Presuppositions/ Foundational Beliefs:

Presuppositions are those things that we “bring to the table” prior to studying the text. Admittedly, I am a proud Calvinist. Specifically, I am a 1689 Reformed Baptist. This has caused issues with my family who bases much of their own theology on what my great grandmother taught them. Rather than saying “God says” or “God’s Word says,” Evelynn Ens is given credit. Unfortunately theological debates end when I ask why they belief a certain way and she is their only evidence. Other sources include other humanities studies including philosophy, sociology, and history. Presuppositionalists “presuppose” the Christian Worldview. This has largely to do with the high regard for the doctrine of the elect and predestination.[1] One of the greatest influences in Reformed circles on the subject of presuppositions is Cornelius Van Til. For van Til, “The self-attesting Christ of Scripture has always been my starting point for everything I have said.” Prior to conversion, which Reformed Theologians refer to as regeneration, the human heart is still in a state of total depravity. Prior to regeneration, the individual with his own “baggage” lives his life for himself. After conversion the Christian’s heart is no longer out for his own good but rather is attentive and listening to the Holy Spirit. He may read the text but will only receive the full benefit of Scripture after the Holy Spirit’s direction. According to Van Til (and the Reformed ideology), Christ is the starting point not the conclusion.[2]

Another presupposition that I find rising popularity are those who are KJVO (King James Version only.) They are skeptical of other versions, even though better manuscripts have been found since the 1600s.[3]




Preunderstandings are assumptions that are brought along. I once received weird looks from my Gospel of John class (taken as an undergrad) because I used the Wedding in Cana in John 2 as the case that Jesus knew how to party. The preunderstandings of my classmates were that the water jugs were relatively small, when in actuality they were used for ceremony and were each the size of a keg. D.A. Ferguson lists four categories of preunderstandings. They are informational, attitudinal, ideological, and methodological.[4] Presuppositions and preunderstandings also take a high view of historical theology. Though on occasion particular doctrines may not reconcile with one another, preunderstandings emphasis certain doctrines and dismiss others.[5]

We test our presuppositions with seeing how they align with the biblical data. We examine the text and compare our impressions afterwards with what our presuppositions were before.[6] If our impressions after the text differ from those before, then our preunderstandings have been corrected.

The most basic presupposition and preunderstanding is that God is the ultimate authority and Scripture is Himself revealed. William Klein mentioned the “Hemenuetical Spiral”.  The Hermeneuitcal Spiral is  how the “honest, reflective interpreter remains open tto change, even to a significant transformation of preunderstandings. This is the hermeneuical Spiral. Since we accept the Bible’s authority as mediated through the Spirit, we remain open to correction by its message.”[7]


2. Terms

Philippians 2:1-4, ESV


1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.


General/ Specific:  Encouragement is a general term, the types of encouragement include comfort and symphathy.


Questions/ Answers: None direct although there are some that are implied such as how to complete the joy.


Dialogue: Since this is an epistle, there is an implied dialogue between the church in Phillipi and Paul.


Purpose/ Result Statements: The Results are actually listed before the Purpose. Paul’s joy will be complete, he then offers a list of what would complete his joy.


Means: Paul gives the method by which he would feel joy for the church. He offers subcategories. Complete my joy. How? By being of the same mind. Do not be selfish, but instead show humility. Do not think of yourself, rather think of others.


Conditional Clauses: There are two if/ then statements. The first is if there is any encouragement in Christ, I [Paul] will experience joy. The second states that if they do these things (including being of the same mind and doing nothing of selfish conceit), Paul will experience joy.


Actions: The role of those who experience encouragement in Christ and who give Paul joy include working together (“being of one mind”), not being selfish, and experience humility.


Emotional Terms: Paul speaks as someone emotionally vested in the readers of this letter. There is definetly a theme of love.



Tone: There is an endearing tone in the passage. Paul writes to the congregation the same way that a parent would address their child.


How do you think this exercise helps you to understand the text better?


The exercise helped to take a passage that is widely known and dissect it. It did make me yearn for the context so I ended up reading the passage prior and after. The text brought out key terms and phrases that I had simply read over before.


What did you discover that you did not already notice about this passage?


This is a passage that I have read so many times I can nearly recite it. I always just read it the same way that I would read prose or a narrative. Disecting it like this I I saw the love between Paul and his followers. Philippians 2 is an infamous hymn about Christ, but this says so much about the identity of the Church. It is a recipe for how to please those that have discipled us.





Beilby, James K.. Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It is and Why We Do It. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011.


Duvall, J. Scott and J. Daniel Hays. Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approaches to Reading Interpeting, and Applying the Bible, 3rd Ed.. Grand rapids: Zondervan, 2012.


Erickson, Millard J.. Christian Theology, 3rd Ed.. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.


Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 4th Ed.. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.


Groothius, Douglas. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011.


Klein, William W., Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. Introduction to Biblical Interpetation, Revised and Updated. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004.

[1] Groothius, 62.

[2] Beilby, James K.. Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It is and Why We Do It. (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011), 78.

[3] Fee, 43.

[4] Klein, William W., Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. Introduction to Biblical Interpetation, Revised and Updated. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004), 155.

[5] Erickson, Millard J.. Christian Theology, 3rd Ed.. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 12.

[6] Klein, Biblical Interpetation, 163.

[7] Ibid., 167.

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