Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Ancient-Future Interpretation 1

posted by Scot McKnight

Bible.jpgReading the Bible is both easier than ever before, because of all the resources available, and more complex, because of all the resources available. One could argue that the oldest method of Bible reading is now back on the front burner, and the method can be called the “theological interpretation of Scripture.” 

In the last few years I’ve read a number of books on this topic, and I can’t say that anyone is defining it clearly enough to gain a strong traction so that ordinary readers know exactly what is meant. Until that happens, theological interpretation will neither become common to the Church nor practicable even for pastors.
So, I’m particularly happy that J. Todd Billings has a new book and seeks to clarify some muddy waters by writing a book pitched for students and pastors. His book is called: The Word of God for the People of God: An Entryway to the Theological Interpretation of Scripture
.
Here’s his thumbnail definition, and it is still in need of clarification but I’ll quote it anyway: “a multifaceted practice of a community of faith in reading the Bible as God’s instrument of self-revelation and saving fellowship” (xii).
Do you think the goal of Bible reading is to discern the (human) author’s intent in its historical context? Do think we should read the Bible “through” our theology?

Billings will nuance this definition in a few ways, I want to illustrate my point, and then propose how I’m understanding what these folks are actually doing. Billings: it is the “practice of interpreting Scripture in the context of the triune activity of God, the God who uses Scripture to reshape the Church into Christ’s image by the Spirit’s power” (xiii).

All of this sounds nice, and I know these folks are pushing into new boundaries for many, but they tend to “abstract-ify” what they are doing so I’m going to propose a direct definition: 
As I read these theological-interpretation folks, their real problem with current methods of interpretation is that they think Bible scholars are (1) too concerned with only the historical meaning of the text (sometimes called historicism or primitivism) and (2) too little concerned with the theological meaning of the text. But, though Billings is moving in one direction, I’m not convinced his definition actually excludes much historically-shaped critical approaches to the Bible.
So, I think Billings’ next lines get closer to what I’m seeing when I listen to this conversation: it’s about “examining the theology that we bring to Scripture and investigating how our theologies operate as we read Scripture in the midst of worshiping communities” (xii).
The theological interpretation of Scripture is to read individual passages in the Bible through the lens of one’s theology. This sounds too individualistic, so I want to reshape that slightly because I think it is the ideal of what these folks are proposing: 

The theological interpretation of Scripture is to read individual passages in the Bible through the lens of one’s orthodox, community-shaped, and confessional theology. This approach is a desired approach. It’s the ancient approach.
As one who was nurtured into the more historical-critical approach, this approach could be said to (1) read into the Bible it’s own theology and (2) fall prey to the inability to challenge its theology on the basis of Scripture.
Yet, having said that from the angle of historical exegesis, the Church’s most ancient method is the theological method — that is, it read the Bible through the lens of the regula faith, the rule of faith. Luther spoke of “what drives Christ”. Furthermore, everyone reads the Bible through the lens of theology, even those who like to think they don’t. What the theological interpretation folks do is say this: yes, we do read the Bible influenced by theology, and, yes, we should. It’s the ancient-future interpretation.


Advertisement
Comments read comments(33)
post a comment
Randy

posted February 17, 2010 at 8:14 am


It’s an interesting question “should we read it theologically.” Call me post-modern, but I’d say we can’t help but read it theologically, even when we think we’re reading historical-critically. The problem of modernism is that it just ignored this tendency and claimed objectivity.
The theology we bring to the text is shaped by scripture, which is shaped by theology, which is shaped by scripture, which is shaped by theology. It’s a tangled mess that I don’t think can be untangled. So, instead of untangling the mess, I prefer to just say “this is the theology I bring to the text,” so that I can get on with the task of actually reading the text. It may not be perfect, but it is the only way to move forward, IMHO.



report abuse
 

Phil

posted February 17, 2010 at 8:36 am


I’m with Randy. It’s so important that we as communities of faith attempt to recognize and own what we bring to the Scripture when we read. What I find as theological barriers come down, we have a complete mess of interpretations in a community that we bring to the same text, that it becomes difficult to own one as a community of faith.



report abuse
 

Jason

posted February 17, 2010 at 8:43 am


not seeing the benefit even if it is the “ancient” interpretation through I agree none of us come empty handed. however Paul said even if he preached a gospel other than the one we accepted his “theology” is eternally condemned. Sound like there is an objective truth our theology must submit to – not seeing this described above



report abuse
 

Vaughn Treco

posted February 17, 2010 at 8:59 am


“The theological interpretation of Scripture is to read individual passages in the Bible through the lens of one’s orthodox, community-shaped, and confessional theology. This approach is a desired approach.” ~ Scot McKnight
While your statement might be an improvement upon those which you atribute to Billings, I’m not convinced that Saint Athansius would concede that, “It’s the ancient approach.”
The problem is your use of the pronoun “one’s”. I am not sure that any of the Apostolic Fathers from Ireneus to John Damascene would have let that pronoun slip pass them. My guess is that they would have offered a corrective similar to the following:
“The theological interpretation of Scripture is to read individual passages in the Bible through the lens of THE orthodox, CHURCH-shaped, and confessional theology. This approach is a desired approach.”



report abuse
 

dopderbeck

posted February 17, 2010 at 9:01 am


I appreciate the “theological interpretation” approach, but I think I understand the thrust of it a bit differently than you do, Scot.
My sense is that theological interpretation doesn’t do away with historical-critical interpretation. Rather, it seeks to get “beyond” historical-critical interpretation, but asking not only (a) what is “behind” the final form of the text; or (b) what is “intended” by the final form of the text, but also, and primarily (c) what the Spirit has said and is saying in and through the text. As a corollary to (c), the Spirit is understood to have spoken in and through the community of faith in ways that set a basic shape for all the community’s thinking about God and about the text: i.e., the basic orthodox Trinitarian and Christological commitments.
So — historical-critical methods can be embraced, but they offer only one, rather limited “window” onto the “meaning” of the text.
Here is why I find this extremely helpful: it seems to be a way past the inerrancy debates — and I sense this is precisely what many of its proponents (e.g., folks like Richard Hays) intend it to be. For fundamentalists and many evangelicals, you can only get to the “theological” meaning of the text if that meaning is concurrent with the “author’s original intent” — which means what the “author originally wrote” must reflect things “as they actually were” rather than reflecting the sort of broader socio-cultural milieu that critical methods tend to find “behind” the text(s). This is exactly why B.B. Warfield used the Calvinistic notion of “concurrence” to suggest that verbal plenary inspiration and inerrancy are consistent with the “human” qualities of the text.
Theological interpretation seems to move the notion of “concurrence” out of the realm of “original authorship” and into the realm of the “interpretive community.” And this is entirely consistent with “postmodern” and I suppose “premodern” ideas of “authorship,” “reader-response theory,” and so-on.
Of course, theological interpretation doesn’t see “inerrancy” of the interpretive community as a corollary to this kind of “concurrence,” but it doesn’t need to do so. Christian theology has always held that the Spirit works in the Church, but at the same time has always recognized that the Church (except perhaps in very rare circumstances involving Popes) is not “inerrant.” Nevertheless, at the same time, we can affirm that God does not “err” as He leads the Church, but rather that His leading of the Church is progressive, incarnational, and accommodational, befitting His pattern of leading the covenant community throughout embodied human history. We could also say that the underlying text is “inerrant” in the sense that the Spirit’s “meaning” for the text — the ways in which God intends for the text to be read and applied by the community in its diverse circumstances — never “err.” This moves the “author’s original intent” away from the human authors / redactors and back to God, where it belongs.
Thus, we can have real, objective “authority” in the text — understanding “text” broadly in the sense of sources as interpreted and received by the community — without the unrealistic, modernistic shackles of “inerrancy” in the “original authors.”
This is my interpretation of “theological interpretation.” I’m not sure if I’ve read what I’ve written here in exactly this form anywhere. So, I’m very curious to hear from others, particularly from folks interested in this approach, whether my take on it is on point.



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted February 17, 2010 at 9:09 am


Vaughn, that’s what I meant by “community.” Yes, I agree: it was an ecclesial reading. Yes, you are right: they are taking community and church in a Protestant, and not RCC or EO sense.



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted February 17, 2010 at 9:12 am


dopderbeck, you are right and I hope my post didn’t deny what you are suggesting. The theological interpreters do believe in the historical/grammatical/critical approach but want to go beyond it. Frankly, though, I don’t see as much patience with their historical/grammatical/critical approach before they get to theology, but it’s not an either/or. It’s a both-and, but the historically oriented people it is an either/or since they don’t get into theological interpretation.



report abuse
 

John W Frye

posted February 17, 2010 at 9:33 am


Q #1- Do you think the goal of Bible reading is to discern the (human) author’s intent in its historical context? Q #2- Do think we should read the Bible “through” our theology?
Q #1- Yes. Authors write words to convey a message that has meaning for the audience/readers. That is the nature of communication. It is very legitimate to ask “What did Paul mean by this phrase ‘in Christ’?” We need not be shackled to authorial intent as the final judge of meaning.
Q #2- Yes. The Scriptures came from a Community (Trinity) through a community (Israel and church) for a community. We need to honor the lens of the community-generated theology. Again, we need not be shackled by community-generated theology because whole communities, just as individuals, can get it wrong.
The more I ponder the “inerrancy” conversation, the more I realize that those who are adamant about it are adamant not because they espouse a certain view of Scripture, but adamant to protect their own humanly-generated theology.



report abuse
 

Deets

posted February 17, 2010 at 9:41 am


You folks all seem more educated on this matter than me. Still, it seems to me that one ancient group that used the theological model of interpretation was the Pharisees. It seems to me that it led to some great misunderstandings of the prophecies. It seems to me that it led to missing the Savior.
Wouldn’t we be better off understanding our theology, it’s limitations and where it might be leading us away from the God that we desire to know?



report abuse
 

dopderbeck

posted February 17, 2010 at 9:59 am


Scot (#7) — what do you think about the notion that theological interpretation is self-consciously an effort to get “beyond” inerrancy debates without giving up on the normative authority of scripture, as well as getting “beyond” merely critical conclusions? Is this at least part of what motivates the project? Is it purposefullya “post-conservative / post-liberal” project?



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted February 17, 2010 at 10:15 am


dopderbeck,
Well, I don’t know. The major voices — Vanhoozer, Treier — are inerrantists but they don’t talk about it much. Vanhoozer doesn’t even mention it, if my memory is correct, in his big pumpkin book.
It is true that inerrancy frames scripture in a historical mode of thinking, historically-accurate and religiously-authoritative, while the theological interpretation, without necessarily denying those ideas, frames it as “theological message.”
So, I can’t say that I see what you are seeing, but it could be part of the idea: to get beyond the battle for the Bible. Which incidentally is partly what I’m doing in Blue Parakeet, where I try to get into a relational view of Scripture.



report abuse
 

keo

posted February 17, 2010 at 11:27 am


Q1: Do you think the goal of Bible reading is to discern the (human) author’s intent in its historical context?
I would say the bigger goal is to hear what the Holy Spirit might say to us as we read. However, understanding the human author’s meaning in context is a great starting point or a key approach to take.
Q2: Do think we should read the Bible “through” our theology?
If we don’t, what are we reading it through? We all interpret everything we read and experience through a lens of some type. How do we make sense of the many surface contradictions in the Bible, for example, without a theology lens? Again, this is a necessary starting point.
The problem is when our theology can’t be questioned and refined to conform to truth as it is revealed. If theology is the result of human traditions — including a fallible human process of interpretating “inerrant” scripture — then beware making an idol of the theology.



report abuse
 

dopderbeck

posted February 17, 2010 at 12:01 pm


Scot (#11) — this is going to sound overly blunt, and I supposed I’d mostly direct it to folks such as Vanhoozer and Treier — but from the “conservative” side of the aisle, if the point isn’t to reframe / get beyond the inerrancy debate, then the “theological interpretation” exercise seems utterly pointless to me, if not directly contrary to the traditional inerrantist perspective. It should matter not a whit how the Church theologically framed the text; what should matter is only what the “original author” inerrantly intended.
From the “liberal / mainline” side of the aisle, the project would still make sense, because it is asking how to find “authority” or “meaning” in the text after critical methods deconstruct it. But from the “conservative” side, if its not about getting past Warfield, then its just more smoke and mirrors.



report abuse
 

dopderbeck

posted February 17, 2010 at 12:07 pm


And, BTW, the Church sometimes historically got the text spectacularly wrong, or at least often read it in ways that we would find horrifying. I had to do a paper for a seminary class this week on various interpretations of the David and Bathsheba story. The Ancient Christian Commentary on this text includes some fascinating bits from Jerome, Cassiodorus and Gregory the Great. They in part read the text typologically: David represented the Christ or the Church, Bathsheba represented the Gentiles, and Uriah represented the Jews. Bathsheba became united to David just as the Gentiles became united to Christ, and Uriah was dispossessed and sent into battle to die, just as (these early commentators argued) the Jews were dispossessed of the covenant blessings by the Church.
Oddly enough, they also read this text moralistically, condemning David’s concupiscence.
So in this example, “theological interpretation” still has to ask “which community” and “which interpretation?”



report abuse
 

Pat

posted February 17, 2010 at 2:38 pm


This is interesting because I would prefer not to read the Bible through my theology although I’m sure I do. I’d much rather read it in its context and see how it can inform my theology. Also, I think much can be gained from other communities’ theologies, so I don’t know that I want to read strictly through my own theology while dismissing all others.



report abuse
 

Matt

posted February 17, 2010 at 2:39 pm


Being a progressive dispensationalist, I tend to emphasize the historical-critical over the theological interpretation. I think authorial intent is more important than the text itself. When I read the Scriptures, it’s an exercise of communion with the saints–in this case, rather important saints who have gone before and have framed the conversation for all who have come after. So, when I approach the text, I don’t ask “What does this text mean,” but “What is this author trying to tell me through this text? What did he or she believe about God?” (Since I am an evangelical, I would add that those thoughts about God are divinely inspired, authoritative, and “inerrant,” and that God still speaks today through the words of those who have come before.)
I bring up being a progressive dispensationalist because a key part of my hermeneutic is progress of revelation. None of the biblical authors had God all figured out–that’s why there are 66 books and not 1. Perhaps none of them had Calvinist understandings of salvation or Nicean understandings of God. That doesn’t mean that Calvinist or Nicean Christianity are wrong, just that we may not be able to get that theology from one particular text or from one particular author. I would not try to read a systematic theology back into any one text or author.



report abuse
 

dopderbeck

posted February 17, 2010 at 3:13 pm


Matt (#16) — interesting comment. I’m not sure I’ve ever understood how progressive dispensationalism is really compatible with inerrancy. If, say the writer of Ezekiel has one thing in mind, and the writer of Revelation puts it to a purpose that more “fully” discloses God’s plan, then wasn’t the writer of Ezekiel in some sense wrong or “in error” about God’s plan? Presumably, if revelation is progressive, the writer of Ezekiel did not “intend” the use to which his text ultimately is put by the writer of Revelation. Therefore, what the writer of Ezekiel wrote is not “inerrant.”
I suppose you can say an idea can be “incomplete” without being “in error,” but that seems to me to slice the salami pretty thin. Newton’s explanation of how the universe was pretty good, but it can’t be said to have been “inerrant” in light of the later development of quantum physics, even though quantum physics “progresses” in a sense from Newtonian physics.
Obviously, this resonates with the whole “NT use of the OT” debate.



report abuse
 

Your Name

posted February 17, 2010 at 3:43 pm


Denying progressive revelation, scripture (in addition to nature) is our ONLY source of forming a theology. It seems that the cart is in front when one allows his theology to determine his understanding/interpretation/hermeneutic of scripture.



report abuse
 

Dan Smith of Reno

posted February 17, 2010 at 3:44 pm


The 3:43 post was mine.



report abuse
 

keo

posted February 17, 2010 at 4:19 pm


Not sure I’m following you, Dan. Scripture just somehow pops from the page into the eyes and then understanding of the reader, causing Theology to now exist there? Reason and interpretation — “not scripture” things like that — play no part in reading?



report abuse
 

Jerrod T

posted February 17, 2010 at 6:06 pm


Also being a (albeit mild) progressive dispensationalist out of Moody, I agree with what youre saying Matt. That said, I say both approaches need to be acknowledged and both balance the other out. I agree that the author’s intent is pretty important but if you take the OT, did some of those intend to make messianic prophecies? Some of those double ‘now and not yet’ passages did not have the backing of an author’s intent but that of the Lord and one more of theology. Could I say that some of the Jews of Jesus’ time were overly focused on the authors intent (Moses for example) while not seeing the thematical (spelling?) thread of theology that connected it all. Our great protestant contribution to theology with the ‘both/and’ balance I think can help us more than hurt us. I say all of us on this posting so far are evangelical – just of differing shades! what’s an evangelical? that’s a whole different discussion!



report abuse
 

Matt

posted February 17, 2010 at 6:15 pm


Dopderbeck #17,
It?s tough to answer this question based on a hypothetical example. Do you have a specific example of the type of discrepancy to which you are referring with the Ezekiel/Revelation example?
Another problem that we have is with the definition of ?inerrant.? Matthew 28:2 puts one angel on the scene when Mary and Mary come to the tomb of Jesus. Luke 24:4 puts two angels on the scene. Historically, how many angels were there and how do we reconcile this with our view of inerrancy?
I don?t have a problem with a human author having a different perspective, a fuller picture, or a more developed theology. That doesn?t compromise inerrancy in my opinion.



report abuse
 

Dan Smith of Reno

posted February 17, 2010 at 7:11 pm


Keo #20
As I don’t accept progressive revelation I also don’t accept special extra-sensory “teaching”; therefore, it is thru reason that scripture is ingested/digested, the result of which is a theology (among other things).



report abuse
 

Matt

posted February 17, 2010 at 7:27 pm


Because theological interpretation elevates the reader over God, the human author, and the text, it is self-defeating.
Every act of communication involves three things?a communicator, a message (packaged within a medium), and a receiver. (In the example of the Bible, we have God/the human author communicating to mankind/the original audience through the medium of a variety of written documents.)
The communicator has a message that he or she wishes to communicate to a receiver. He or she chooses an appropriate medium?whether the English language, Koine Greek, silent film, water colors, whatever?to communicate that message to the receiver. The receiver then has the task of interpreting the message based on the medium and the context in which the communication occurs.
Effective communication occurs when ideas are appropriately conveyed in a medium that is understood by both the communicator and the receiver. If you speak French and I try to speak to you in English, I am not doing a very good job of communicating. On the other hand, if I communicate in English, and you try to interpret my message by the rules of French grammar, then you haven?t done a very good job of interpreting. If I say, ?I am going to the store,? and you interpret that to mean ?punch me in the face,? and you respond according to your interpretation, then something has broken down in the process.
The only way that we can communicate effectively is if we agree on a medium and rules of interpretation. These rules aren?t absolute, but they?re rules we?ve agreed on. One rule that English writers have adopted is ??I? comes before ?e,? except after ?c.?? English writers are free to break that rule, but they can only do so at the risk of being misunderstood (which is self-defeating in the act of communicating).
In the arena of biblical interpretation, the dilemma we face is, ?What are the rules that govern communication?? We have a divine, omniscient author with one set of rules, and a fallible human author with another set of rules. The historical-critical method says, ?we operate by the human author?s rules, because that’s all we know.? We know a little bit about Koine Greek. We know about Greco-Roman culture, Second Temple Jewish religion, etc., and we put all of these pieces together to try to discern the message communicated in the biblical text.
As I see it, theological interpretation says, ?forget the human rules, we?re operating according to the divine rules.? The problem is that God is a relative unknown. He hasn?t left us a dictionary of divine language. We don?t know His sense of humor, the way He uses irony, or even the language He speaks apart from the way He has packaged these things in the biblical text. The theological interpreter solves this problem by saying ?I? or ?My church community/tradition? supply these rules. But we don?t approach communication like that in any other arena because doing so inevitably leads to misinterpretation. If you speak to me in French and I don’t understand it, I don’t invent a meaning of my own, I try to find someone who speaks French and can interpret. Approaching communication in a way that creates unintended meanings is self-defeating.
To me, theological interpretation is just reader-response on a bigger scale. Instead of the individual determining the rules of communication, a community decides. If the human author?s intent is ignored, interpreters will inevitably create meaning for themselves. This runs contrary to the very purpose of communication, which is to understand and be understood.



report abuse
 

dopderbeck

posted February 17, 2010 at 7:51 pm


Matt (#22) — with Ezekiel / Revelation, I was just thinking in a broad brush sense, i.e., the writer of Ezekiel would not have thought of the eschatological day of the Lord as having anything to do with the return of the suffering servant after a dispensation of grace. The writer of Ezekiel would have thought of the day of the Lord in terms of the conquest of Canaan — as a political / military victory of a revived Israel. Unless you want to say that the OT prophets knew more than they let on, I can’t see how the “author’s original intent” concerning what was originally communicated was “inerrant.” The author was mistaken because he didn’t even know what he was writing really meant in the actual fulfillment of the eschaton.
OTOH, I agree that this sort of thing doesn’t have to be a “problem for inerrancy” — if “inerrancy” is qualified in a way that it doesn’t mean what Warfield or most other people think / thought it means / meant. But if “inerrancy” implies Warfield’s idea of concursus, I don’t think that can hold water with respect to “progressive” revelation.
Matt (#24) — the same Matt? — I think you’re forgetting about the role of the Holy Spirit. The community of the Church doesn’t just make its own meanings, it makes meanings that are illuminated by the Holy Spirit. It is a theology of “Word and Spirit” rather than merely a theology of “Word.” Also, I don’t think there’s any suggestion that the author’s intent is “irrelevant.” It is a both/and.
But even saying that, I’m “postmodern” enough to question your construction of what “communication” comprises. I think you’re overly valorizing the “author.” Human “authors” often communicate things they didn’t necessarily “intend” because texts always come out of a milieu of prior “texts” and are delivered to interpretive communities that extend over time. In other words, “text” is always bigger than “author.” This is particularly true for the Biblical texts, most of which have no single identifiable “author,” but rather were compiled from sources over extended periods of time by scribal communities.
So, IMHO, whatever “authorial intent,” “inspiration,” and “inerrancy” or “infallibility” mean, these terms must deal with the fact that the Biblical texts are always produced, received, and interpreted in community.



report abuse
 

Matt

posted February 17, 2010 at 10:13 pm


Dopderbeck,
Are Osama bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda community appropriately receiving, interpreting, and applying the Koran? Why or why not?



report abuse
 

keo

posted February 18, 2010 at 9:57 am


Dan #23
I don’t buy “extra-sensory” teaching, either. Unless, of course, we mean “revelation,” or “spiritual discernment.” I Corinthians 2:14 would imply that perhaps we can’t understand scripture through our normal faculties, reason, or what have you. Therefore, an unbeliever, having neither the Spirit nor proper theology, can not understand scripture, yes?
So, carnal reason and nature–though neither of them is scripture–give us theology, and then theology gives us proper interpretation of scripture. Sounds like the horse is in front of the cart, but something much more problematic is in front of both.



report abuse
 

dopderbeck

posted February 18, 2010 at 10:16 am


Matt (#26) — there are a host of problems with your question.
First, you can’t compare any other interpretive community to the Church, because only the Church has the Holy Spirit. Nor can you compare any other text to scripture, because scripture is uniquely inspired by God as the Spirit’s instrument for “reproof, correction” and so on. So the question right off the bat is a category mistake. As Christians we would say that there is in some sense no “right” interpretation of the Q’uran, if by “right” we mean “authoritatively revelatory of God’s saving will.”
Second, I’m not a Muslim (nor, I’m assuming, are you), so we’re not in the best position to judge this question. Perhaps Al-Qaeda’s interpretation of the Q’uran is indeed a legitimate extension of the Islamic tradition. In fact, many right-wing Christians make exactly this argument in order to issues sweeping condemnations of Islam.
Third, notwithstanding my second point, an interpretive tradition is always an historically embodied tradition. We can look to the history of Islam and its interpretive frameworks in an effort to understand how Al-Qaeda fits into that trajectory. My friends who are Muslim legal scholars tell me that Al-Qaeda’s interpretive stance in fact does not represent on the whole the broad and deep streams of historic Islamic hermeneutics and jurisprudence. But there is of course debate within their own community about this.
Debate and disagreement, by the way, do not negate the reality of an interpretive tradition. A true “Tradition,” in the sense used by Alasdair MacIntyre, is always on the move and reforming itself, so some degree of debate, dissent, and plurality within the tradition is to be expected. And in fact, if we want to speak in any meaningful sense of a “Christian tradition,” we have to admit the same dynamic.



report abuse
 

keo

posted February 18, 2010 at 10:20 am


Matt #24
Nicely put. (I wrote about God’s missing dictionary, yesterday, too).
Reader-response doesn’t have to mean that communication has broken down, however. I may have a more rich experience and understanding from reading Moby Dick because of my own fishing and boating experience. This doesn’t mean that a landlubber can’t understand it, too, or that my understanding is wrong. “Created” meaning can enhance the author’s intent. This may seem like serendipity, but I wouldn’t put it past God to use serendipity to get his meaning across.
dopderbeck #25
I agree about the Holy Spirit’s role. What do you make of our many doctrinal differences, then? Has the same HS illuminated these differences from the same scriptures?



report abuse
 

dopderbeck

posted February 18, 2010 at 11:57 am


keo (#29) — this is an interesting question. A few thoughts:
(1) the HS is infallible but people are not. How often do we miss what the Spirit is really saying?
(2) Some differences are the result of historical contingency. The HS speaks incarnationally into different cultural and historical circumstances. We should see these differences as part of God’s design for the Church (“Manifold Witness” to use John Franke’s term).
(3) Some differences perhaps are God’s accommodation to our sin and weakness — perhaps along the pattern of God’s giving of a King to Israel.



report abuse
 

keo

posted February 18, 2010 at 2:29 pm


dopderbeck #30
I just realized who you are — I’ve really enjoyed some of your posts at TaGD.
Missing what the HS is saying…. That’s the crux, isn’t it? We can be as dogmatic about inerrancy or anything else, but it still boils down to the flawed / human filters that we call reading, hearing, interpretation, etc. — unless God speaks to us directly through some kind of divine revelation.
Certainty…. We don’t have much of claim to it when it comes to interpretation. Thus, I don’t see how we can adopt any stance other than humility in light of our own present condition–either as individuals or as communities.



report abuse
 

Matt

posted February 18, 2010 at 5:21 pm


Dopderbeck,
I?m not buying the category mistake argument. The church is not 1:1 the same as the Islamic community, but we are a community of the Spirit only in an already/not yet sense. Now we see in a mirror dimly, then we will see face to face. Unless we want to retreat to Gnosticism, we can?t argue that the church is a completely different category than other religious communities (different, but not completely different).
Besides, in #25 you wrote:
?Human ?authors? often communicate things they didn’t necessarily ?intend? because texts always come out of a milieu of prior ?texts? and are delivered to interpretive communities that extend over time. In other words, ?text? is always bigger than ?author.? This is particularly true for the Biblical texts, most of which have no single identifiable ?author,? but rather were compiled from sources over extended periods of time by scribal communities.?
Are we treating the Bible like one text among others, or are we not? Do we really want to reduce the Bible to some kind of ?Godspeak? that doesn?t follow normal rules of communication? What does that do to our apologetic?
Your second point is better. We aren?t Muslims and we are in no position to judge the theology of any Muslim community. Perhaps we can be more to the point?Was the antebellum American church?s interpretation of the Bible?s teaching on race, slavery, and human dignity appropriate? Why or why not?
You speak of Islam?s ?interpretive framework,? ?embodied tradition,? and ?trajectory.? I love this language in reference to the church. But where does this ?trajectory? start? Where is it going? On what basis do you judge something to be orthodox or heterodox? How do we know if a particular religious community has departed from ?the embodied tradition?? Do we just count noses?
I would argue that the trajectory starts with Jesus himself and the Apostles. That is why authorial intent is important?it establishes the embodied tradition. This also seems to be the rout the early church took with their emphasis on Apostolic succession.



report abuse
 

Pingback: Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Introduction | Ad Fontes

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Jesus Creed. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading!  

posted 11:15:58am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Our Common Prayerbook 30 - 3
Psalm 30 thanks God (vv. 1-3, 11-12) and exhorts others to thank God (vv. 4-5). Both emerge from the concrete reality of David's own experience. Here is what that experience looks like:Step one: David was set on high and was flourishing at the hand of God's bounty (v. 7a).Step two: David became too

posted 12:15:30pm Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Theology After Darwin 1 (RJS)
One of the more important and more difficult pieces of the puzzle as we feel our way forward at the interface of science and faith is the theological implications of discoveries in modern science. A comment on my post Evolution in the Key of D: Deity or Deism noted: ...this reminds me of why I get a

posted 6:01:52am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Almost Christian 4
Who does well when it comes to passing on the faith to the youth? Studies show two groups do really well: conservative Protestants and Mormons; two groups that don't do well are mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. Kenda Dean's new book is called Almost Christian: What the Faith of Ou

posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or two with their hands ... but that's what makes this diet

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.