Egogesis: Interpreting the Bible with Only You in Mind

February 7, 2013 — 13 Comments
Here is a thoughtful post by Mary DeMuth, an author and speaker whose blog, Your LIfe Uncaged, is about discovering the secret to impossible joy.

Irecently watched a famous pastor exegete an Old Testament passage. I hollered to Patrick (my theologically astute hubby) to watch it with me because I started feeling ill at ease about it.

open Bible preacher

We watched, then cringed, then talked.

The gist of the sermon had nothing to do with the passage. Truly. Instead of exploring the passage, understanding the context and history, and balancing it with the wholeness of Scripture, the speaker had an idea he wanted to convey, then shrunk-fit the passage onto his message. He deified his principle over the context of Scripture.

The power of the passage was that God was the hero, the powerful One who ordered the cosmos and had ultimate control over everything. But the pastor emaciated the power and made the passage to be about us. Our power. Our coolness. Our comfort.

I call this egogesis. It’s coming to the Scripture with a preconceived idea, then retrofitting a yanked-out-of-context Scripture to it, where the message is about our comfort and ease and power.

I can’t tell you how many times I see this, particularly with Christian speakers. Instead of submerging ourselves in the Bible and exegeting meaning and message from its roots, we pick and choose nice verses to fit our all-is-well, happy-clappy message. In doing so, we’re not representing Jesus or His Word correctly.

James 3:1 hauntingly says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

I fear we take lightly our responsibility to handle the Word of God. We must be careful. We must realize that lives are at stake when we share with others. Our theology must mean something, and our words must resonate with Jesus, make Him smile. The Bible is to respected, to be honored in context, to be filtered through God’s bigness and His renown, not through our egos and our desire for fame.

In light of egogesis, what can you do?

For listeners: Be discerning when you hear a message. Ask questions. Search the context. Be a Berean.

For speakers: Get on your knees right now and ask God to help you move from egogesis to exegesis. Make a determination to be true to the Scriptures.

For readers: Don’t skip over the verses that mess with you. Read them too.

For everyone: Be alert to pride, that determination to make us the center of God’s word, rather than God as centric.

What do you think?

Have you ever encountered a speaker who tacked on a Scripture to fit a pet message? How has this post challenged you? Made you mad?

Lawrence W. Wilson

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I'm lead pastor at Fall Creek Wesleyan Church and the author of a few books including A Different Kind of Crazy and Why Me? Straight Talk about Suffering. When I have ideas that might help you transform your life and community, I post them here.
  • Mary DeMuth

    Thanks for the opportunity to post here! Beautiful blog!

    • Lawrence W. Wilson

      Thanks, Mary! High praise coming from one of my favorite bloggers!

    • Lawrence W. Wilson

      Thanks, Mary. So glad to have you here!

  • Kathi Woodall

    Egogesis – Love it! You have hit on one of my biggest pet peeves of all time. The more I study and write about God’s Word the more I know it’s ALL about Him. Definitely sharing this article.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Thanks for sharing it, Kathi.

  • Dawn Paoletta

    I love that term. Great points to consider and keep myself checked. I have seen this in others but I need to beware of it myself. Amen.

    • Mary DeMuth

      I do too, Dawn.

  • Debbie

    Mary…Yes, yes, and yes…and I just may have, at times, perhaps been guilty of the same. Perhaps :) Thanks for this reminder and caution. As one who can’t seem to “turn the teaching off” it is so very important that I handle the word of God correctly…its a passion of mine but also a caution. I want to start a blog but am very “afraid” of mishandeling the word and misleading others. But I guess God is big enough to lead if I will be lead!

    • Mary DeMuth

      He is big enough. What you really need is a teachable heart and a passion for His word.

  • Keith Ferrin

    Couldn’t agree more Mary! I haven’t heard the term “egogesis” before…but I’ll be using it now! I HAVE used the example of “being Bereans” before. For any of you who want to look it up, it’s about three paragraphs into Acts 17.

    • Lawrence W. Wilson

      I agree Keith, I’ll be using that term from now on too. Good handle for this phenomenon.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Glad you liked that coined term. :) Feel free to use at will.

  • GJ

    Egogesis. Love that word! Well said. As an Orthodox Christian, I believe the Protestant reformation has, sadly, opened the door to rampant egogesis through its disconnection from Holy Tradition which both wrote and interprets Scripture. The egogetical door has been opened. We’ll be trying to close it until the Lord comes.