Thursday, September 09, 2010

Reflections on Hermeneutics

wittgenstein For various reasons, I ended up taking Hermeneutics under the rubric of the Year 4 Guided Reading module, although a Hermeneutics course is offered at Level 4.  The advantage of this approach was that I could tailor the module (in discussion with my supervisor – Dr Jamie Grant).  So, I ended up writing three assessment papers:

  • Barriers to interpretation in ancient texts and the methods that have been adopted in an attempt to overcome them throughout the history of the Church.
  • a book review of Words and the Word: Explorations in the Bible and Literary Theory.
  • Human authorship and scriptural authority with special reference to Enns’s Inspiration and Incarnation and McGowan’s The Divine Spiration of Scripture.

A brief thought on each of these follows:

  • barriers to the interpretation of ancient texts arise fundamentally because of the ‘problem of history,’ the problem of the ‘pastness of the past.’  So, in my paper I examined the historical Church’s awareness of this problem.  It is only since the Reformation that the Church has begun to truly get to grips with the historical nature of our faith, based as it is on divine intervention in human history, and the associated problem of bridging the historical distance.  After the existential disconnection of post-Bultmannian theologies and the sterile criticism of modernity, it’s time for the Church to get to grips with the problem of history constructively.  And, I think it is (beginning to get to grips with it).  I’ll post some more on this (perhaps).
  • Being borne in the womb of Imperial College, trained as an proper engineer, then as a policy-making ‘soft engineer’, literature has been for a long time on the fringes of my education (O’ level English Literature is the fringe I’m talking about!).  Of course, studying theology has put paid to that.  And I had a lot of catching up to do on literary theory etc.  So, this essay enabled me to get to grips with an area of hermeneutics that still appears, to many scholars it seems to me, like the Land of Mordor, shielded from view on all sides by high mountains.  Well, I passed Shelob’s Lair and went in for a look!  And lo, ‘twas a fearsome land!  But I returned alive and better informed about Wittgenstein (that’s him above, by the way), speech-act theory, poetics and rhetoric (although to be fair we’ve done lots of rhetoric as part of the NT courses).
  • This one is the (extremely) hot potato, especially with the furore over Divine Spiration, the book by HTCs former principal.  I was dismayed over the attacks made on a good man, who is honestly grappling with a subject where amongst some evangelicals there is little desire for honest and open discussion and doctrinal development.  Few of the attackers engaged with the substantive issues.  Anyway (avoiding fresh potato burns), I posted plenty at the time on this subject...