Friday, June 14, 2013

My interpretive framework in regards to the Biblical text.

I was thinking about what my interpretive framework was in terms of Biblical hermeneutics.
I guess I'd sum it up in two parts: Literal Interpretation, Progressive Application.

Literal interpretation because it is our duty to be honest and truthful about what the text says. There are too many who, in search of a more modern or ethical perspective on things related to faith, try to spiritualize or contextualize harsh  biblical sayings into effective non-being. But this is, in the end, more damaging than helpful. Because how can you get a true picture of Biblical worldviews and ways of thought if you are always trying to whitewash the past? And what will happen when people who have believed your report on what scripture says read the Bible on their own, or recommend it to others who have not been blessed with your level of hermeneutical sophistication? They will believe that you sought to deceive them and rightly so. And in the end they will have little time to appreciate the Bible, since they've tossed it into their Garbage cans.
We should instead read the Bible as it was written, and take what it says seriously. Understand the literary and cultural context, but always in the knowledge that just because it was written in a different context does not mean that it should not be applied counter culturally to our own.

A Progressive application because the Biblical text reveals, and the Gospel of Christ attests that the way things are in matters of religious ethics as revealed in the biblical text are not necessarily the way they should be. In Jesus's testimony in his life and that of his disciples, we see a picture of people who were not satisfied with the theology of the time or all the proscriptions that the Biblical text had laid down. This is demonstrated in famous phrases like "you have heard that it was said...but I tell you.....", a radical dismissal by Jesus of Biblical ideas and perspectives. Or when Peter declares at the Jerusalem council, "How can we place upon (gentiles) a yoke that we ourselves cannot bear?", referring to Biblical Law. The ethic underlying Christianity is a love ethic, and Christian theology is seeking to demonstrate love for God and Humanity in our thought, deeds, actions, and lifestyles. Because our understanding of what love and reality looks like changes over time, the standards that underlie that ethic also change to accommodate our new knowledge. And changes in standards will inevitably mean sometimes rejecting a previously given Biblical standard , since the Bible is filled with standards and proscriptions. Any version of Christianity that is not willing to accommodate new knowledge by reshaping its standards, even when it means sometimes rejecting the Biblical text, is not acting in a Christian manner. Because Christianity itself could not exist if Jesus and the disciples were not willing to do a "new thing" in regards to the theology and ethics that the Hebrew Bible, in particular the Law, already countenanced.

There is a famous line that says that you have to know the rules if you want to break them. And I concur. As we seek to live lives of Christian love, it is important for us to understand what each verse, chapter and book of the Bible is actually saying before we presume to either accept or reject the ideas that they convey in the application process. Such a way of dealing with the text will in the end be seen as honest and truthful, which is what we want to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment