Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Problem of History

jerusalem For what it’s worth, here’s a bit more on the hermeneutical problem of history, an extract taken from the conclusion to my paper on the subject:

‘…According to Troeltsch, it was the Church's insistence on seeing all of history within the framework of supernaturalist theology that hindered historical enquiry for 1500 years, up until the Renaissance. Whilst Troeltsch's view is undoubtedly conditioned by the over-confidence of the modernist project, it is true that the Reformation alliance of epistemology and theology was a much-needed development. Calvin's correct insistence on the link between knowledge of God and knowledge of the self has enabled philosophical investigation to contribute to the field of biblical hermeneutics. Thiselton's defence of the role of philosophy in hermeneutics is important for any reassessment of biblical hermeneutics. Practitioners must recognise the modernist substructure of the historical-critical method. Post-modernism's challenge to this substructure presents three contenders for a philosophy of history: realist/empiricist; idealist; or postmodern. The Church, with the benefit of two millennia of history, has an opportunity to re-examine these alternatives. This is why new proposals from scholars such as Meyers and Wright (for a new foundation for historical investigation based on critical-realism) are such an important development. To aid the Church's task, the Church can reflect on pre-modern interpretation. The recognition of different levels of textual meaning contrasts with the reductive modernist view of a single layer of meaning. The lectio divina emphasis on subordination to the text contrasts with modernisms critical judgement of the text. The 'rule of faith' as appeal to community tradition and the metanarrative of scripture contrasts with both the sterile individualism of modernism and the metacriticism of postmodernism. These positive pre-modern traits are seen in many postmodern approaches. However, the postmodern total collapsing of hermeneutics into the horizon of the reader is incompatible with the claims of Christian truth. The metacritical approach, which denies the metanarrative of Christian truth, must be countered by the Church. Pannenburg shows the way in viewing history as metanarrative in the widest sense of the word, embracing not only the past, but, through eschatology, the future – even if that future is only 'provisionally and proleptically accessible'. Modernity has established an awareness of temporal distance and impelled the Church to take the historical phenomenality of scripture seriously...’