. Steve’s research and writing are focused on biblical ethics, sexuality, and abuse. He received a B.A. from Arizona State, an M.Div. and Th.M. from Western Seminary and a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from the University of Sheffield (England) with a research focus on Pauline ethics. In addition to his domestic work, Steve, along with his wife Celestia, spend 4-8 weeks a year in East Africa coordinating and supervising international trauma training teams. Steve is the author of seven books and numerous book chapters and journal articles.

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Steven Tracy

[00:00:00] Brian Winkler: Welcome to the Wounds of the Faithful podcast brought to you by DSW Ministries. Your host is singer, songwriter, speaker, and domestic violence advocate, Diana Winkler. She is passionate about helping survivors in the church, heal from domestic violence and abuse and trauma. This podcast is not a substitute for professional counseling or qualified medical help.

[00:00:26] Now, here is Diana!

[00:00:33] Diana Winkler: Good afternoon, everybody or good evening or good morning, depending on where you’re at in this world we live in. How are you guys doing? I hope you’re enjoying the series so far. And I’ve stated how important this particular topic is in our healing and in our relationship with God.

[00:00:58] And [00:01:00] so I have another returning guest today, Steven Tracy,

[00:01:05] He was on episode 16. So if you haven’t heard it before, please go back and listen to it. It was probably the most popular guest that I’ve had and the most downloads last year. And there is very good reason for that. He’s amazing. And

[00:01:28] if you don’t know who he is the founder of Mending the Soul Ministries. You’ve heard me talk about it a lot. It’s the small groups that I am a facilitator of, healing from domestic violence. So one of the couple of the books are behind me, Princess Lost here on the right. And then on the left, Mending the Soul textbook, also has a workbook that comes with it.

[00:01:59] [00:02:00] And so

[00:02:01] that’s who our guest is today. I also want to mention something that I have added to the podcast. I got this new editing software for the podcast and it includes transcription with that. And so I’ve just started to include the transcript, with the time stamps on it, on the podcast, in the show notes.

[00:02:36] So I started at Isaiah Cruz’s episode. I am gonna go backwards as I have time, but you can go ahead and read those like a blog post on my website. Maybe you have somebody that prefers the written form instead of a [00:03:00] podcast, or you have somebody that’s hearing impaired. Actually, my Bible study teacher, Kelly,

[00:03:09] she has two deaf daughters. They have cochlear implants, but, they like to listen to podcasts, but they need the transcript to follow along, to fill in those blanks. So I’m very excited to be able to offer that to you. So here is my conversation with Dr. Steven Tracy. Enjoy!

[00:03:38] We’re so glad to have Dr. Steven Tracy, back on the show today! Thank you so much for coming!

[00:03:46] Steven Tracy: It’s really my pleasure.

[00:03:48] Diana Winkler: Great to see you! We had a wonderful conversation last time you were on the show last year. You didn’t know this, but you were the most popular [00:04:00] guest last year on the podcast. You had the most downloads of any of my guests.

[00:04:07] And so we are super excited that you’re back. And I know when I saw you at the last fundraiser, I had been planning this series and you were one of the first ones that I asked and thrilled that you could come on here with your tight schedule.

[00:04:26] Steven Tracy: This is important, so I’m glad it worked out.

[00:04:30] Diana Winkler: So last time we talked about, how you started, Mending the Soul.

[00:04:36] And, you told us some really great stories and what God has been doing with Mending the Soul. I know that it’s been a year since you’ve been on. So let’s start out with what have you been up to the last year?

[00:04:53] Steven Tracy: Yeah. I it’s been a full year, thankfully. We’re finally out of the COVID [00:05:00] restrictions that we were dealing with a year ago, or at least here in Portland.

[00:05:03] Yeah Celestia, my dear wife, worked with me on a revision of the Mending the Soul book and sent that off to Zondervan. They’d requested an update and I said I’ll be glad to update it. If you let me expand it by about 25%, I’ve learned so much more about abuse and there’s a lot to say, and they agreed.

[00:05:21] So, finished that in August. Is supposed to come out, everything slow these days. But next March is the release date. Excited about that and talked them into a follow up book called Poisoner Medicine. Now the Bible can hurt or heal abuse survivors. Really excited about that, that they are too. They approved that proposal real quickly.

[00:05:42] And I think that’s just indicative of the sense of recognized felt need that so often scripture is misused against abuse survivors in ways that are just phenomenally damaging. So I’m not aware of a book quite like it, [00:06:00] which of course as a author and researcher. That’s what you look for.

[00:06:05] I don’t wanna repeat what other good work others have done, I trust them. Thank you. Wanna find those holes where we need a good resource. So it was, yeah, this is one of those and Celestia and I were just talking the other day after we’d spent some time with dear couple who both have really experienced, horrific spiritual abuse in home and church that Anna and Celestia spent 20 years as a trauma clinician.

[00:06:34] I spent many years myself as a pastoral counselor working with abuse survivors and from our collective experience of decades, spiritual abuse honestly is among the most destructive. All abuse is destructive because it really attacks the core of who we are as image bears. But spiritual abuse has unique potential to [00:07:00] wound because it, it poisons our most precious resource.

[00:07:04] Scripture is the word of God. It’s his love letter to his people. And it should be the very, the most powerful tool to heal, to guide, to encourage, to direct. And with spiritual abuse that most precious resource is poisoned so that we come to distrust the God who loves us, the God who hates abuse.

[00:07:31] And in his Word says, I detest on repentant abusers. But spiritual abuse can twist all that around. So all that to say I’m very excited about this new book working on it, feverishly, continuing to expand our work in east Africa and going more often working with refugees and other trauma survivors and places of tremendous trauma abuse.

[00:07:54] It’s a tremendous privilege that we have to do that.

[00:07:57] Diana Winkler: Didn’t you just recently make a trip [00:08:00] over there?

[00:08:00] Steven Tracy: Yeah. In June. So not too long ago. We were in Uganda. That’s actually where our ministry is based now, but we have staff in both Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. So lots and lots of needs.

[00:08:15] But we have material in over a dozen languages now. So it’s being used throughout the Spanish speaking world elsewhere. We’re real excited about a new for use here in the us kind of contextualized trauma healing resource for Native Americans. Yes. That’s such a, almost just forgotten population.

[00:08:36] And of course they’re the original population. My goodness. We white people, our ancestors came here and we’re immigrants. Right. But so anyway we’re real excited to continue to work with a team of Native American leaders. They’re doing the writing. It’s their culture, but we’re just as assisting them as they ask for it.

[00:08:56] So some wonderful projects, [00:09:00] opportunities God’s given us.

[00:09:01] Diana Winkler: I’m really excited about all of those and my mom’s Cherokee and we’ve volunteered on reservations with back East in, Oklahoma and South Dakota. And we’ve of course we are surrounded by Native Americans here in Arizona. And so I would totally do a Mending the Soul group for some of my native

[00:09:26] friends that I have that desperately need it.

[00:09:29] Steven Tracy: Oh, we truly in the United States have not seen the levels of trauma that we see in places like Congo, which the UN calls, the rape epicenter of the world. We’ve not seen the, that kind of trauma except in native populations here. It feels very similar.

[00:09:47] And I know there’s some, other homeless, prison, other populations that have catastrophically high trauma levels. And we’re actually looking at some new projects for some of those populations as well. [00:10:00] But I encourage our listeners to be just aware of and praying for our Native American brothers and sisters.

[00:10:11] There’s, they’re very overlooked. It’s estimated less than 5% of native Americans are evangelical Christians. There’s a real backlash because of the history and the boarding schools, et cetera. That to be a Native American, you can’t be a Christian. You have to ban like that’s incompatible. So there’s a lot of pressure that Native Americans feel who are followers of Jesus.

[00:10:35] Diana Winkler: So yeah, they call it the white man’s religion.

[00:10:38] Steven Tracy: Right, right.

[00:10:39] Diana Winkler: Jesus wasn’t white.

[00:10:40] Steven Tracy: He wasn’t but the colonizers were, and yeah. Anyway, lots of opportunities and much to pray for.

[00:10:49] Diana Winkler: Absolutely. So when we’ve gone through abuse, it’s really hard for us to get into the Bible and study it. Because we get [00:11:00] triggered.

[00:11:00] Steven Tracy: Right. Right.

[00:11:02] Diana Winkler: Why should we study the Bible and read it when it makes us feel bad or reminds us of the spiritual abuse you mentioned?

[00:11:13] Steven Tracy: Yeah, it’s a good question. And Diana, my response would be, we don’t want Satan to steal God’s most precious gifts in our life. John 10. In John 10:10, Jesus says this, the thief and it’s Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy.

[00:11:35] I am come that they might have life and have it abundantly. Satan is always trying to steal, harm, destroy. And Satan knows, of course that scripture is a most precious resource. It is a love letter from God. It’s the word of God. That’s why we call it the Word of God, because it is. It’s God’s [00:12:00] word to us.

[00:12:00] And there’s just literally hundreds of beautiful promises in scripture about what scripture can do for us. I think Psalm one 19, which is the longest chapter in the Bible and it’s all about scripture and it’s beautifully arranged in Hebrew. It’s a Hebrew acrostic using the Hebrew alphabet, starting with the first letter, all of cetera through the Hebrew alphabet it’s poetically constructed beautifully, but for roughly a hundred and.

[00:12:32] 70 or so verses it just lifts up the beauty of scripture. Using multiple in, in English, it’s written in Hebrew, but multiple English words that some of which we tend in our culture to think of negatively but precepts law, commandments, rules, et cetera that roughly a dozen or so different words to describe scripture and all the way through [00:13:00] says how scripture is. It is precious.

[00:13:03] It’s more precious than gold. It’s a light to our path. It gives us peace. It gives us Shalom, health, et cetera, et cetera, guides us. It helps us avoid destruction. It’s the path of life, so, oh, why in the world would we want Satan to steal. And that’s what he wants to do. So I understand, of course the challenge for those who’ve had scripture misused against them and the aversion

[00:13:34] they may feel just innately, intuitively when they hear scripture. But I would just, I wanna remind our listeners that it’s worth pressing through that. It’s essential to press through that. And maybe it would help here to realize Satan does this in multiple ways.

[00:13:51] The things that are most precious that we most need for our health and wholeness. [00:14:00] Satan wants to mar so that we push away from the very things. That’ll give us life, relationships in general. How we know that I was just looking last week at some of the literature on the relational impact of abuse and how social scientists have just documented so clearly.

[00:14:19] And this makes sense that abuse survivors have much higher rates of divorce, relational dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, basically the whole gamut of markers of relational health. Be it in family, marriage, friendships, abuse survivors, struggle with at a much, much higher level than their non abused peers.

[00:14:43] Now, Jesus is a healer. It doesn’t have to stay that way. Apart from healing abuse survivors tend to really struggle relationally. But again, relationships are essential to our wholeness and health. So Satan wants to [00:15:00] sabotage that. So as a survivor, we may be just find it so hard to trust in marriage, we may find it so hard to even accept affection, let alone sexual intimacy. But those are beautiful gifts and it’s worth, with help, pushing through what’s real scary

[00:15:17] and we just wanna run from. because if we don’t, we’re being cheated and we’re not going to experience all that God intended and really all that deep down our hearts long for. So I would say that about scripture it’s worth pushing through.

[00:15:34] Diana Winkler: I like that answer. That’s amazing. You being a ethics and theology professor, you’ve had some extensive training and insight in the Bible.

[00:15:47] What translation would you recommend that the survivors start with? There’s so many out there and it’s so easy to get overwhelmed.

[00:15:59] Steven Tracy: [00:16:00] Yeah. Yeah. It . It is. In my personal study I use the ESV, it’s a good, very literal translation. Anytime you go from one language to another, and I’ve studied half a dozen languages to read, you, I, I say literal, you, you can’t just translate word for word, cuz language doesn’t work that way.

[00:16:21] No, but some languages are what we call dynamic equivalent. It’s kind of thought for thought which can be helpful, but sometimes you can lose things in the process. So I personally study with the ESV, but not exclusively. I don’t mind saying I have an ax to grind with the ESV, their use of gender.

[00:16:41] I really react against it because they tend to translate man, when it should be humanity. Yeah. And I think that’s a philosophical choice that I, that could be very triggering for abuse survivors. And as a guy with a PhD in new Testament I, for [00:17:00] academic reasons, I take issue with that. Often they’ll be a note like a footnote that’ll say, or it could be, humans, so that would be a caution with the ESV.

[00:17:09] Just the way you’ll see gender language. So maybe all things considered the NIV might be the best choice. The NIV has a nice study Bible. I’m jumping ahead to questions later on, but I it’s. Okay. I like the NIV study Bible. It’s a very general tool. You can only get so many notes in a study Bible and they are not inspired, right. It’s really important to distinguish the notes from the biblical text. But I find that so often people are increasingly just lack of framework for scripture. And I say that not in any judgemental way. I have been blessed to have advanced training. That’s a stewardship.

[00:17:53] That was a blessing from God that, and I grew up in a church that was far from perfect, but one of the [00:18:00] things that did was we did scripture memorization and , we were really taught in the scriptures. And so many people haven’t had that benefit. So they cannot make sense of the old Testament in particular.

[00:18:11] They don’t really understand the sweep of scripture chronologically and it’s confusing and it can make you just wanna give up. And that’s where some basic tools like, like a study Bible can just give you a, start. A new book that like, Hosea, what in the world’s this about?

[00:18:28] It’s gonna give you a little introduction and you understand the backdrop and a little bit of what’s going on and difference between Israel and Judea and the early part of Jewish history, et cetera. If you don’t have those basics, Bible’s gonna be really confusing. So I would really recommend a study Bible and just some basic tools.

[00:18:46] So that the Bible is not so intimidating and overwhelming.

[00:18:51] Diana Winkler: You are not the only one that mentioned the NIV study Bible. Huh? So that’s that’s a clue here that [00:19:00] there’s a lot of people that agree on. Yeah. The ESV was also mentioned. That’s what I use is the ESV. And with Bible translations, do you have to know the original languages like Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic?

[00:19:16] Steven Tracy: That’s a blessing, but how many of us have the opportunity to do that? Not that many. And there’s a phrase that has been used in church history. The clarity of scripture.

[00:19:29] It’s not that every passage or section of scripture is equally clear. Some are pretty difficult and Peter, the apostle Peter himself acknowledged that. And second Peter describing some of Paul’s writings as difficult. But what the reformers understood the clarity of scripture to mean is that there’s an overarching theme

[00:19:53] that’s clear from Genesis to revelation. The big picture is clear. And the big [00:20:00] picture is that our creator God made us, loves us and is working a plan of redemption in this fallen sinful world. And you can trace that from Genesis to revelation, and it’s a beautiful theme. And that basic message of scripture is clear.

[00:20:18] Martin Luther, the reformer said about scripture, that scripture is deep enough for an elephant to swim in and shallow enough for a child to wade in. And I love that idea. And he was actually drawing from one of the earlier, early church fathers. There’s this dual sense that even a child can come. My little granddaughter, who’s in third grade, she has a Bible and she reads it and she hears God in it.

[00:20:49] But at the same time, as a guy with a PhD in new Testament, who’s studied the Bible at a deep level for decades, I can never plumb the depths. it’s both. [00:21:00] But that’s kind of a long answer to say it’s sufficiently clear for every believer. A new believer in Christ can come to scripture and God will speak to him or her.

[00:21:11] And that’s what God wants to do.

[00:21:13] Diana Winkler: So don’t sweat the Greek.

[00:21:16] Steven Tracy: Don’t sweat the Greek. Obviously I’ve taught Greek. It’s great for those who can get that advanced training, but you do not have to know Greek and Hebrew to study scripture and there’s some wonderful tools. And there are verses that it’s hard to, there are times along the way that you really have to appeal to the Greek or Hebrew to get some of the nuances, but there are some really good tools to help do that.

[00:21:40] Diana Winkler: So yeah, they didn’t even teach Greek or Hebrew in my Bible college. They taught homiletics and hermeneutics, but we did not learn Greek or Hebrew. But, I have the tools like you mentioned, the concordances and the study Bibles that do all the heavy lifting for me.[00:22:00] [00:22:00] Steven Tracy: and they can, they take us really far for pastors and Bible teachers. I certainly encourage them, if it’s at all possible, go to seminary, not everyone can. If it’s possible, get some language training then you’re less dependent on other people to tell you what it means. But again, there are some wonderful tools and there’s no reason for a layperson who hasn’t had the opportunity for advanced training to be intimidated.

[00:22:27] Diana Winkler: That’s good advice. So if we’re gonna sit down and let’s say, we’re gonna study a book of the Bible or a passage in the Bible. What are some ground rules of interpretation that you can give us that you really have to know these to properly understand the scriptures or interpret them correctly?

[00:22:50] Steven Tracy: Yeah really important.

[00:22:51] Hermeneutics is the word that’s used, and you just used it, Diana, it’s the technical term for principles of interpretation of [00:23:00] scripture. Probably goes back to the Greek God Hermes was the messenger god. So that might be a simple way to kind of understand, hermeneutics is the science of interpretation.

[00:23:11] It’s how do we understand the message that God is wanting to give through scripture? So I’ll give you half a dozen basic principles, but almost a pre hermeneutics point I wanna make is that it’s really important that we come to scripture with the right posture. The right I guess attitude, if you will.

[00:23:33] One of humility, one of dependency. Jesus in the gospel of John said that he would send the Holy Spirit and the Holy S pirit would be God’s messenger to us. Speak to us God’s truth. Holy Spirit is the one who inspired the Word of God. He’s the one that directed the human authors. Second Peter chapter one talks about that.

[00:23:59] [00:24:00] The way he led the writers of scripture so that what they wrote, really, those are the words of God. So he, the Holy Spirit is the one who, and it’s interesting. The word there is in English, it’s inspired. But it was in Greek. It’s actually breathed out. Mmm. The literally, tha pneustos, it means to breathe out.

[00:24:23] So that scripture is breathed out words of God, to us! How incredible! So this the Holy Spirit inspired scripture working through human authors, but he’s also the one who, and the word we use is illuminates scripture. That is, he helps us understand both the meaning and the significance for us of what scripture says.

[00:24:51] So I think as when we come to scripture, it’s important that we come and offer a quick prayer. And I’m [00:25:00] very Trinitarian because I think scripture reveals God as one God. One divine essence, and three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And that is Orthodox historic Christian teaching. I generally pray to the Spirit when I come to scripture and ask him, Spirit, I need your help.

[00:25:20] Help me understand what’s written here. Help me receive it humbly. Help me live it. I can’t do what’s here in my own strength. So that’s a pre hermeneutics step is coming with an attitude of humility, independence that God will guide us. And then, yeah, just a half a dozen things real quickly.

[00:25:41] By way of principles of first thing I would say is clarify the context. My hermaneutics prof and seminary said the first three principles of hermeneutics are context. It is so important. Give you a simple illustration. If you talk a lot on your [00:26:00] program about abuse, so I’ll put this in abuse context.

[00:26:02] Yes. Our very first trip to Africa was to the Congo. Was with a small team. We honestly just were over our heads. we didn’t know the culture, but we just came trusting the Lord to guide us and he did. And God blessed. Our host told us it was to his knowledge, and he had a huge ministry there.

[00:26:25] He was starting a Christian university for the first time in that region. He said, Steve, to my knowledge, there’s never been an abuse conference like this in my country. This is the second largest country in Africa. And David had a PhD. He was highly educated and he was Congolese. And so we just did a basic overview of abuse.

[00:26:47] And after I think it was after day two, we had done some teaching on the value and dignity of women, because it was really apparent that we were in a cultural context with a [00:27:00] high level of patriarchy of pastor. The pastor’s wives were reporting horrific abuse by their husbands, it was pretty bone chilling.

[00:27:12] And so after we did that teaching the very next day, one of the Congolese pastors did the morning devotional to start the day. He obviously did not appreciate the previous days teaching. Ooh. So he did it at, he did a devotional from Psalm 45, which talks about the woman bowing down before her Lord.

[00:27:39] And he just launched into a kind of a tirade about, you women! God says you must bow down before your husband. He is your Lord and master and on. Oh no. Now I, I don’t want this to sound negative toward the Africans. We saw a level of repentance, the end of that conference that I’ve never [00:28:00] seen in the United States, ever.

[00:28:02] The humility, they live that out. So, every culture struggles with certain biases that you just inherit almost , it’s just part of the worldview. And then you don’t read scripture clearly because you have preconceptions that color, they’re like colored glasses that filter the text.

[00:28:22] Same thing happens to us. Yes. Congolese aren’t unique. There’s happens to be a pretty extreme patriarchy, but it was really chilling. Here’s how principle number one comes in. Psalm 45 is a Royal Psalm. It’s not about marriage. It’s about the king. And ultimately it’s about king Jesus, the Messiah this was probably Psalm written to on the occasion of the King’s wedding and.

[00:28:48] 11, the king will desire your beauty, speaking to the bride, since he is your Lord bow down to him. The people of Tyre will seek your favoring goods, the richest of all people, et cetera. This is [00:29:00] about a Monarch that the queen was one of the subjects of the Monarch. She bowed before the Monarch says nothing to do with marriage per se.

[00:29:10] Again, it’s the context is, a Monarch of ancient Israel and ultimately those Royal Psalms are about king Jesus. The new Testament understands them that way. So if you don’t pay attention to the context of the passage, you can just pick a verse or a little section. And it sure seems like it’s saying X when in fact that may be not at all what it’s saying.

[00:29:37] But you missing the context. Boy, can you come up with some really unbiblical and hurtful interpretations? Yes. Yeah. I’ll give you one other real quick because I’ll bet many of your listeners have heard this and I’ll bet many have been hurt by it. Malachi 2:16. God hates divorce. Oh ding.

[00:29:58] Yeah. Ding ding. [00:30:00] How many times we have heard that? And I won’t say a hundred percent of the time, but it’s gotta be in the 98%. Yeah. That’s used against women who are at least, if we’re talking about an abuse context, it’s inevitably used to tell an abused woman, she can’t divorce her husband because God hates divorce.

[00:30:23] And basically she just has to put up with whatever. I have known of women. I know of situations where women have died because that verse was misused against them. Yes. I heard it again just a couple days ago in an email from an abuse victim who said, I know I can’t divorce my abusive husband because God hates divorce.

[00:30:44] The Hebrew is not easy on this verse. It’s one of the more difficult ones in Hebrew, but I’ll just point out as far as the context in the paragraph is very clearly the prophets condemnation of Jewish men. He’s not [00:31:00] condemning women. He’s condemning men. Apparently some of the priests who were abandoning their wives and children for other wives. In some cases, it seems like foreign wives, the younger prettier, Philistine, whatever.

[00:31:17] That’s the context. And of course we always have to put the Bible, not just in, in the literary context, but it’s cultural context. This is ancient Israel, and it’s a very patriarchal culture. A woman in roughly 2,500 years ago and ancient near culture. She doesn’t have resources. It’s very patriarchal.

[00:31:44] She could starve to death. So, it’s a straight out condemnation of the men who are abandoning their wives and children for other women. It’s in that context that God says, I hate divorce. And depending on the [00:32:00] translation, cuz again, it’s difficult in Hebrew, but I think the best translation, the American standard translates it this way in several others, God hates divorce.

[00:32:10] And the man who covers his garment with violence. Yes. Wow. Now that changes everything. Yes it does. This is not a condemnation of women who are leaving abusive husbands to gain safety. It’s actually a condemnation of abusive men and articulates God’s hatred of violence. Against violence in general, but in this context, it’s violence against women and secondarily against their children.

[00:32:44] Cuz he goes on to talk about God, desiring a godly offspring. I think the implication being if a husband abandons his wife and children that’s gonna harm those children spiritually .That’s why God says he desires a [00:33:00] godly offspring cause a man who does that causes such harm to his children, that they may very well come to doubt. Because of what they’ve experienced from an earthly father, they come to distrust their Heavenly Father and hence a godly offspring is being compromised.

[00:33:16] So, wow. We’ve got to look at that context. The immediate and even the extended, sometimes even just looking at the whole chapter. Obviously you start with the immediate verse verses in which a given statement found. Second, if we just did that clarified the context, we would take care of a whole lot of misinterpretation of scripture.

[00:33:39] Absolutely. A lot. Second, and this is probably the second most important principle and that is let scripture interpret scripture. The reformers call this the analogy of faith. Scripture is its own best interpreter. If you just take one verse, and I find that the more conservative theologically,

[00:33:59] [00:34:00] often the more, this is abused. We believe the Word of God. So do I, right? But we can approach that in a really militant, dogmatic rigid way. And as if, because I can quote one verse and I can give you a proof text, I’ve ended the discussion, God has spoken. Well again I think it’s pretty clear.

[00:34:19] I have a very high view of scripture. Yes. This book is the word of God. It is absolutely trustworthy. So I have a very high view of scripture, but I react very negatively when I hear the pulpit pounders with a tone of harshness and they’re just citing one verse in a rigid way. think we should always approach preaching in the Christian life with gentleness and humility.

[00:34:46] Scripture’s pretty clear on that. But are we just citing one verse and making a big theological point out of one verse? Or have we considered the breadth of scripture? Now, I believe in a so called [00:35:00] expository preaching. I typically preach and teach section by section. I love preaching through books, et cetera.

[00:35:08] So I believe in that. But, you always have to let, while you look at a given verse or book you have to also be thinking again of the breadth of scripture. For instance, many different ways we can see this played out. But when I wrote the first edition of Mending the Soul for some personal battles I was dealing with, with some individuals. And I had really been confronted with The accusation that I wasn’t forgiving abusers, very unrepentant abusers.

[00:35:42] Because I basically demanded accountability and there were consequences. I was told for instance, by some, from Matthew 18 the Bible says, if you don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive you. And it was strongly [00:36:00] suggested that God wasn’t even gonna forgive me because I was holding up some really firm boundaries toward UN repent users.

[00:36:08] Cuz God says you have to forgive as he’s forgiven you. So you have to forgive others. End of discussion. Nope. Again, study scripture. Let’s scripture interpret scripture, Jesus himself, in Luke 17:3 says, if your brother sins against you, rebuke him. If. It’s conditional. If he repents forgive him.

[00:36:29] So Jesus himself in a different passage makes forgiveness conditional, which either Jesus is contradicting himself and God is a God of truth. He doesn’t lie and hence his Word doesn’t lie. So I don’t believe scripture contradicts itself, but there’s what I would call a richness, a depth to scripture.

[00:36:54] You, you can’t just take one verse as if that’s all that God has said. [00:37:00] So, and that’s where give you another study tool. A Bible concordance is really helpful. You’d have the old Strong’s concordance or, there’s lots of different Bible concordances and do word studies, even in English. And the Strong’s codes it gives you basic Greek or Hebrew dictionary, right.

[00:37:22] Entry for the different words, which is helpful for doing word studies. But, just doing a topical study of the English words that appear in a given verse can really give you some breadth. So you realize, okay, it says that here in this verse, but this other verse says something different.

[00:37:38] So I have to enlarge my understanding. You have the statement in first Corinthians 14, that women are to keep silent in the church. And that’s been, oh, Paul said it. Okay. And that’s over the years been really used against women. But 1st Corinthians itself. Again, if you’re thinking [00:38:00] context, as well as other scripture, you have multiple examples of women speaking.

[00:38:05] Acts 2, women are prophesying, even within 1st Corinthians. You have women praying in the assembly. So apparently keeping silent doesn’t mean that’s not a blanket prohibition. You compare scripture with scripture and then you can start to, to put a bigger picture together. And there’s evidence in Corinthians that there was a lot of discord and I pretty strongly convinced that was a context specific situation where some of the women in Corinth were being pretty factious.

[00:38:39] And so in that context, Paul gave that admonition, but it clearly is not some kind of a universal prohibition against women. Other scriptures make that clear. So always let scripture interpret scripture, and that takes some work. That’s volatile, Timothy’s study to show yourselves approved.

[00:38:59] A Workman [00:39:00] doesn’t need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. So he’s talking about scripture that we’re to study it so that we can interpret it. So that would be just a little bit about letting scripture interpret scripture. Third principle would be look for the plain literal sense of the passage.

[00:39:18] In some periods of the church, particularly in the middle, and in some cultures today, in our culture, people will allegorize scripture. And if you start doing the allegorizing game, you can make anything stand for anything.

[00:39:32] Some of our listeners will remember Y2K.

[00:39:39] There were some

[00:39:44] insane prophetic predictions of was gonna happen and the world is coming to an end. This one particular radio preacher who was very wealthy and owned, I think hundreds of radio stations. So he could do his own broadcast. He had this really complex way to [00:40:00] interpret scripture and the numbers. And he’d come up with these numbers and it was very allegorical. And he ended up having to give, I think, four different dates for the return of Christ, cuz he got it wrong three times in a row and well that causes people to just give up on scripture.

[00:40:17] If, unless they understand no, it’s not to be approached that way. No, take the plain literal meaning of the passage. Fourth, identify the author’s intended meaning. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate author, but he spoke through human authors. So when we come to scripture, we wanna ask, what did the author mean by this?

[00:40:40] And that’s gonna help tie us into the cultural context. Again, it means doing a little bit of study and our study Bible can help give us a little bit of that. Let me give you an example of why that’s so, so important. I remember as a pastor, and I’m gonna put this one in the book, having a man who had, [00:41:00] and we’ve all seen this all too many times, he had decided that he wasn’t happy with his current family and wife in particular.

[00:41:09] And he had found someone who had made him very happy. So he was leaving his wife and three or four children. Yeah. And I met with him and he quoted one or two verses and said, And they had to do with joy. And I don’t even remember now the text, but I remember it had to do with joy. And he said what this verse means to me, is that God wants me happy.

[00:41:36] This other woman makes me happy. So God told me through this passage that he approves of me leaving my wife for this other woman. Wow. I, as his pastor, I did have a lot to say he didn’t sadly listen to it and was heartbreaking for his family and the church. But yeah, I think you get the point.

[00:41:54] I don’t have a right to, to just open this book up and say, here’s what it means [00:42:00] to me, as if you can, again, you can make it mean anything. I need to ask, what did the author mean, based on sound rules of interpretation? What did Paul mean? What did Moses mean? Et cetera. Now, sometimes when people say here’s what this verse means to me, they really mean here’s the significance to me.

[00:42:24] Here’s how I think I should apply it. I’m all over that. I’m with you. Yes. We need to be making personal application, but precisely speaking and, words have significance. It’s not what it means to me. It’s what it meant to the author. How I apply it, then that comes out of the author’s meaning.

[00:42:46] What Paul intended to communicate and ultimately the Holy Spirit. Now I wanna say, Spirit, what do you want, how do you want me to apply this to my life? But until I have a sound [00:43:00] understanding of what the author meant, how do I know how to apply it ?Again, I can just take it any way I want and chances are, I’m gonna come up with my own interpretation.

[00:43:12] It’s probably gonna be a whole lot less than God intended. I wanna know what God has to say.

[00:43:18] Diana Winkler: That’s how cults are made.

[00:43:22] Steven Tracy: Yeah. Let me close real quickly with two others. One, recognize the limits and function of old Testament law. The law of Moses, first five books of the Bible, Genesis to Deuteronomy.

[00:43:33] I’m absolutely convinced from the new Testament that the believer is no longer under the old Testament law, the law of Moses. In Romans 10 verse 3 or 4, Paul says that Christ is the end of the law, that the Greek word there is tellos, like telescope to look out there. It’s end in that sense.

[00:43:54] And Galatians 3, Paul very specifically says, the law was our [00:44:00] school master leading us to Christ. But now that we have Christ, we’re no longer under the school master. You see somebody very similar in Roman 7. We’re not under old Testament law. There have been some Bill Gothard in particular, which,

[00:44:16] for some of our older readers, that name will mean a lot, who just created tremendous burdens for people that were unbiblical. Very unbiblical based on old Testament law. And he just made the assumption in his teaching that were under the law. And then proceeded to give all kinds of rules that, that people had to follow based on that.

[00:44:40] No, now the law of Moses has much to say to us. It teaches us about the holiness of God, the love of God, all kinds of things. But we’re not under it as a system. Any old Testament law that’s reiterated in the new Testament, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, et cetera. Of course we’re under, but it’s reiterated.

[00:44:58] It’s affirmed in new Testament. [00:45:00] And the final thing I’d say is interpret scripture, according to the normal rules of literature. That can sound a little technical, but read the Bible like you read any other book, even though it’s not like any other book, but it’s literature. So when we read poetry, we don’t, we just intuitively understand there’s figures of speech.

[00:45:23] We don’t take them literally. That there are those critics of scripture who will say, the Bible’s so full of errors. It talks about the rising of the sun. We know full well that the sun doesn’t go up and down. That’s yeah, like that wasn’t intended to be taken literally. Those are figures of speech.

[00:45:44] We understand that from literature. The book of Proverbs in particular it’s what we call the type of literature, it’s wisdom literature. Ancient Jews that understood wisdom literature is giving a general principle about life. A general principle [00:46:00] doesn’t mean it has no exceptions. It’s something that’s generally true.

[00:46:04] So you take a verse like Proverbs 24:6, train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it. If we don’t understand the nature of wisdom literature and we do our best to be a godly parent and our child doesn’t end up adhering to the faith, then that passage could condemn us unless we understand that’s a general principle.

[00:46:26] It means here’s how life most often works. That’s a nature of a proverb. So don’t have time to go into the other kinds of literature, but we have narrative and wisdom, literature and poetry and gospels, epistles, et cetera. And they we interpret them based on the way we normally interpret that kind of literature.

[00:46:45] It’s not as esoteric as it may sound.

[00:46:49] Diana Winkler: It makes things exciting when we have a variety of different things in scripture to, to help us learn about God and his love and [00:47:00] salvation.

[00:47:00] Steven Tracy: Yeah, the Bible is written over hundreds and hundreds of years. Three different languages, multiple cultures, several continents. There’s such rich diversity and beauty, which adds to create some complexity.

[00:47:17] But again, the overarching message is crystal clear. We have a God of love who delights in redemption in healing and putting broken pieces back together. That is clear from beginning to end.

[00:47:30] Diana Winkler: Now, one question I did wanna ask you now we come across a passage of scripture that is really difficult to swallow or very traumatic or very difficult to understand why this is happening in scripture.

[00:47:50] What do we do when we come across those passages? Like the genocide and the rapes and the child sacrifice and all that stuff. [00:48:00] [00:48:00] Steven Tracy: Yeah. I’m in Deuteronomy right now. So several of those, several of those have been in my recent readings. I do think for those I would, again, start with every believer has a right and a responsibility to read the Bible for himself, herself.

[00:48:14] We have the Holy Spirit in dwelling us, H oly Spirit’s our teacher. But because there are some challenging passages and we’re removed culturally and it’s, hundreds or couple millennials, it literally thousands of years removed from the culture and the language that it, it can be really hard at times.

[00:48:35] So, not just a study Bible, but sometimes some basic commentaries can certainly be helpful. The Tyndale old and new Testament commentary series. I really like. It’s basic it’s lay level. It’s non-technical. Doesn’t get you into the Greek and Hebrew words, but it’s written by scholars who knew Greek and Hebrew and knew their stuff.

[00:48:57] So I really like that. They’re pretty [00:49:00] inexpensive. Get ’em in paper paperback now. Little more in depth, but not overly technical. Is it the New International Typical Commentary series? Again, they’re in paperback and they’re pretty inexpensive. Fine scholars. I just, this morning was in Chris Wright’s commentary on Deuteronomy, looking at some things on slavery and genocide, and it was very helpful.

[00:49:21] So, some tools like that can very much help along the way.

[00:49:26] Diana Winkler: We’re not always going to know all the answers, this side of heaven. There are just some things we’re not gonna understand, but God’s gonna help us and guide us.

[00:49:36] Steven Tracy: Yeah. And I would, Diana, throw out a final principle and that is interpret the unclear in light, of the clear. That’s often given as a principle of hermeneutics.

[00:49:47] Yeah, you have those passages and the old Testament when they came into the Promised Land and were to wipe out the Canaanites or the whole population, and that has been called genocide. And that’s [00:50:00] hard to stomach. I think when you look carefully in the context, even within Deuteronomy, it’s interesting that it specifically talks about how they worshiped

[00:50:12] foreign gods and sacrificed their own children to those gods. We know that was part of Canaanite worship of Ba’al. They would literally take a statue and heat it up, put a fire at the base of a bronze statue and heat it till the arms were glowing and put a child in the superheated arms of the statue as, and it would burn to death.

[00:50:35] That was an act of worship, an act of worship. So the text says that it’s because of the abominations of the Canaanites that God told the children of Israel to wipe them out. Sometimes harsh things that seem couldn’t be the love of God, have to take place in [00:51:00] light of the bigger safety of the community,

[00:51:03] if you will. And I think that’s what’s going on with those commands there. But some basic Bible study tools can help us maybe get a little bigger framework and understand some cultural things that when you get a little bit of that cultural context, maybe it’s not easy, but it makes a lot more sense.

[00:51:22] Okay. I think I can see why God’s seeing this in light of that. I didn’t realize that was the case.

[00:51:28] Diana Winkler: Wow. This has just been some gold nuggets you’ve been sharing with us today. I’m just sitting here, soaking them in. And you are definitely welcome to come back on the show anytime, especially after you’ve gotten your book published and released.

[00:51:45] I wanna get that myself.

[00:51:46] Steven Tracy: That would be fun. That would be fun.

[00:51:48] Diana Winkler: Now, we covered a lot of ground today. Was there anything else that we didn’t talk about that you wanted to mention before we go here?

[00:51:56] Steven Tracy: No in my mind, I’m just thinking of that beautiful [00:52:00] statement in Psalm 119:105. Your word is a light into my feet and a light into my path. I close and encourage our listeners to come to scripture daily. It is our roadmap in the love letter of God to guide us. Who doesn’t need light for the journey, guidance. There’s so many pitfalls along the way.

[00:52:22] And it’s interesting again, in the culture the lamp in ancient Israel, I’ve seen them in museums, a little clay lamp that would hold a little bit of olive oil with a wick in the middle. It would’ve been a very low light flame. So when the Psalmist says your word is a light into my path, think a little ceramic oil lit lamp that would’ve given you enough light for the next step.

[00:52:52] This is not a high beam flashlight. Right. So, so it really suggests to us [00:53:00] that we have to be feeding on scripture regularly, daily. Cuz it’s gonna give us light for the next step or two, not necessarily beyond that. So we keep coming to it and God will continue to speak to us. So yeah, I would if I said that was my last point, let me give one more.

[00:53:20] Okay. I would love for our listeners to check out resources, abuse related resources, cuz I know most of your listeners have been impacted by abuse. mendingthesoul.org. We’re in the process of overhauling our website. So, it’s gonna be even much better new and improved in another month or two, but there’s a lot there by way of written resources.

[00:53:42] Some that you can purchase. A lot that’s just downloadable. Some, my academic articles, all kinds of things. That could be a source of encouragement and guidance for abuse survivors. That’s why we exist as a ministry.

[00:53:55] Diana Winkler: And we can support Mending The Soul with donations or [00:54:00] offerings.

[00:54:01] Steven Tracy: I always welcome, that’ll particularly help us in the places of greatest trauma. Book sales help cover a lot of the administrative costs here in the US.

[00:54:11] But we have to raise several hundred thousand dollars to, to serve hundreds of thousands of abuse survivors and some of the hardest places of the world. And they are dear brothers and sisters. So we’d love to have support with that, prayers for that.

[00:54:28] Diana Winkler: Amen. Now I would like to ask you to pray for our listeners.

[00:54:33] I know that they so need it. This is a spiritual battle that we’re, yes, facing. So, if you could close us in prayer, sir.

[00:54:42] Steven Tracy: I’d love to! Lord, thanks for the time that we’ve had. Most of all, as we’ve thought today, I thank you for giving us your Word. Lord, we are weak. We are feeble. We are wounded. And honestly we are often foolish.

[00:54:58] We so need [00:55:00] your guidance, your wisdom, your direction, your comfort. And you’ve given us that in your word. I thank you. Thank you, Spirit for inspiring and speaking to us through scripture. And I pray for each of the listeners today that Lord, you will renew their confidence in your Word. And I especially pray for those

[00:55:23] who’ve had scripture misused against them. Lord, give them healing, give them renewed confidence in scripture. Lord, continue to speak to us. We need you. We need your voice. We need your truth. In Jesus name. Amen.

[00:55:40] Diana Winkler: Amen. God bless you, brother.

[00:55:43] Brian Winkler: Thank you for listening to the Wounds of the Faithful podcast. If this episode has been helpful to you, please hit the subscribe button and tell a friend. You could connect with us at DSW Ministries dot org, where you’ll find our blog along with our [00:56:00] Facebook, Twitter, and our YouTube channel links.

[00:56:03] Hope to see you next week.