Thursday, March 04, 2010

Theological Micromanagement of Historical Judgments

I've decided not to post the entire second section of my paper (see here for the introduction), but I thought I'd throw out a quote. In this section I am using the Philippian hymn as a case study for how scholars sometimes let appropriate theological beliefs micromanage their interpretations of historical texts, engaging N. T. Wright, Richard Bauckham, and David Yeago.

Here is an excerpt:

"... to let theological preferences count as evidence toward historical judgments in this way raises significant questions about historical method. We cannot explore these issues to any significant degree here. On the one hand, it is clear that our presuppositions are an unavoidable element in historical judgments. Do we believe miracles and resurrections are possible? This presupposition will markedly influence how we reconstruct the history of Jesus and how we interpret the gospels historically.

"But if some element of progressive revelation is acceptable—and this bare claim is not particularly controversial—then it is not clear that we have a firm theological presupposition in play in a situation such as this one. We have a historical inkling based on later developed theology. Such historical inklings may of course prove to be true, but it is not at all clear that they are an appropriate element in serious historical judgments. They are the stuff of coffee talk rather than serious historical scholarship.

"More seriously, they reflect the questionable underlying presumption that common Christian understanding is in some way enhanced the more it correlates closely to historical judgments about earlier historical periods—earlier is better, original is better than revised. This presumption fuels an impulse to let developed theology micromanage historical judgments. Space does not permit a defense here, but it seems more likely that such serious historical judgments are rather more peripheral than essential to common Christian understanding, despite their instrinsic value."


Angie Van De Merwe said...

"Theological Micromanagement of Historical Judgments" could be also useful for naive ways of understanding and responding to the world. Such as with the Middle East crisis. Theirs is a history of judgments based upon thier story, and Christians like to assume the "upper hand" in micromanagment by simplistically assuming that these people and their situations can be addressed "by the gospel" and things will "work out". (Any other historical conflict will also illustrate the point).

And what about the missionaries who were held in Haiti because of "trafficking children"? There motivations were pure, I'm sure, as they wanted to rescue the children. But, their methold left a little to be desired, I think.

What do we do in these situations? I think that those that have had the experience and trainint are best equipped to address the problem. And Chrstians should not be foolish and foolhardy "in the name of Christ".

Ken Schenck said...

A couple sentences: "Are Wright and Bauckham playing a 'smoke and mirrors' game in which they manipulate their wealth of knowledge about ancient texts in order to express beliefs that really come from a quite different source? Are they driven to exploit semantic and historical ambiguities in the biblical texts because of this presumption that common Christian faith is enhanced the more it correlates closely to these sorts of exegetical judgments?"

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Perhaps, as we all have bias. And don't they approach their understandings with a faith bias?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Oops, their is a faith bias in the text.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Ken, I don't know if you remember my sharing with you years ago about the Quadralateral and how the disciplines address the connections of our faith biases...

For instance, the text and Tradition is addressed by Church history.

For those interested in the human being: reason intersecting experience would result in the social sciences. And experience intersecting Tradition would result in understanding nation-state and their histories..

Those interested in hermeneutics would address the intersection of text and reason. So, hermeneutics is also about philosophical problems (dilemmas), when one takes the "wholistic approach" to the Qualdralateral within the personal frame of individuals.

I know I am ignorant of many aspects of what I am talking about, but it just seems to "fit" in my thinking.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

On further thought, is anything able to be understood apart from one's social/psychological "context"? Reason and experience then is the way we observe the world and interpret it...and experiences vary....

Marc said...

I think Wright would say that the historical question of why Paul first articulated Justification by Faith is not "peripheral" but very important simply because Reformers made it THE article of faith, THE Doctrine, even THE Gospel (Martyn Lloyd-Jones).

If, for example it could be shown that Reformers missed Paul's point (as Wright argues) it is important that we get back at what Paul meant so that we find out what he considered important.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Is the question not one of whether the 'real world" of ethnicity/law and identification to these factors is affirmed or disaffirmed?

Paul seems to speak out of "both sides of his mouth" about this.

Is Paul speaking metaphorically to bring together various factions of humanity under a universal Christ (the Christ of faith), or is he speaking to ethnic groups and balancing their tendencies (moral/character development)?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

The "Christ of faith' is the supernaturalistic view which underwrited evangelicalism. Both the universalist and the particularist (gnostic) can adhere to this view.

But, the "real world" (natural) is based on the understandings of the disciplines and not "Christ alone" or "Scripture alone". Concern/understanding for the real world is a result of this "system" or approach, as it understands that human being must have a real context for identity.

Too often, I think, those that adhere to supernaturalism are functioning by faith apart from psychological development, and this is a travesty.