The Doctrine of Least Meaning

Help

If you haven’t been able to tell yet, most of my posts involve borrowed insight from someone far wiser than me. This one will follow suit.

Recently, I heard John Piper mention a Bible-reading tool called “the doctrine of least meaning” to use when we approach difficult passages of Scripture. He admitted that some passages of the Bible are hard to understand—don’t get discouraged when you feel this way!

When we encounter a strange prophecy in Revelation, an extensive description of temple ornaments in 1 Kings, or an obscure oracle in Nahum, we’re likely to ask ourselves, “What the heck am I supposed to make of this?”

But if we can step back, look at the passage and say, “Well at the least, it probably means . . . ” that truth—whatever it is—is so significant that if it is believed, meditated on, and practiced, it will massively benefit our lives.

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Purpose & Pleasure

Freud vs Frankl

Sigmund Freud believed the chief desire for all mankind is the desire for pleasure — that every one of our thoughts, actions, and dreams are a response to the question, “Will this bring me pleasure?”

Victor Frankl disagreed. He said what we want, more than anything, is a deep, experiential sense of purpose — that our thoughts, actions, and dreams are a response to the question, “Will my life have meaning as a result of this?”

When we don’t have a sense of purpose, Frankl argued, is when we numb ourselves with pleasure.

I’m with Frankl. How about you?

“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters,

but one who has insight draws them out.”

— Proverbs 20:5

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