The fourth of Bailey’s interpretation “sins” in Interpreting the Bible is the mathemitazation of Scripture.
Bailey is referring to a dehistoricizing and decontextualization of scripture. Passages in scripture are treated as though they were a set of mathematical formulas. Much like we could translate “two plus two equals four” into any language without and loss of understanding, so too may passages of scripture be translated from context to context utterly divorced from any historical context. These formulas are combined and systematized in various ways that reveal “objective” truths.
If we go back to the first three posts in this series to see how the Bible came to be, then we know that this approach does violence to an accurate interpretation of scripture. Clearly there are propositional truths revealed in scripture and there is nothing wrong with systematically examining them. But all of scripture was communicated within the context of particular authors writing particular audiences within a particular culture during a particular set of circumstances.
For instance, it is common today to acknowledge that “God is love.” Do we therefore mean that God is sex? We use the word “love” to mean many things including sex. We must examine the original language in its context. When we do so we find that the Greeks had different words for differing aspects of what we call love and sexual love (eros) is not one that is applied to God. The context from which we learned that God is love is critical reflecting on the proposition that God is love.
As you may have picked up by now, a recurring corrective theme in Bailey’s analysis is that scripture is the word of God spoken through people in history.