Wednesday, 17 January 2007
Tuesday, 13 June 2006
Mike Bird helpfully draws attention to Don Carson's online review of three recent books on the Authority of Scripture: those by John Webster, N. T. Wright and Peter Enns. The strength of the piece is its clear and incredibly detailed exposition of the argument of the volumes under consideration -this is a 25,000 word book review, but Carson's critique is also worth careful reflection even if, at times, you find yourself strongly disagreeing (as I did, often). If you want to do some strenuous engagement with recent scholarship on scriptural authority, then this is a good place to start,
Tuesday, 18 October 2005
Over at Metalepsis, Bryan Lee has this fantastic quotation from Francis Watson. It is taken from his recent book Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith which is sat on the (too high) "to read" stack. Anyway, Watson is addressing the simple fact of interpretive disagreement.
'Disagreement is a familiar social practice in which it is difficult not to engage on a regular basis. It arises from the fact that humans live not in solitude but in community, and that from time to time their respective norms, projects or goals come into conflict. Since interpreting texts is an extension of the interpretative activity that permeates all human interpersonal relations, it is hardly to be expected that the specialized activity will be immune from the disagreements endemic to the wider field. Indeed, the possibility of disagreement is inherent in the practice of textual interpretation: for if a text needs to be interpreted at all, its meaning is not self-evident and there is always room for more than one account of what that meaning is. If it is possible to interpret, then it is also possible to misinterpret; and to claim that misinterpretation has taken place is to engage in the practice of interpretative disagreement. In itself, disagreement is an ethically neutral act. It does not necessarily imply that one party is doing violence to the other, that a human right to freedom of speech is under attack, or that there has been a failure to understand the other's point of view. The ethical risks that accompany disagreement are perhaps no greater than those attending other practices, such as the avoidance of conflict. Disagreement is always an act rather than just an occurrence, and those who engage in it do so on the basis of means and ends they regard as appropriate and rational. Most important of all, disagreement presupposes a shared concern and thus an acknowledgment of community rather than a retreat into isolation. It always intends its own resolution, even if this can only be attained in the form of a negotiated compromise or an agreement to differ.'
(Francis A. Watson, Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith (London/New York: T & T Clark International 2004), 24-25.
For publishing details see the sidebar where the book is listed as a recent book on Paul. I have reason to be always grateful to Francis Watson - he was my external examiner!
Tuesday, 13 September 2005
Alan Bandy at Café Apocalypsis has this entertaining meditation on the diversity of hermeneutical strategies available to anyone encountering a STOP sign on the road.
Saturday, 20 August 2005
Over the next year or so, I have to develop and write the 2007 Whitley Lecture. This is an annual lecture, delivered in a number of centres (mostly other Baptist Colleges) and published under the auspices of Whitley publications. Inevitably, my mind is turning various ideas over wiith a view to landing on a title and focus for the lecture before too long. I told the Whitley committee that I wanted to explore something in the area of hermeneutics, and this has narrowed in my mind to the possibility of exploring whether and how we might describe a "B/baptist" hermeneutic. My initial observation is that as Baptists (and here I have the UK / European scene predominantly in mind) we need to reflect on two things.
1. That Baptists, despite our occasional battles over the Bible, actually share a common commitment to taking the Bible seriously (I have never met a Baptist, however "liberal" they may appear to others, who does not think that the Bible is important, central, crucial to understanding faith and practice and have never been in a Baptist church where the interpretation of Scripture doesn't have a central place in the church's life and worship).
2. That our diversity in the way we handle biblical texts is rooted in hermeneutics. We disagree about stuff because we read and interpret differently.
This is the way I put it in a session I led for some Newly Accredited Ministers last year:
"whatever the nature of our understandings of such issues as the authority, inspiration of the Bible, I have yet to meet a Baptist who does not want to take the Bible seriously. I have met many Baptists who think that other Baptists aren’t taking the Bible seriously, but what they usually mean by that in my experience is that the other is not taking the Bible seriously in the way they think it should be. In other words, Baptists interpret differently. Because we interpret differently, we sometimes end up in state of polarization. This has happened historically, not least at those points when a desire to be biblical amongst some General Baptists led them to Christological views that were eventually deemed unorthodox. So one of the challenges facing us might be to ask whether we might not be able to describe a way of reading that does justice to our differences, or at least enables us to move beyond them."Here is the issue as it appears in William Blake's wonderful poem "The Everlasting Gospel"
|THE VISION OF CHRIST that thou dost see|
|Is my vision’s greatest enemy.|
|Thine has a great hook nose like thine;|
|Mine has a snub nose like to mine.|
|Thine is the Friend of all Mankind;||5|
|Mine speaks in parables to the blind.|
|Thine loves the same world that mine hates;|
|Thy heaven doors are my hell gates.|
|Socrates taught what Meletus|
|Loath’d as a nation’s bitterest curse,||10|
|And Caiaphas was in his own mind|
|A benefactor to mankind.|
|Both read the Bible day and night,|
|But thou read’st black where I read white.|
Blake is referring, of course, the the fact that Jew and Christians read the same text (OT/Tanakh) but derive different meanings. This is, of course, the fundamental hermeneutical question, but I wonder whether there is a way of describing the hermeneutical task (a way that draws on resources within the Baptist tradition) that moves us beyond "black and white" (a possible title for the lecture). I suspect there might be, but getting there may need kind of complex engagement with the theology of covenant, contextual and theological hermeneutics etc. etc. So far, I only have a question - whether it can be adequatelty answerred is another matter entirely.