First off, I’ll concede that “narcigesiest” isn’t actually a word, but since this post is about the subjective interpretation of Scripture, I chose to subjectively interpret the dictionary.
According to the Greek myth of Narcissus, a young man fell in love with his own reflection in a pond, and his desire for himself consumed him. Since eisegesis is a mishandling of Scripture, narcigesis is a brilliant term for those who take Scripture and personalize it. In an article from Apprising.org, narcigesis is defined as
- The reading of one’s own life experiences and/or that of another’s life experience into the text of Scripture and the need to make the Bible all about oneself.
- An interpretation of Scripture based on the interpreter’s self-authority, particularly driven by self-esteem, self-actualization, mystical experiences and/or the interpreter’s “felt needs.” (See Sola Experientia.)
- A personal and/or mystical interpretation of Scripture based on the interpreter’s own ideas, biases, opinions, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, experiences, impressions, dreams, revelations, or the like, rather than based upon the plain meaning of the text.
- The reading of one’s own doctrinal theories into Scripture (as opposed to exegesis, which is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of biblical text), particularly as a result of personal experience. (See Sola Experientia.)
- Self-centered, self-defined and self-authenticating biblical interpretation, application and counsel.
- The reading of one’s own interpretation into Scripture, based upon the egotistical belief that all things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; and that only the learned, the elect, or the leadership elite (of which the interpreter considers himself to be one), may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them. (See Plura Scriptura.)
- The egotistical drive to invent new theologies, doctrines, revelations, applications and philosophies about Scripture that often manifest in self-aggrandizing activities, such as book publishing, conferences, setting up organizations and websites, moneymaking schemes and publicity drives.
A narcigetic reading of Scripture can be found wherever you hear, “What does that verse mean to you?” Usually, this happens when women gather around the Bible to choose ‘life verses’ that ‘speak to their hearts’, or when they want to ‘claim life verses’ for certain areas of their lives. Typically, these women then add these verses to their vision boards (and idea gleaned from a misinterpretation of Proverbs 29:18). This assortment of verses – taken out of context and personalized – results in an idolatrous smash book of Scripture ‘selfies’. The idol? The self, of course. Just as Narcissus failed to realize that he was being entranced by a mere image, many Christian women are similarly held captive by the reflections their false projections create onto the Word of God. Our rebellious nature tempts us to be like God; it makes our desires a priority. The following narcigetic reflections of Scripture clearly underlines my point:
1. Reflections of Carnal Desires
If the world were given an invitation to choose from a host of items to enrich lives, its first instinct would be to choose those things that increase health, wealth, and success. Since we are fallen creatures who are at war with our flesh (Galatians 5:17), it’s not surprising that verses are misapplied in hopes of acquiring worldly comfort. Consequently, when women are taught to ‘claim promises’ from over 31,000 verses, based on what these verses mean to them individually, they have more than 31,000 opportunities to wrench verses out of context. Whether it is the popular Isaiah 53:5 for physical healing, Malachi 3:10 for prosperity, or Philippians 4:13 for job promotion, the rate of mangled verses is high. Scripture is perfect (Psalm 19:7); it is our carnal hearts that see what is not written. Our hearts claim we can have whatever we want because our hearts misinterpret James 4:2 that reads, “You do not have because you do not ask God”, and we ignore the preceding verse that states we do not receive because we may spend it on our pleasures. We must stop following our fleshly hearts; they deceive us. We should submit, instead, to the Word of God – in context.
2. Reflections of Secret Knowledge
The Word of God is truth (John 17:17); however, when we interpret the Bible subjectively, truth shifts to relativism. From there, anything goes and before long, relativism mutates into mysticism, and soon we’ll be chanting the prayer of Jabez while walking in prayer circles. We listen to every televangelist who claims to have a prophetic dream or vision from God because Joel 2:28* apparently applies to anyone who mutters the name of Jesus. False teachings abound with formulas and affirmations that claim to be the keys to unlocking God’s blessings. However, the Bible is not a Book of Shadows to be gorged for hidden knowledge or to be perverted for mystical practices. Everything has already been revealed (Deuteronomy 29:29)**. We must stop looking for signs and mysteries, and rather correctly handle the Word of God to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15).
3. Reflections of Self-Glory
We are fallen and created beings under the sovereignty of God, and as Christians, we need to submit to our Lord and serve Him. Narcigesis appears when we identify ourselves in Scripture as co-creators with God. When we claim we can create our own realities because we misinterpret Proverbs 18:21, (the tongue has the power of life and death), who are we implying is really the Creator and bestower of blessings? When we become the directors of our lives because we misinterpret Proverbs 23:7 (as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he; KJV), who is then really Lord of our lives?
Narcissism ignores the fact that Israel is being addressed in Jeremiah 29:11; no, we rather claim that verse as a life verse (and fridge magnets!). Pride reinterprets Acts 16:31 to mean that since I believe in Jesus Christ, God is obligated to deliver salvation to my house; furthermore, love of self implies God loves me as I am, but we forget that we are free of His wrath only because of the sacrifice of Jesus. Narcigesis elevates us as the authors and stars of God’s Word.
Who is the Fairest of Them All?
All Scripture is useful for Godly living (2 Peter 1:3), but should we want to choose verses to reflect upon, may I suggest those that point to our sin and wretchedness (Romans 7:24), so that we may be reminded and be thankful of God’s undeserved mercy and Jesus’ sacrifice for us? Or a verse like Ephesians 4:30, so we can remember not to grieve God with our lifestyles but to rather follow Jesus daily. Are we able to see ourselves as God truly sees us? Forgiven, and loved; yes, but also in need of confession, sanctification, and holiness (James 5:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1 Peter 1:16).
Friends, the Bible is not about us – it is about Jesus Christ … the fairest of them all.
Soli Deo Gloria
* verse should link Joel 2:28: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”
** verse should link to Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”