Presuppositions are starting places. When we begin any task, we assume certain things, and many of them are held unconsciously. Although they are subtle and often undetected, they will guide any endeavor to a particular conclusion even if that object was not the intended one.
So, let’s say that I want to be a Bible teacher and preacher. Where do I start? How do I begin my work?
Our posture toward Scripture is crucial. First, we must be absolutely committed to, as David Helm says it, “staying on the line of Scripture.” We dare not say less than God says in His Word, neither can overreach and say more. The latter is liberalism, the former is legalism, and both kill the life and vitality of a church. This is how we have to orient ourselves in relation to the Bible.
Second, we must believe that Scripture is God speaking to us in the present tense. Hebrews 3:7-8 is intriguing in this regard. “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness.” This is a quote from Psalm 95 but notice in what tense the Holy Spirit is speaking. It isn’t the past tense but the present: “as the Holy Spirit says…” God speaks in the present through ancient words. This is a powerful conviction and the possession of it changes everything in the way an expositor handles the text.
Given these presuppositions, how do I begin my work? Our tendency is to begin by asking, “What am I going to say about this text?” And that is the wrong question and the wrong place to begin the work. Instead, we must ask, “How did this text function in its original setting? What did the writer intend when he put it together–under the direction of the Holy Spirit–in this way?”