Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Recipe for a Hermeneutic

1. You may not know it, but the undergraduate School of Theology and Ministry (STM) at Indiana Wesleyan has a KERN 3 + 2 program where students finish their undergraduate degree in 3 years and then also go on to finish a 72 hour master's degree with us in two more. It's a program just for IWU undergraduate students so we don't compete externally with the Seminary.

It's a spectacular program that is heavily scholarshiped in a brilliant, self-sustaining way! The young 23 year olds coming out of this program are some of the most innovative students I've ever had, and they are pumped to be used of God to impact the world for Christ. They are mentored for five years by Eddy Shigley and the STM community. They do the first year of their master's in residential community on the IWU campus (Year 4). Then their fifth year is an internship at a church--quite often a great teaching church like 12Stone. While they are in their internship, they finish up online with professors back at the ranch.

2. Because Abson Joseph moved on to become the Dean of Wesley Seminary, I get to teach his "Hermeneutics for Ministry" class this fall to the fourth year STM students in the KERN program. Suffice it to say, I am over the moon. I've never had the chance to teach a graduate level hermeneutics class to master's students with an already extensive undergraduate background in Bible and theology. But suffice it to say, I've given the topic an immense amount of thought over the years.

Abson did a great job teaching this course. I'm not even going to try to compete with him for student satisfaction. Two assignments he had them do were superb: 1) they wrote a paper presenting their own hermeneutic and 2) they created a practical ministry artifact that embodied it. But this raises the question. Can I create a recipe for a hermeneutic? How can I set them up to write a great hermeneutic that has the spark of their own genius in it?

3. The syllabus for this class has been difficult to make and I'm not there yet (thus this post, to think part of it through). As usual, I can't find a book or books that I like. I'm primarily using Joel Green's edited volume Hearing the New Testament. It covers one piece of the puzzle pretty well. I ended up using Craig Keener's Spirit Hermeneutic, which will be a good contribution but doesn't really seem to cover the hard core philosophical bits of hermeneutics.

So here are some of the threads I'm trying to cover:
  • Models I use: the three worlds of the text (Ricoeur), speech-act theory (Austin, Searle), three points of polyvalence (meaning, integration, appropriation), reflective versus non-reflective readings, open versus closed approaches 
  • Meta-issues from classical exegesis - the autonomy of the text (Ricoeur), language games in forms of life (Wittgenstein), metaphor and non-literal language (Ricoeur)
  • An overview of the history of epistemological and hermeneutical discussion, from Plato to Kant, from Schleiermacher to Derrida, the four fold approach of medieval interpretation
  • the -isms of biblical studies: textual criticism, tradition-historical criticism, rhetorical criticism, social-scientific criticism, narrative criticism, discourse analysis, reader-response criticism, ideological criticisms (feminist, African-American, Latino/a, etc).
  • canonical criticism and a foretaste of biblical theology (which is the spring course), theological and sacramental readings, Keener's "pentecostal" approach
How do you order all that stuff? More to the point, how do you create a structure for a student to cook their own sense of hermeneutics without simply leading them to regurgitate yours?
4. So here goes (I'm making this up as I write). A position paper on hermeneutics should take a position on:

a. First, is interpretation an open or closed activity? That is to say, are there pre-established boundaries for what the text can or cannot say? For example, must we assume or bias orthodox or pre-assumed meanings for the Bible?
  • Tradition/pre-reflective readings - the Bible always comes out Wesleyan, for example (first naivete readings)
  • Fundamentalist readings - the Bible has to come out inerrant, narrowly defined
  • Theological readings - patristic, Kuyperian, Barthian, post-liberal/narrative theology, some theological interpretation
b. How objective can a person actually be, assuming interpretation is somewhat of an open activity?
  • The impossibility of presuppositionless interpretation (e.g., Bultmann)
  • Gadamer and the two horizons of the text
  • Stephen Fowl and the under-determined nature of the text
  • some theological interpretation and gap filling
c. How does language work?
  • the picture theory of language (Augustine)
  • sense and reference (Frege)
  • signs and signified (de Saussure, Derrida)
  • language games in forms of life (Wittgenstein)
  • speech-act theory (Austin, Searle)
  • metaphor theories (Ricoeur, Lakoff and Johnson, Fauconnier and Turner)
d. How do texts work?
  • Ricoeur and the autonomous text
  • Ricoeur and the three worlds of the text
  • attempts at text-only approaches - narrative criticism, discourse analysis
  • Genres, particulars of narratives and discourses, rhetorical criticism
  • Problems in identifying the "original" text
  • Sources oral and written, tradition histories
e. What is the best way to recover historical meaning?
  • Schleiermacher and Dilthey (meeting of the minds)
  • Ernst Troeltsch's three criteria (criticism, analogy, correlation)
  • Robert Traina's inductive Bible study method
  • Hermeneutics of Suspicion (coined by Ricoeur)
d. Is the historical meaning even desirable?
  • Postmodern approaches - reader-response and deconstruction
  • Ideological criticisms - feminist, African-American, Latino/a
  • Ricoeur's second naivete
e. How does one integrate biblical texts?
  • Thomas Kuhn and paradigms
  • The selection and deselection of texts, fulcrum texts
  • salvation history approach (texts in history)
  • progressive revelation, kingdom trajectory
  • Christocentric integration
  • canonical approach
  • narrative approach (history in text, Hans Frei)
  • NT use of OT as case study
f. How does the text relate to the world in front of the text?
  • The regula fidei and the law of love (Augustine's De doctrina)
  • The medieval four-fold sense
  • lectio divina, sensus plenior, spiritual and charismatic readings
  • Wesleyan Quadrilateral versus sola scriptura
  • "Family resemblances" and evangelical hermeneutics
  • "Improvisation" and ethical principles
  • A sacramental approach
Critique? Suggestions?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe some exposure to critical realism under section b?

Wish I could take that class!