Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Hermeneutics Slides

For whatever reason, I have a way of making PowerPoint slides that excite me sitting in my office, but when I go to present them, things suddenly seem vague and very controversial. Here are my latest slides:

Slide 1: The Default Hermeneutic
  • "God said it; I believe it; that settles it for me."
  • Direct application of the text to my life and everyone else's with minimal consideration of context or genre.
  • I become the "you" of the text.
  • One text from God to me
  • "Common sense" and ingenuity navigates "naughty verses"
Slide 2: Does the Holy Spirit use it?
  • Absolutely
  • It works if we have the Holy Spirit guiding us and if we have the right Christian intuitions, the right "common sense."
  • The right common sense is the law of love and the rule of faith.
Slides 3-8: The Wesleyan Quadrilateral
  • Scripture, tradition, reason, experience (post-liberal Methodists tend to hate it, post-fundamentalist Wesleyans like me love it)
  • Imbalances of experience: Pentecostal traditions can come to focus too much on “words from the Lord” without sufficient anchoring. But the Holy Spirit does seem to speak to people today in other ways than through Scripture.
  • Imbalances of reason: Liberal traditions can focus so much on the historical meaning of the books of the Bible that they become a dead, dissected frog from the past, a matter of antiquarian interest. So the Bible is not merely history, but it happened in history, and it also seems problematic to think we can suspend normal historical inquiry.
  • Imbalances of tradition: A lot of bizarre traditions have spun out over time. Luther pruned a number and sent us back ad fontes. But do we really want to rehash the Trinity or, for that matter, which books belong in the New Testament?
  • Imbalances of Scripture: The idea of "Scripture only" is ultimately unreflective. To decide what the Bible means, you need "rules of engagement" that, de re, are outside the text. But Scripture is a God-instituted sacrament of transformation. It is the focal unpacking of Jesus, who is the final Word.
Slide 9: Fundamentalism
  • Is anti-modern. It is a reaction against developments in science and history. 
  • Ironically, however, it uses quasi-scientific and historical methods to combat modernism. 
  • It tends to be anti-tradition, anti-reason, and anti-experience.
Slide 10: Standard Evangelical Method
  • What did it mean in that time? 
  • What are the points of continuity and discontinuity between "that time" and "our time"? 
  • Or, alternatively, what is the "all time" in the "that time"? 
  • Reapply points of continuity. 
  • Reapply principles in "our time."
Slide 11: Critique
  • Recognizes the distance between "that time" and "all time." (positive)
  • Accepts historical method, but often only applies it within certain artificial boundaries. 
  • Can miss the crucial role of integration (formulating a biblical theology before application rather than applying directly from individual passages)
  • Can ignore the reality that orthodoxy requires some faith in developments after the NT in order to work fully
Slide 12: Memorable Version
  • What did it say? (observation)
  • What did it mean? (interpretation)
  • What does the whole Bible say? (integration)
  • What does it mean to us? (appropriation)
Slides 13-16: A Method for Applying Scripture
1. Pray
2. Do your exegetical work. (What did this text mean originally in context?)

[Exegetical work is quasi-scientific. It is an evidentiary process, even though it cannot be done without assumptions, bias, and presuppositions. By contrast, integration and appropriation are not a science. They are a spiritual task, a community task, and a convictional task. They are an "art."]

3. Ask integration questions
  • What does the rest of the Bible (in context) seem to say on this topic? 
  • Is there a (unforced) common thread throughout the books of the Bible? 
  • Consider matters of genre. 
  • If my passage is in the OT, does the NT in any way develop its content? 
  • How does the person of Jesus and the trajectory of the kingdom impact the topic? 
  • Is the subject “fully cooked” in Scripture?
4. Ask appropriation questions
  • What are the points of contextual continuity and discontinuity between you and the text? 
  • Are there integration principles you can reapply? 
  • What has the Spirit said to others, the communion of saints past/present? 
  • What is the Spirit saying to you?
5. Write it up
  • Exegetical portion, with intro and conclusion 
  • Biblical Theology portion (OT/NT, Christ/kingdom lens) 
  • Appropriation portion (continuity/principles, Spirit, church)


Paul Tillman said...

I don't have my notes handy to reference who I heard this from, but I recently heard it suggested that we might need to add a fifth piece to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. This person proposed Scripture as the base, tradition and reason as pillars, experience and culture capping off the hermeneutic. I supposed culture is a form of experience, but certainly a different lens than personal experience. I thought it was an interesting take, but I'd rather say I interpret my culture based upon Scripture rather than interpreting Scripture based on my culture.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Scripture is part of Tradition, which is developed within a cultural context, which is (and was) NOT ours! This is the problem for me! Trying so hard to form things "true to scripture", as if it dropped down from the sky and has some special power!!

The Church has underwritten the importance of CHRISTIAN TRADITION as "special", "unique" or "distinct" from other Traditions by developing theological understanding of a Triune God. Christianity was rooted in Judaism, a monotheistic religion.

Relational views of Theology have tried to underwrite the "personal" making it appeal to the sentiment of men, instead of the reason of men.

Bottom line for me is that America is culturally conditioned by Christianity (and Judaism), but much more so by Roman and Greek history.

I suppose I am hostile toward scripture and tradition, because of the slipperiness and emotionalism of it all. People are so protective of their beliefs and continue to confirm what they want to and have always believed. There are not too many that will question what they've found to be the answer for themselves! Defensiveness and even hostility can be dished out if one dares to question or challenge religious beliefs. Just find that unfruitful. Best to accept where people choose to be and move on.
People do things within a Christian paradigm that can damage as much as heal. And it is disingenuous to allow others to follow a particular journey which limits and defines them, as persons. People have different reasons for "coming to faith", and some of those reasons should be answered in a different way than "faith"! In fact, "faith" is hardly a reason to base one's life on. Therefore, I won't be taking "leaps of faith". I've done that and had to pick myself up off the ground, after I realized I was there!