Archive for the ‘Hermeneutics’ Category

The problem with deaf falcons

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anaarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

(from William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming, 1919)

Evangelicals have lost the “theological center,” and this theological center is the Bible’s center. With no center, of course things fall apart. The problem, however, is not that the gravitational center of the Bible’s theology cannot hold. The problem is more along the lines of what Yeats described as the falcon not hearing the Falconer. That is to say, if we will listen carefully to the Bible, it will proclaim to us the glory of God. If we do not hear this, the problem is with us, not the Bible (James M. Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgement, 40).

Should we declare bankruptcy on matters of “science”?

I just noticed that the Biologos website has a ringing endorsement from Robert Schuller, you can’t make this stuff up.

We are entering an epoch whereby Science and Faith will only serve to prove that with God ALL THINGS are possible! Bless your work, BioLogos! Keep being smart! Keep being Possibility Thinkers for the glory of God!”– Dr. Robert H. Schuller ( Founder, Crystal Cathedral)

All this has me thinking about bankruptcy but not of the financial kind. We are told by Biologos that evolution is the only intelligent response to understanding origins and biblical cosmology. Don’t worry however, Tim Keller says you can still keep a literal view of Adam and Eve. Thinking out loud here, does this mean that Eve was still created from Adam’s side or did she too evolve from earlier species? More to the point, what I really find interesting is that this proposed understanding is tied to the literal resurrection of Christ (see the title and point of Keller’s article). So why is it acceptable to interpret the text in light of perceived scientific criterion and conclusions  in one place (i.e., Gen 1 & 2) and not in other places like the Gospels and their empty tomb? In other words, what will happen when Biologos eventually gets around to dealing with the resurrection? You don’t have to be a scientist to see their inconsistency or suspect that their methods are bankrupt.

The Hermeneutics of Continuity and Discontinuity

Covenant theologians and dispensationalists differ on how much continuity and discontinuity exists throughout the progress of biblical revelation. Simply stated, covenant theologians tend to see more continuity in Scripture, whereas dispensationalists tend to see more discontinuity. The problem comes when continuity or discontinuity begins to function as the lens through which Scripture is interpreted. Put another way, the problem comes when covenant theology or dispensationalism begin to function as a system of hermeneutics.

For example, covenant theologian Robert Booth refers to continuity as “a principle of biblical interpretation” which should guide the interpreter in his handling of the Scriptures. According to Booth: “Our interpretive starting point will determine how we understand the Bible. Most people do not consistently apply any interpretive principle, yet we should all strive for interpretive consistency. The…covenantal principle of interpretation holds that we must…assume continuity and unity in God’s revelation.”

This approach could be referred to as “a hermeneutic of continuity,” because it comes to Scripture with the assumption that one will consistently find continuity in the Bible rather than discontinuity. The problem with this approach is that the unity of Scripture does not demand continuity over discontinuity in a given area. Otherwise, the unity of the Bible would preclude the possibility of any discontinuity throughout redemptive history.

Rather than using a hermeneutic which consistently assumes either continuity or discontinuity, it is better for the interpreter to set aside his assumptions and make an objective comparison between A and B in a given area to determine how much continuity or discontinuity may exist. Put another way, continuity and discontinuity in a given area should be a post-exegetical conclusion, not a pre-exegetical assumption. Otherwise, the one who looks at Scripture through the lens of continuity will tend to deny legitimate points of discontinuity, and the one who looks through the lens of discontinuity will tend to deny legitimate points of continuity.

The Reader-Response Method

The most significant hermeneutical paradigm shift in the 20th century involved the repositioning of the interpreter to the center of the interpretive process. According to this approach—commonly known as the Reader-Respond Method—the meaning of Scripture emerges as a product of the interaction between the modern-day reader and the ancient biblical text. In this way, there can be many different legitimate meanings of a given passage, for each new interpreter brings his own presuppositions, experiences, and interpretative framework to the Scriptures. This results in a unique interpretation/meaning for every reader. As Robert Stein observes, because subjectivity is to be welcomed and embraced rather than avoided, the biblical text ends up functioning like an inkblot into which the interpreter reads his own individual meaning. Put simply, this is the scholarly version of “What does this verse mean to you?”

“Jesus lost control of bodily functions” and other unhelpful statements

I recently listened to a preacher make an impassioned exhortation to his congregation saying nothing out of the ordinary. However, in his passion, he said something about Jesus’ death on the cross that stirred things in my mind and not in ways that are helpful. In the midst of it all he said that “Jesus lost control of His bodily functions while on the cross.” Let’s think about this for just a moment.

Why would a preacher state such a thing? The most probable answer is to underscore the suffering that Jesus endured on the cross and His complete loss of dignity. To be sure, everything about the cross was filthy, repulsive, and gross. Another reason might be to correct the sanitized version which is often depicted in works of art and film (however more recent films tend to accentuate the gore). Truth is always stranger than fiction and in this case a whole lot uglier. A third possible reason is to simply be shocking as if nailing a body to wood is not shocking on its own merits.

Whatever the reasons there is something troubling about these sort of statements when interjected into a sermon. They have no support in Scripture! Could this have happened? Well, sure, a lot could have happened but the Spirit of God decided that it was not necessary to know such details. Furthermore, such details add nothing to the meaning of the text nor do they clarify any background information to the scene. How we think about such things says a lot about our hermeneutic and whether we believe the meaning of the text is rooted in authorial intent or in our cleverness. Does stating that Jesus lost control of His bodily functions make Him appear more human? His cross more shocking? His death more real? If not, then how is this helpful?

Issues with Preaching the OT

Over the years, we at Expository Thoughts have touched on preaching the OT from a variety of angles. I’m convinced that it is one of THE issues to consider both hermeneutically and theologically. Below is a round-up containing some of our essays addressing the issue.   We have all grown since some of these articles were written but the general principles and root ideas remain the same.

Apostolic/Christological Hermeneutics

What Exactly is the “Apostles’ Hermeneutic”? By Matt Waymeyer

In search of the Apostles’ Hermeneutic (Part I) by Matt Waymeyer

In search of the Apostles’ Hermeneutic (Part II) by Matt Weymeyer

Test Case: Who is the “Seed of Abraham”? by Paul Lamey

Is the NT like the conclusion to a mystery novel? by Paul Lamey

Did Jesus spiritualize the OT? by Paul Lamey

The Relationship Between the Testaments

An Introduction by Paul Lamey

Christological Hermeneutic by Matt Waymeyer

Apostolic Hermeneutic by Matt Waymeyer

The NT View of the OT by Paul Lamey

The Priority of the OT by Randy McKinion

Walter Kaiser on 1 Peter 1:10-12 by Matt Waymeyer

Paul’s Use of Hosea in Romans 9:25-26 by Matt Waymeyer

Concluding Thoughts by Paul Lamey

Mike Vlach on the NT use of the OT

Mike Vlach, Associate Professor of Theology at The Master’s Seminary, is now blogging. I think he waited this long so that he wouldn’t be accused of being trendy. His first two posts right out of the gate take up an aspect of our current subject, the NT use of the OT. See the links highlighted below:

Answering Bart Ehrman

Probably the most popular alumnus from Moody Bible and Wheaton College is a well-known scholar in the area of textual criticism and the historical Jesus. Unfortunately for both of these schools his name is Bart Ehrman. He is the darling of the media, taking the place of the now deceased Robert Funk, when they need someone to tear down Christianity in the name of “scholarship.” His books have made inroads into some churches so pastors should at least be aware of the issues at hand. The new website The Ehrman Project brings together numerous scholars to answer Ehrman’s criticisms and questions. Check it out.


Shake the tree

Luther said, “Divine Scripture is a very fertile tree, and there is no branch which I have not shaken with my own hands, and knocked down a few apples” (Table Talks, no. 5355).

Is the Sabbath required for Christians?

I have touched on the issue of Sabbath a few time here at ET with a few comments and quotes (See Is the Sabbath for everyone?, Is Sunday the Sabbath?, Is the Sabbath abolished?, Remember the Sabbath?). To date, the best book I’ve read on this is the classic From Sabbath to Lord’s Day edited by D.A. Carson.

Justin Taylor has recently posted excerpts from Tom Schreiner’s upcoming book with an edgy, postmodern title, 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law. I found his answer to the question, “Is the Sabbath Still Required?” one of the most succinct answers I have ever read on this difficult subject. Read the whole thing here. Here is the conclusion of the matter:

Believers are not obligated to observe the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant and the Sabbath as the covenant sign are no longer applicable now that the new covenant of Jesus Christ has come. Believers are called upon to honor and respect those who think the Sabbath is still mandatory for believers. But if one argues that the Sabbath is required for salvation, such a teaching is contrary to the gospel and should be resisted forcefully. In any case, Paul makes it clear in both Romans 14:5 and Colossians 2:16–17 that the Sabbath has passed away now that Christ has come. It is wise naturally for believers to rest, and hence one principle that could be derived from the Sabbath is that believers should regularly rest. But the New Testament does not specify when that rest should take place, nor does it set forth a period of time when that rest should occur. We must remember that the early Christians were required to work on Sundays. They worshiped the Lord on the Lord’s Day, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, but the early Christians did not believe the Lord’s Day fulfilled or replaced the Sabbath. The Sabbath pointed toward eschatological rest in Christ, which believers enjoy in part now and will enjoy fully on the Last Day.

“Word to your mother” ~V. Ice

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