Lesson 1 | What is Bracketing?

The Bible reasons

The basis for Bracketing

It was a life-changing revelation to me when I discovered that Paul, for example, did not merely make a collection of divine pronouncements, but that he argued.
John Piper, from Biblical Exegesis

This is the critical biblical observation undergirding the fact we need to do “discourse analysis” (one way or another) to interpret the Bible correctly. That is, we need to note how the ideas in the text combine together or we will misconstrue them. This is true on the sentence level and this is true on the paragraph level. To be sure, Bracketing as a method is not critical to read the Bible rightly, but a careful consideration of the arguments in the text is necessary—and Bracketing helps us toward this end.

Incorrect interpretations run aground on some trait in the text that does not yield the meaning suggested by the flawed interpretation. Correct interpretations explain satisfactorily every trait in the text. —Tom Schreiner, from Interpreting the Pauline Epistles

Just as words derive meaning from their use in a proposition, so a proposition receives its precise meaning from its use in relationship to other propositions. —John Piper, from Biblical Exegesis

For example, in Colossians 2:21 Paul says, 'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch.' Taken alone, these three propositions would suggest that Paul is prescribing certain rules of behavior. That would be a complete misunderstanding. The preceding proposition, the rhetorical question of verse 20, says, 'Why do you submit to regulations?' So what Paul really means is the very opposite of what the three propositions of verse 21 seem to mean when isolated from their context. He means, beware of such regulations as, 'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch.' Another example would be Philippians 2:12: 'Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.' This proposition will not be properly construed unless it is viewed in relation to the clause which follows, 'God is at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure' (Philippians 2:13). A whole theology hangs on the way you relate these two propositions. If you make the second clause the result of the first, then God’s action in sanctification is contingent upon our working. If you make the second clause the ground of the first, then our efforts toward holiness are initiated by God, and possible only because God is already at work in us. Paul leaves no room for doubt when he joins the two clauses by the conjunction 'γαρ' or 'because.' God’s work in us is the ground and enabling of our working. —John Piper, from Biblical Exegesis

Biblical Exegesis: Discovering the Meaning of Scriptural Textspdf
By John Piper The above quotation comes from this classic booklet that served as the inspiration and basis for Biblearc.

The Bible explicitly reasons

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. —Isaiah 1:18-20
If we are not willing to reason with the Lord, then we will have no part in his grace! For God binds these two things together, explicitly here and implicitly throughout the entire Bible. 
Furthermore, if I reason wrongly, I ruin the message. For example, the text does not say, “Because you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.” The message here is not that God blesses good people. Rather, the passage makes clear that it is spoken to those with a scarlet red stain of sin, holding a promise to wash that stain away. Thus, noting the logic brings to light that “willing and obedient” is actually a call to willingly repent and submit to God's grace and lordship.

The Bible even reasons when it refuses to reason

Again, reasoning is everywhere in the scriptures—even in passages in which God refuses to reason!
You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? —Romans 9:19-21

This passage is coming off of Paul's difficult teaching that God “has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” And so it makes sense that Paul acknowledges some of his readers will want to argue with this point. What is Paul's answer? God doesn't have to give you a reason why this is so! He doesn't have to explain and justify it in your eyes. God said it, and thus it is so.
But did you notice that this text ironically includes reasoning in this stern refusal to answer? The passage does not respond to the “Why does he still find fault?” question with a simple “not telling!” Instead, the text reasons for why God is not obligated to answer the question—namely, because just as it would be absurd for clay to question a potter, so too is it absurd for a creature to question the Creator. And then, ironically, God goes on to answer the contention through Paul's sentences which follow.
The point is this: careful reading can never get away from an observation of the reasoning in the text.