According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hermeneutics, in pictures

Andrew Perriman
Hermeneutics explores how we read, understand, and handle texts, especially those written in another time or in a context of life different from our own. Biblical hermeneutics investigates more specifically how we read, understand, apply, and respond to biblical texts.1
At the simplest level, therefore, hermeneutics examines the process of interpretation that goes on when a text is read; it explores what happens between text and reader.

When we read contemporary texts—newspapers, novels, works of systematic theology, for example—the world of the text, which includes the author, overlaps to a large degree with the world of the reader, which includes the reader’s relatives and friends, the books on her bookshelf, her favourite movies, and so on. This makes interpretation a relatively straightforward process, though by no means a fool-proof one.

In the case of a text such as the Bible, however, which has its origins in a historical context far removed from that of the modern reader, interpretation also has to take into account a significant hermeneutical distance between the world or horizon of the text and the world or horizon of the reader. The reader may understand the translated words on the page, but much of what is implied in or presupposed by the text remains invisible. Much contemporary reading of scripture works on the assumption that neither the world of the text nor the world of the reader nor the distance between the two has any great bearing on interpretation.

We will then find that postmodernism confirms what in any case should be obvious, not least to church-based readers of the Bible, that generally speaking the ancient biblical text has been read and interpreted by diverse communities of readers, which embody diverse interpretive traditions.

Unfortunately the space between the reader and the text is never transparent or unimpeded. Interpretation is always hindered, to a lesser or greater degree, by tradition, prejudice, presuppositions, ignorance, and the laziness of the reading community. Hermeneutics tries to find ways to overcome these obstacles to good interpretation.

As a general field of study hermeneutics naturally overlaps with a broad spectrum of other disciplines, because each part of the interpretive process may be subjected to different types of analysis. We need to understand the literary character of the text and the context in which it was produced; we need to understand the complex process of interpretation; and we need to understand the various pressures that reading communities are under to bully the text into saying things it doesn’t really want to say.

The inescapable polarity of text and reader or between text and reading community has a bearing on the question of where authority in interpretation is perceived to lie. Traditionally the assumption has been that the author and the author’s context determine the meaning of the text. Beginning with Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), however, biblical hermeneutics has increasingly had to take account of the argument that it is the reader who determines the meaning of the text. Hermeneutics has to work out how to balance these competing claims to authority.

Finally, hermeneutics may be interested in how reading communities such as churches, home groups, mission organizations, and even academic fellowships respond to the interpretation of the text, if they do so at all. Action is itself a form of interpretation.

  • 1. A.C. Thiselton, Hermeneutics: An Introduction (Eerdmans, 2009), 1.

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