June 27th 2007, 11:04 PM #1
GYM DEBATE: Debate on Biblical Hermeneutics (Rupert Pupkin vs. SteveScianni)Here I am!
June 28th 2007, 11:03 AM #2
Re: GYM DEBATE: Debate on Biblical Hermeneutics (Rupert Pupkin vs. SteveScianni)
Greetings all! Welcome to a debate on Biblical hermeneutics, the topic being:
Does the Biblical text have two distinct meanings, and if so, can the "Divine sense" contradict the "Human sense"?
I will be taking the affirmative, and Steve Scianni will be arguing the case for the negative.
I’d like to start out by thanking Steve for being willing to debate me on this subject!
My first two posts will be structured as follows:
This will consist of two main points. The first will present my understanding of the standard evangelical model of inspiration and hermeneutics, and outline my own view in contrast to it. My presentation of the evangelical view is not intended to constrain my opponent in any way. If he wishes, he may defend any position that he chooses. It is just to attempt to draw out what I think are the logical implications of the standard evangelical view, which will help the reader appreciate why I came to my position. I will provide as best I can an understandable explanation of my own perspective. The second section will deal with the issue of the historicity of the Bible, which arises unavoidably from my position.
This will consist of three sections. The first will consist in a Biblical defense of my position. The second section will deal with the practical principles of hermeneutics from my point of view. The third will be a response to points raised by Steve, although this may have to continue over into the third post.
1. The Two Models of Inspiration
1.1 The Standard Evangelical (Historical-Grammatical) View
The standard Evangelical view (henceforth SEV), has a number of distinctive features. Firstly, it claims that the texts of scripture should be understood by employing a “historical-grammatical” (henceforth, HG) hermeneutic. In principle, this means that the text of scripture should be read in exactly the same way that we would read any other ancient text. We attempt to determine what the human author of scripture intended to say. Sometimes this is referred to as “literal” interpretation, but the concept of “literal” interpretation is problematic, and need not necessarily coincide with the HG approach.
Secondly, the SEV holds that revelation is propositional. I say this without intending to limit this claim to any particular form of proposition (such as those in the indicative mood). All I mean by this is that, on the SEV, revelation is mediated entirely by means of ordinary language. While Evangelicals might acknowledge some role for the Holy Spirit in the understanding of scripture, nonetheless, however they think this occurs, it cannot be by affecting the ordinary meaning of the text as determined by language use in its historical context. In principle, anyone who understands the language can understand the revelation.
Thirdly, the SEV regards scripture as, at some level, inerrant. Of course there are different versions of the doctrine of inerrancy; some would limit inerrancy only to certain subject matters, and others would hold to a more extensive view. For present purposes it matters little. The common thread is that the human author’s intended meaning is regarded as, in some defined respects, without error. This means that the action of the Holy Spirit in inspiring the text of scripture was such as to prevent the human authors from including any erroneous belief that they might have held. Because of this, scripture may be read canonically, since one author will not contradict another one.
It is important to recognize that the SEV does not arise out of a theoretical vacuum. That is, it involves definite commitments regarding the character of meaning in texts (both in general and in sacred scripture), and with respect to the nature and process of inspiration. It is not the only possible model of inspiration or of meaning. Therefore, it requires argumentation to establish its validity. I will leave that job to Steve, and will have more to say about it in response to his posts. However, just to name names, the standard Evangelical view that I have outlined here is defended by Kaiser & Silva (1994); Bauman (1995); Cowen (1997); and Tolar (2002), as well as many others.
Another point to make is that one’s hermeneutic is generally tied up with one’s concept of canonicity. The SEV of canonicity would be that the books included in the New Testament are there because they were either written by an apostle, or carry the seal of approval of some apostle. This makes sense, since it is the explicit teaching of the writers of scripture as they understood it, that on the SEV determines the theologically relevant meaning of the text; and the idea that they correctly understood doctrine because they were apostles seems hard to resist. One’s hermeneutic also tends to be tied to one’s model of the development of Christian doctrine. The SEV does not leave much room for genuine development of doctrine. All relevant doctrine must have been stated authoritatively in the apostolic age (at least implicitly, although unpacking what “implicitly” means in this case is highly problematic). Our job is merely to recover this original doctrine, and perhaps systematize it somewhat. At the very least, if the apostles’ beliefs regarding the nature of God, say, directly contradicted major orthodox doctrines such as the trinity which were made explicit centuries later, then the SEV is in serious trouble.
It is my contention that the SEV is not derivable from scripture, but is held to on a priori philosophical grounds. Furthermore, not only are those philosophical grounds flawed, but they are derived from an uncritical absorption of modernist thought. There are three main modernist influences:
(a) Schleiermacher, the father of liberal theology. He was the first person in Christian history to suggest that the sacred text of scripture should be interpreted in exactly the same way that we interpret any other ancient text. Although Luther rejected the medieval idea of there being four different levels of scriptural interpretation, and held to the perspicuity of scripture, he never in his wildest imaginations thought that scripture should be interpreted in the same manner as non-sacred texts. Zwingli explicitly held to a doctrine of scripture having two senses, an “inner” and an “outer” sense, with only the “outer” sense being accessible to unbelievers. It is only after Schleiermacher that the idea of scripture being interpreted in the same way as other ancient texts, became accepted amongst Christians. Furthermore, this is a direct expression of naturalism, the idea that there is no supernatural element to scripture; and hence, that scripture should be treated no differently in terms of hermeneutics to anything else. Indeed, with respect to its intentions, the evangelical HG method is no different to the methodology of liberal critical scholars. Thus, liberal historical Biblical criticism claims that one should aim, “to establish what the original author could have meant in his own historical period” (Barton, 1998, 10); the historical-critical task involves determining “what the text was intended to say by its author” (Perrin, 1974, 14). Both these statements, which were made by extremely liberal scholars who deny virtually all the tenants of orthodoxy, are fully in line with the SEV. This represents a truly remarkable convergence between conservative evangelicalism and radical liberalism, which I think should raise eyebrows.
(b) Nominalism. The nominalist tradition made its way via Luther into much Protestantism generally. This was reinforced in an English-speaking context by the complete dominance of empiricism as an intellectual milieu. To give just one example of how this impacted Evangelicalism, the great preacher Jonathan Edwards, a key leader of American revivalism, was also – although many do Evangelicals do not know this – an important empiricist philosopher (Wainwright, 1999). Empiricism was staunchly nominalist. Another source of this nominalism was in the writings of Suarez, a Jesuit whose textbook was widely used in Protestant universities in the 18th century (Montag, 1999). The dominance of nominalism in Evangelical circles is important, because it radically widened the gap between propositions (having conceptual structure) and reality (which allegedly does not) – there is “a divorce between words and things” (ibid, 55). This in turn led to a one-sided emphasis on the propositional character of revelation.
(c) Individualism. According to the standard Evangelical view, the individual can authoritatively read scripture without the involvement of the wider Christian community. That community might be helpful, but it is not necessary. A person stranded on a desert island, who had no human contact and knew nothing of Christianity, but who had a Bible, could, in principle, figure out all of orthodox Christian doctrine.
1.2 Rupert’s View
The view I will defend here, In terms of recent history, shows the influence of neo-orthodoxy and seems to be close to “Radical Orthodoxy” (Milbank, Ward & Pickstock, 1999). Perhaps I could even call myself “Radically Orthodox”. In any case, my view has influences from Zwingli, from scholasticism, and from the Church Fathers. I regard it as being more in tune with the history of Christian exegesis than is the SEV outlined above. A summary of my view is as follows:
Firstly, I do not deny that there is a meaning intended by the human author that is derivable by the consistent application of the HG hermeneutic (which in my opinion, only theological liberals, and not Evangelicals, achieve). However, I do deny that such meaning carries any theological authority. It represents merely the opinion of some person writing in the first century, and is of historical interest only. However, I believe that the Holy Spirit shaped what the authors of scripture were writing, in a way of which they were not aware, to build into the text a deeper meaning that the human authors did not understand. This deeper, divine meaning is only accessible to the eyes of faith, that is, to someone committed in faith to hearing God’s voice speaking through the text. I believe that inspiration was an unconscious psychological process; that the authors of scripture were not aware of what was going on or what God was saying through them. It also follows from this that the hermeneutic we should apply to scripture is unique; that is, it is not the same hermeneutic that we would use for any other, non-inspired text. I believe that this hermeneutic should be derived from scripture, and not specified on an a priori basis. This hermeneutic will be outlined in more detail later. I believe that there are two meanings united in the one Word of scripture, the divine and the human, just as there are two natures united in the one Word, Jesus Christ. God is incarnated in scripture.
Secondly, I deny that the true, divinely intended meaning of scripture is propositional. I will leave aside a detailed philosophical elaboration of how I think revelation in scripture operates, but will provide a brief summary. Following Heidegger, I believe that perception, in general, has a conceptual structure which is predicative, but not truth-claiming (that is, it is not a judgment). Let us denote any object by the term a, and a property of that object by the term P. I am claiming that we perceive how the a is P (aisthesis), but not that the a is P (apophansis). From this perception that has a predicative logical form but is not a judgment, we can then make linguistic claims that are propositional and truth-claiming. Having perceived how the a is P, we can then state that the a is P.
Given this incredibly brief summary of the conceptual structure of perception, I then make the move of carrying this model across to mystical encounter with God through scripture. However, here the order is reversed. We read in scripture that the a is P, and, if we are reading in faith, that proposition acts as a cue for the Holy Spirit to illuminate us by means of inward mystical perception as to how the a is P. In order for this to occur, we have to free the statement that the a is P from its limited, historical author-intended meaning, and view it as the direct utterance of God to us, as God speaking personally to us. God then shows us how the a is P; but – and this is crucial – only from a particular perspective (just as when I see how the car is red, I do so only from one particular perspective). In mystical encounter the Holy Spirit does not provide us with a “God’s eye view” of the divine, but only with one perspective of it. Because that perspective is conceptual, it brings with it, in Husserlian terms, the horizons of the concepts of the object a and the predicate P, which horizons are themselves shaped by our previous reading of scripture in this way (i.e. with Holy Spirit illumined perspectives).
The analogy here is to perception. When we first view a red car from a particular perspective, we see how the car is red. This perception brings with it an initial, rough and approximate, concept of the horizon of the car. But our initial viewing is limited, and it is only as we proceed to subsequent inspections, moving around the car, viewing it in different lighting conditions, and so forth, that we begin to make its horizon more accurate. So revelation occurs as a mystical perception induced by the reading of scripture, when it is taken as God’s direct speech to the reader, and involves in that perception a synthesis of previous reading. From this perception we can then form linguistic expressions of what we have perceived, which then go to make up our theology.
Thirdly, since the divinely intended meaning is not propositional, but consists in predicative perceptions which are not truth-claiming, the issue of inerrancy is irrelevant to my position. Since I do not believe that the human author’s meaning is inerrant, and since I don’t think that issues of error arise in relation to the divine meaning (which properly consists in the mystical illumination of the text, not the text per se), it is fair, I think, to say that I reject inerrancy entirely. I would also point out that I do not regard these illuminated perspectives as being conceptually infallible, no matter how “holy” one is. I think that they are in general reliable, but can be mistaken in the same way that ordinary perceptions can (e.g. if it is dark, I am scared, and I see a shadow, I might mistake it for a man, when it is really just a tree trunk). The important point is that this kind of misperception is corrected by subsequent perceptions, not by some other modality.
I hold that our hermeneutic should be derived from scripture, and this is the primary reason that I reject the SEV. One might object that we need a hermeneutic as a precondition for being able to read scripture in the first place, so how can we subsequently derive our hermeneutic from scripture? I’ll say more on that in my second post, when outlining the practical principles of hermeneutics. But that our hermeneutic should be derived from scripture is a central plank of my position, and I think that any attempt to avoid this is amounts to an abandonment of the doctrine of sola scriptura.
This leads me to the issue of canonicity, and development of doctrine. I hold that it does not matter in the slightest who wrote a particular text, or what knowledge they had, as far as canonicity is concerned. There are no objective criteria for canonicity. Whether a book should be canonical or not depends upon whether the author was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and there is no way of telling that except by listening to the text with the heart of faith. Canonicity is determined by the consensus of the believing community. How we tell who comprises the believing community will be dealt with in my next post, when the issue of principles of hermeneutics is addressed, in relation to the role of tradition in interpretation.
As for development of doctrine, my view allows for real progress and evolution of doctrine. It does not matter at all to my view what the apostles thought about the nature of God; it matters not if, as I think the evidence demonstrates, the doctrine of the trinity was completely unknown before the 3rd century, and everyone before that time held doctrines that conflicted with it. Over time, the church, the body of believers, progressively evolves and improves their doctrine, as they study the text of scripture under the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Consider it like the exploration of a new continent. The first generation of Christians, including the greatest of the apostles, merely mapped bits of the shoreline. The next generation mapped a little bit more, and so forth, until we are now well into the inland exploration. But the scripture is there to be discovered, and not merely rediscovered. Doctrine can be genuinely new – but if it is true, it will subsequently commend itself to the body of believers, as happened at the Reformation. If a new doctrine emerges, but over a period of time does not commend itself to the body, then it is almost certainly false.
2. The Issue of Historicity
A common issue raised with relation to my view, is that of historicity. Because I regard the human author’s intended meaning as being both errant and theologically irrelevant, in principle the issue of how reliable the Bible is when it narrates history is completely immaterial. Hence, it would seem that I could hold that all the Gospels and Acts, for instance, were pure fiction, but that God spoke through the author (without him being aware of this) in such a way as to build a deeper divine meaning into them. But, so the objection runs, Christianity cannot be completely ahistorical, without ceasing to be orthodox.
It is often claimed that Christianity is a historical religion. I think this is a quite misleading half-truth. Suppose that we ask, what is the bare minimum of historical events which must have actually occurred if Christian orthodoxy is to be supported? I think the answer to that question is much less extensive than many evangelicals seem to think. I maintain that there are only four historical facts that need to be true in order for Christian orthodoxy to be possible. These are:
(a) That Jesus was really incarnated and was truly God and truly man.
(b) That Jesus lived a sinless life.
(c) That Jesus was killed.
(d) That Jesus rose bodily from the grave.
Some people might want to add the virgin birth to the list, but I think that if that should be on the list at all, it just comes as a corollary of point (a). If you think that a virgin birth is essential in order for Jesus to be truly God and truly man, then it comes under this point. If you think that a virgin birth is unnecessary in order for the incarnation to occur, as many even conservative evangelicals do, then the virgin birth is completely theologically superfluous so far as orthodoxy is concerned, and does not need to have been historical. It is hard to find a more conservative systematic theology than that written by Millard Erickson, yet he writes (1999, 772):
Originally posted by Erickson
Apart from these four points, does Christianity gain anything from believing that other events are historical? I personally do not see how. In practice, any other event in the life of Jesus is interpreted in terms of what it demonstrates about the character of God, and as an example for us, which it would do just as well if it were an inspired myth as if it were real history. In this my view is in line with Kierkegaard and Barth. The only argument I have ever seen for the historicity of the rest of the Bible, is that if it were not historical, then the Bible contains errors; and therefore we cannot trust it with respect to other matters such as theology. But obviously the approach outlined here completely circumvents that objection. So I fail to see any argument at all for the necessity of the historicity of the Gospels, Acts, and so forth.
Another issue that commonly arises is that people mistake the claim that Christianity is a historical religion, for the claim that Christianity is a historically provable religion. But the latter just does not follow from the former. There are many events in history for which we just have insufficient or inadequate evidence to come to any confident conclusions on the basis of historical methodology as to what happened. I believe that the four points listed above fall into that category. I believe that God made very sure that the evidence that was left behind from the resurrection was too insufficient and ambiguous to establish its occurrence empirically. If God had wanted us to be able to prove the resurrection empirically, then why not have the resurrected Christ appear before the leading Roman historians of his day, and make an appearance before Caesar, and so forth? Instead, God ensured that the resurrected Christ appeared only to people who were already believers. Think about that.
I believe that the four events listed above occurred in real history because the deeper meaning of scripture teaches them as integral to its theology, and that meaning is revealed to me by personal encounter with the Holy Spirit in relation to the community of believers. I do not believe it on the basis of historical evidence. The historical evidence does not disprove it, but neither does it prove it. When Peter understood that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus did not reply to him, “congratulations Peter, you are a first rate historian, and have applied empirical historical methodology with great consistency and accuracy”. Rather, he said “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven”.
A consequence of this is that my view leaves me completely free to accept any scholarly findings at all in a quite unbiased manner. I have no axe to grind; I am happy to pursue historical criticism without fear or favour. I do not have to constantly invent highly implausible scenarios to protect the historical accuracy of the Bible against straightforward and obvious historical evidence. I do not care if the Gospels are fiction, or the epistles of Paul written by an ironmonger named Manuel in Spain. They are inspired, the Holy Spirit speaks through them, so what of it? It is what the Holy Spirit is saying through them that matters, not what the human authors said. If the author of Matthew was an atheist, no matter, and the author of Mark a Buddhist, no problem! Let us leave such trivia to the critical scholars. If the consensus of believers was that Anton Le Vay’s “The Satanic Bible” was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that cohered with my inward illumination, then I would add it to the canon. I do not think, of course, that it is; but neither do I think that this is in principle impossible. In fact, I think that at least one book of scripture, Ecclesiastes, was written (in the main) by a backslidden unbeliever. My view of that book makes much more sense than evangelical attempts to understand it. Yet it is still inspired scripture.
June 30th 2007, 12:02 AM #3
Re: GYM DEBATE: Debate on Biblical Hermeneutics (Rupert Pupkin vs. SteveScianni)
Hello to everyone, and my thanks to Rupert Pupkin (“RP” from here on) for the dialogue. I hope we are all doing well.
This particular debate springs from another. RP and I met up in the commentary thread of a “final punishment” debate between ChosenOne66 and Theonomy http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/sh...t=95319&page=5
Within this thread, I argued that the natural meaning of the biblical text indicated an Annihilationist interpretation. RP responded by claiming such an interpretive method (the historical-grammatical) was flawed and essentially useless in helping us arrive at a conclusion to the question. Naturally, I was surprised – I had never been criticized for using the Grammatical-historical hermeneutic before. I have been, on the other hand, accused of NOT having this method. One person faults me for NOT having the HG method, another person faults me FOR having it – I can’t win.
Now, I think RP has it right, and that I do approach the Biblical text in a natural, grammatical manner. Paying attention to word-meaning, context, idioms, genre, etc., I attempt to understand as accurately as possible what an author intends to communicate. But this is to miss the boat with the Bible, according to RP. You see, the Bible is special literature having two authors - one human, the other divine. Read naturally, the human authors of the Bible make mistakes, write errors and inconsistencies, and to focus on what they intended to say is wasting time and the surest path to theological error, liberalism and the rejection of the doctrine of Divine Inspiration. Therefore, we should not read the Bible as we would normally do so with other writings.
So there is a “divine sense” available for us to avoid all of this - God is communicating theological truth and perfection beyond, above and through the language of human beings. Some may wonder how this “divine meaning” is obtained. RP states that it is done by “approaching the text in faith.” Exactly what this means and how this is done requires an examination, but such a test needs to come later.
Before this, we ought to answer the questions of our debate: Does the Biblical Text have two distinct meanings? And if so, can the “divine sense” contradict the “human sense?”
RP, thus, carries several burdens and for him to make his case, he needs to do several things: (1) define the phrasing “divine sense,” what does he mean by this? (2) Show that the Bible DOES have this “divine sense,” and in what places (if not the whole), then (3) show us how such a sense is acquired, and then (4) give good reasons why such a sense would be at variance with the human meaning that IS present.
For my part, I will assert that (1) something called a “divine sense” is difficult, if not impossible to identify, (2) the Bible does not contain dual meanings, and (3) even if it did contain such, it would be useless and internally destructive for one to contradict the other.
(1) The first hurdle is the definition of this “divine” sense. It will not do to oppose it to a “human” sense and define it negatively as, “whatever it IS, it is NOT this.” We want to know what it looks like, what the rules are that govern it, and how to identify it should we ever come into contact with it. It is of first importance to know what a thing is before we attempt to look for and acquire it. As human beings, we know what a human sense to written language is. We are practicing it right now as we read these lines. It is reading the words in their natural and grammatical contexts to understand what an author is saying.
Conversely, we do not have any idea of what a “divine sense” to written words is. Is it reading words in a “supernatural” and “ungrammatical” way to arrive at what God is saying? This is an ambiguous phrase and exactly what it refers to is as yet unknown. But this is not to say God couldn’t author a book for humans, it is to say that if He did, it must of necessity be understood by natural, linguistic and grammatical means. Any information delivered to humans, by any supernatural agent must be put together in an intelligible way so as to be understood; otherwise what is the point of sending the message? The facts are that any and every message (verbal or written) is subject to grammatical and contextual laws, and follows mutually accepted, governing conventions that guarantee certain words and phrases mean specific things. It cannot be otherwise, or no one would understand a thing said or written.
So where does a “Divine sense” belong in all this? In all honesty, in religious contexts this phrase usually reduces to a presumptuous justification of any interpretation for any text, by appealing to the word “divine” so as to fortify it from all criticism. I have the “divine” meaning of the text, you have the “human” one, therefore, yours is false and mine is true. Thus anyone can claim that “X” really means “Y” because that is its “divine sense,” and because it is “divine” it is not subject to scrutiny and does not require proof. It seems then that appealing to a “divine sense” is nothing but a subtle ploy to make an impossible interpretation sound credible.
(2) But now supposing such a “divine” sense did exist, I cannot conceive what evidence RP will mount to show that the Bible has it. How does he know that this book is supernatural? It is enough for me to simply deny the assertion that the Biblical text has some magical dual-meaning to it and ask for evidence.
The onus is on RP to convince us that a volume, written by men, assembled by men and canonized by men is also divine. He must prove that ancient texts that act, read, feel, look and smell like the work of men are also the work of the divine.
But more than this, the idea that God would incorporate a divine sense behind the human language of the Bible is absurd – absurd because there is no good reason why God would choose this medium, or any medium at all to accomplish this. If He wanted to say something, He would say it directly, or if He chose to use a human medium, why would he not use the human language itself to communicate his message? Why resort to cryptography? There is thus an extremely low initial probability for the claim that the Bible has two meanings to it.
This initial presumption that the Bible is of solely human origin is made an absolute certainty once we open and read it. Not only is it not the most beautiful and elevating literature humans have composed, it is patently immoral, awful and obscene in many places. Along with errors of history and science, puerile myths and tediously irrelevant sections, we can easily confirm the human element of this volume. But not surprisingly, there is nothing within the covers to verify a divine element to the text. Nothing jumps out at us indicating there is a supernatural component, or that we should seek for a coded message. Nothing catches our eye or captivates the mind beyond what is normal to everyday reading.
Millions of people (including myself) have read this volume with “faith” and “prayer” and no one reacts when reading it, any differently than they would with any other religious book. It inspires and confuses; it elevates, it depresses; it gladdens and it saddens; it gives hope, it gives despair; it teaches cruelty, it teaches benevolence – is through and through all too human, and not what we would expect if there were a divine sense behind it.
One man of faith reads it and gets something different from another man of faith. Thousands of denominations of Christendom, schisms, heresies, sects, creeds, all testify to this one fact: this volume does not produce any unity. There can be no Spirit guiding men into all truth, no hand of God directing men to achieve a harmonized sense of these writings, and no divine person is bringing men and women into one accord through these pages. A person equally sincere and faithful as another will disagree with them on any number of relevant points.
If there was a divine sense to this book we would expect a perfect consensus, as the one Spirit would be telling one truth. Neither would we expect God to establish a system where people would cut each other’s throats over things sufficiently difficult to agree upon. The most obvious conclusion then is that this literature has no other meaning to it other than what the human authors intended to say in a literal, historical and grammatical manner.
(3) But for argument’s sake, let us assume there lies behind the biblical text, a divine meaning, and that we could acquire and understand it. If this divine meaning should convey a message completely opposite of the very words just read, what would be the purpose for the human language at all? We could read any wording, in any language, and God could communicate with us through it. What is more, what’s the use of any language at all? We could close our eyes, or we could stare at a tree or a building and God could speak to us in these ways. It is superfluous, then, for there to be a Bible – there is no need for it.
If the “divine sense” contradicts the human sense, there is no use for the human sense. If the “divine sense” is in harmony with the human meaning, there is no need for the “divine sense.” The two concepts appear to mutually exclude each other – there is no room for both.
One could say, the “divine sense” is always the opposite of the “human sense” and so uses the human language as a backdrop (a “yin and yang” type relationship). But where’s the efficiency in this? Why not just have the language be “right-side up” and communicate accurate information in the first place? If God is going to require us to understand the human sense so as to acquire its antithesis, why not just eliminate that last step and put the truth in acquiring the human sense? In that way, we wouldn’t have to figure out what the verse means, and then find an opposite meaning.
Or some could say, the “divine sense” is sometimes opposed to the “human sense” and sometimes in harmony with it. But the same criticism applies above when it does contradict it and there is no use for it when it harmonizes with it. In addition, there is the added problem of determining in what verses there is harmony and in what verses there is opposition, and if there are any rules that govern this or if it is just arbitrary. Further, one would have to wonder if there is even a fixed meaning to any passage at all. If today, verse “A” can mean “X” and tomorrow, verse “A” can mean “Y,” are there rules that mediate this sort of thing?
Or some could say, the “divine sense” never contradicts the “human sense” but differs from it in only slight degrees – it “amplifies” or “extends” the meaning. So, for example, God uses the phrase “out of Egypt, I called my Son,” contextually referring to the nation of Israel, to have a “deeper” meaning – that is, “Jesus, my Son, would come from Egypt.”
The initial difficulty of course is figuring out how we acquire this meaning of Hosea 11:1 to begin with, a second difficulty is understanding Matthew's language - does his text have a divine sense to it as well? If so, what is it? If not, why should we read Hosea's text different than Matthew's?
And compounding these difficulties is that such a “secondary” sense erodes all foundations for any intelligibility. For instance, what other verses have this “divine” sense? All of them? Some of them? If some, how do we determine which ones? What other books and writings have this “divine sense?” What if my “divine sense” differs from yours - whose “secondary” understanding is correct? How do we know if either of us have it right? What about a “demonic sense” – how do I know my understanding is from God and not another supernatural agent?
For my part, I do not find that inferring a “divine” meaning for the text of scripture is a foundation for better understanding, it only produces more questions and no answers, and it invites anarchy, as there are no rules governing the accuracy of a certain interpretation over another.
God would therefore never communicate something different than his human authors via the same words– even if only slightly. I cannot imagine any reason why he would, but I suppose we will get a lecture on the primacy of faith and how important this is. That God needed to hide his message from all except those who have faith – faith that there is a secret message there in the first place. But we’ll have to wait and respond appropriately; until then this notion that there exists a “divine sense” to the Bible appears so thoroughly ad hoc – a human invention, both improvable and perfectly ineffectual.
July 1st 2007, 01:53 PM #4
Re: GYM DEBATE: Debate on Biblical Hermeneutics (Rupert Pupkin vs. SteveScianni)
Thank you Steve, for your interesting (if somewhat puzzling at points) response!
I am getting very frustrated about this, but due to restrictions of length, I am not able to do anything more than post the Biblical basis of my position in this post. I will post my outline of the principles of hermeneutics, and my response to Steve, in my next post. I'm really sorry Steve, this does not mean that I am ignoring what you said; I am just postponing comment on it until my third post!
3. The Biblical Basis for the Dual Meaning Theory
3.1 The Biblical Concept of Prophecy
In John 11:49-52, Caiaphas declares, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed” . The writer of the gospel of John makes clear that Caiaphas did not say what he said “from himself” (AF hEAUTOU OUK EIPEN), but, rather, that he gave a genuine prophecy from God (EPROFHTEUSEN), by virtue of his status as high priest (verse 51). Indeed, the gospel goes on to tell us the divinely intended meaning of this prophecy; namely, that Jesus would die on behalf of the nation, and not for the nation only, but for all who believe. The gospel writer makes clear that this interpretation of Caiaphas’ statement was its actual intended meaning as inspired by God. Furthermore, the narrator has understood this divine meaning by viewing Caiaphas’ statement from the point of view of the wider context of Jesus’ life as recorded elsewhere in the gospel, rather than from the perspective of Caiaphas and his cronies. Viewed in this broader gospel context, the meaning becomes obvious; for the gospel repeatedly presents Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29).
It is equally clear, however, that the meaning attributed to the prophecy by the writer of John, is not the meaning that Caiaphas intended. Caiaphas, in his consciously intended meaning, had in mind the danger of the Romans coming and destroying the nation if the popularity of Jesus continued unabated (verse 48), and was advocating the actual murder of Jesus to his listeners. Caiaphas was speaking quite intentionally and had his own meaning in view when he spoke. Yet Caiaphas’ meaning is radically different to the divine meaning discerned by the author of John. Furthermore, Caiaphas’ meaning is unambiguously false. What he is suggesting is that they should murder their Messiah, the very Son of God, in order to avoid possible destruction by the Romans. But obviously that is not true. It could never be better to murder the Messiah than to endure any other outcome. Better to let the Romans destroy the whole nation, if that be what God allows to happen, rather than to kill the Lord’s anointed (1 Sam. 26:9). Caiaphas’ statement was both wrong and evil.
The verb PROFHTEUW which is used here, and its cognates PROFHTHS (prophet) and PROFHTEIA (prophecy), as used elsewhere in the Gospel of John, and in the Johannine literature more generally, always refer to an authoritative divine word, typically canonical, such as those given by Isaiah (e.g. Jn. 12:38), or Jesus (e.g. 4:44). Furthermore, that the author of the gospel is operating with a particular general model of prophecy in mind, and does not regard this instance as being exceptional with respect to the way in which the prophecy was generated, is indicated by the fact that he states that the utterance was prophetic because it was not uttered “from himself”, that is, from Caiaphas. In other words, the author of the statement in its prophetic significance was not Caiaphas. This directly contradicts the idea that it is the human speaker's intentions that govern the prophetic meaning.
Another important scripture is 1 Peter 1:10-11. Referring to the Old Testament prophets, the author argues that these prophets testified in advance of “the grace that was to be yours” (verse 10) and Christ’s sufferings and subsequent glory (verse 11). The writer does not see this Christological focus of Old Testament prophecy as a secondary or incidental feature, but as the main purpose and meaning for which it was given. Indeed, these prophets were not serving themselves or the people of their own time, but those who would live in the aftermath of the revelation of God in Christ (verse 12). Furthermore, it seems clear that these Old Testament prophets did not understand the implications of what they were prophesying, because they made diligent enquiry to determine the “person or time” that the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when it “testified in advance” (PROMARTUROMENON) of Christ’s work. In other words, the reference of their prophecies, the historical point of incarnation concerning which they spoke, was hidden from them. If they did not understand the true objective reference for what they said, then they did not understand what they were saying. It is also emphasized that the real author and agent of what they were saying was not the prophets, but the “Spirit of Christ”. Probably the prophets believed they spoke to their own generation and situation and people. However, the author of 1 Peter indicates that the real significance of their words lay elsewhere. There was a deeper meaning of which the prophets were unaware, and that meaning came from Christ himself. For Peter, it was this divine meaning which was the primary meaning, not the human meaning understood and intended by the prophets.
3.2 Scripture's Teaching About Itself
Scripture is often referred to as being the word of God (e.g. Ps. 119:64-67; Mt. 15:6; Jn. 10:35), but never “the thoughts of God”, or “the concepts of God”. The very words of scripture are God’s words and God’s speech. Ezra 1:1 refers to “the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah”, and in Acts 1:16 Peter refers to what “the Holy Spirit through (DIA) David foretold concerning Judas”. It was the Holy Spirit who spoke, with David being merely the agent through whom he spoke. Matthew characteristically refers to “what had been spoken through (DIA)” a particular prophet or prophets (2:17,23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 27:9), a phrase that recurs elsewhere (Acts 2:16), and which suggests that the true speaker was not the prophets, but, implicitly, God. 2 Peter 1:21 states that, “no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God”. Given that authorial intention is a direct expression of the author’s will, the exclusion of human will as the source of prophecy implies that human authorial intention does not govern scripture’s meaning. This need not mean that the prophet was passive or did not have their own intentions about the statements they uttered. It means that the statement is only prophecy insofar as it is read from God’s intentional framework. In other words, the words uttered are only prophetic as they express God’s intended meaning.
Elsewhere scriptural statements are attributed to their human author (e.g. Rm. 10:16,20), but to the NT authors this idea is consistent with them also being spoken by God and given their primary meaning by him. Jesus and his followers constantly find deeper meanings in texts that could not have been known to the authors (Ellis, 2002, 88). To Jesus, the entire OT spoke of him (Lk. 24:44, Jn. 5:39). In one instance, Jesus argues that Exodus 3:6 demonstrates that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be resurrected (Mt. 22:32; Mk. 12:26; Lk. 20:37), hardly an understanding that would have occurred to the writer of Exodus. He quotes Isaiah 61:1-2 and claims its fulfilment in him (Luke 4:18-21), again going beyond the original author’s understanding. Matthew (2:17-18) claims that Herod’s slaughter of the infants fulfilled (EPLHRWQH) Jeremiah 31:15, but in the context of Jeremiah this verse refers to the Babylonian exile. This creates difficulties for modern interpreters, since the human author’s intended meaning is obviously not the meaning that Matthew attributes to the text (Moo, 1986, 191). Therefore it becomes necessary to say either that Matthew was mistaken, or, for evangelicals who believe in the inerrancy of scripture, to argue that he must not have been saying what he seems to be saying. Often it is claimed (Moo, 1986, 191-192) that PLHROW does not necessarily mean “fulfil” in the natural sense (i.e. that the event in question was what the prophecy primarily described, with its occurrence being what rendered the prophecy truthful). This dilemma, however, arises only because the supernatural, divine sense of scripture is not admitted. When Jeremiah 31:15 was written, the human author was undoubtedly thinking about the judgement of God by way of the Babylonians. But if God was also speaking, why could Herod’s slaughter have not also been in view?
Moo’s arguments (1986, 191) that PLHROW does not have the natural sense in Matthew are unconvincing. He cites Mark 1:15; but that is not speaking of a prophecy being fulfilled, but the time being fulfilled, and therefore it is difficult to see how it is relevant. The only other example he cites of PLHROW being used in an alternative sense is Matthew 5:17; but this example just begs the question. This instance, a Matthean translation of Jesus’ speech, is better understood as a usage of PLHROW in the natural sense. Jesus was claiming that the primary, divinely intended meaning of the law and the prophets was to speak of the events of his life, death and resurrection (cf. Lk. 24:44, Jn. 5:39), and thus they could only be fulfilled in those events. The verb PLHROW occurs 16 times in Matthew. Of these, three (3:15; 13:48; 23:32) are not speaking of prophecy being fulfilled, and therefore can be set aside. There is no textual evidence in any of the remaining 13 examples (1:22; 2:15; 2:17; 2:23; 4:14; 5:17; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 26:54; 26:56; 27:9) that Matthew means anything other than the obvious natural sense of fulfilled. Given that Matthew’s repeated usage of PLHROW is almost formulaic, it seems likely that he has the same meaning in mind whenever he uses it with regard to prophecy. But in Matthew 2:23 we are told that Jesus settled in Nazareth in order that, “what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled” (hOPWS PLHRWQH). The implication is that had he not done this, then what had been spoken through the prophets would not have been fulfilled (see also 4:14). This indicates that in the mind of Matthew, the original scripture referred directly and primarily to this aspect of Jesus’ life, and could only be fulfilled in him. The word “fulfilment” is not used in a weak sense, of finding a parallel or similarity to another situation to which the prophecy primarily referred. If that were so, Jesus failing to settle in Nazareth could not have left the prophecy unfulfilled. Indeed, weakening the sense of “fulfilment” undermines Matthew’s apologetic purpose in drawing our attention to these instances; he expects his readers, if they read in faith, to be able to discern the deeper meaning and see how Jesus fulfilled it. It makes little sense to speak of Jesus “bringing to a climax” (Moo, 1986, 191) a prophecy which had already been completely fulfilled. It is impossible to bring something that has already been completed to a climax. And if the prophecies were not completely fulfilled by the earlier events that their human authors intended them to describe, then surely that is just another way of saying that they had a deeper meaning (if we accept that the prophets did not make false predictions).
What was true of Jesus was also true of Paul (Moule, 1982, 89-91; Hays, 1989, 1-5). Paul could focus on the use of the singular zera` in Genesis (Gal. 3:16), and draw theological conclusions from its occurrence, because for Paul the occurrence of the singular was not merely a Hebrew grammatical convention employed by a human author. Of course, it was such a convention, but in this case the singular also held a divinely intended significance. The human author employed it for grammatical reasons; but God employed it for theological reasons. Every nuance of every word in the Bible has a divinely intended significance. Consider Galations 4:21-31. In this passage, Paul refers to Genesis 16:1-16; 17:15-26; 21:9-21. But he interprets these passages as speaking allegorically (ALLHGOREW), with Isaac representing the New Covenant people, and Ishmael representing the Old Covenant. Paul is debating with people who are yet to be persuaded to his point of view and who are not just willing to accept his word for it. He appeals to scripture as a common ground of reference. He makes no claim to his apostolic authority or to special insight of the text; on the contrary, he expects his readers to recognize the validity of his interpretation for themselves. Just as Jesus expected his listeners to be able to see the deeper sense of the OT that pointed to him, so Paul expects his readers to recognize the validity of his allegory.
Consider the book of Hebrews. De Young & Hurty (1997, 2) write of its author’s hermeneutic:
"He considers God the Spirit to be the primary author of Scripture, and assumes that the meaning that he finds in Scripture reflects God’s intent. This suggests that the divine Author is more significant than the human author. Never does the author say that a human author wrote Scripture or is the direct source of Scripture. The closest he comes to this is to say that God designated a “Today” when he “spoke through David” (4:7). In 3:7 the Holy Spirit is designated as the speaker of the same text (Ps. 95:7-11). Otherwise, the author explicitly identifies God (1:5-13; 4:3-5; 5:5-6, 10; 6:13-14; 7:21; 8:8; 13:5), or “someone” (2:6), or Jesus (2:12-13), or Christ (10:5), or the Holy Spirit (3:7; 10:15-17) as author; or no one is identified as the author and it is assumed that God is (10:37-38; 12:5; 13:5 and 6) …When we state that the divine Author’s intent is even more significant than the human author’s, we mean that the confluence of the divine and human wills is not necessarily identical (or equal) … In some instances the human author is not only ignored but replaced by Jesus as though he did the original speaking!"
The fact that NT writers interpreted the OT in ways which are diametrically opposed to modern evangelical hermeneutical principles has not gone unnoticed, and one response has been to question the normative function of NT exegesis as a guide for Christian exegesis in general (i.e. in all times and places). One common response has been to claim that the NT writers employed exegetical methods which were derived from their cultural context. For example, Midrashic interpretations were a common method of Jewish exegesis of the OT at the time when the NT was written, and may be seen in the NT (Moo, 1986, 192; Douglas-Klotz, 1999, 181). The key question, however, is not whether a particular NT interpretation is midrashic, allegorical, typological, or whatever else; but whether it is objectively valid. That is, did it truly uncover part of the intended meaning of the original text? If not, then it seems that the NT authors simply interpreted the OT wrongly, irrespective of whether or not such wrong interpretations were convincing to their contemporaries. But if we believe that they did not interpret the OT wrongly, then we ought to admit the validity of “midrashic” interpretations, at least as they are practiced in the NT. Perhaps first-century Jews simply knew something about scripture that modern historical criticism has overlooked.
A second possible response is to argue that the writers of the NT, by virtue of being under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as they wrote, had special meanings revealed to them that are not accessible to ordinary Christians. However, if these deeper meanings are indeed valid, then they must have been objective, intentional meanings built into and reflected in the text. If so, then why are they in principle undiscoverable except by virtue of being an inspired writer of scripture? The Bible says that all believers have the Holy Spirit as a teacher and that he will lead them into “all truth” (Jn. 16:13; 1 Jn. 2:27). The process of inspiration enables a writer’s words to be shaped by God. It does not necessarily give the writer supernatural insight into things unattainable by any other Christian. This “inspired insight” argument also runs contrary to the way in which such arguments are used in the text. They are not presented as special revelations that the reader cannot hope to fathom, but as arguments intended to persuade the reader when they recognize the validity of the interpretations being presented. In light of these considerations, we must conclude that NT interpretations of the OT are both objectively valid, and also should have a normative function for Christians today. That is, they serve as the model and example of how we ought to interpret the OT (LaRondelle, 1987, 1-2; Nevin, 1987, 1).
3.3 Can Scripture be Understood by Unbelievers?
Evangelical defenders of the SEV appeal to how non-Biblical texts are interpreted, and then explicitly claim that Biblical texts should be treated in a similar way (Bauman, 1995, 6-7; Montgomery, 1995, 16). If the meaning of scripture is determined simply by the human author’s intentions, then the meaning of scripture should be understandable by anyone by the exercise of ordinary human reason. It would be based on “evidence on which everyone can agree” (Sanders, 1985, 5).
The question that needs to be asked is whether this characterization is consistent with what the scriptures teach about their own understanding. In John 8:43 Jesus says to the unbelieving Jews, “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word”. They could not understand because they would not believe. In 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 Paul states that he speaks words taught by the Spirit, which are not understandable to those who are unspiritual (verse 14). In 2 Corinthians 3:14-16 Paul speaks of a veil that lies over the minds of unbelieving Jews, and which prevents them from understanding the true meaning of the Old Testament. In Matthew 13:11, when Jesus was asked concerning the meaning of the words that he spoke in a parable, he replied that to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven is given only to believers. When Peter declares his faith in Jesus as Son of God and Messiah (Matthew 16:17), Jesus specifically states that “flesh and blood” had not revealed this to him, but only the Father. “Flesh and blood” includes human reason and its ability to understand the meaning of human utterances. In John 1:10, the incarnate Word entered the world but the world “did not know him”. The consistent teaching of scripture is that unbelievers are not capable of understanding the true meaning of scripture, regardless of how expert they may be in historical criticism. This cannot be true if the meaning is determined by the human author’s intentions; therefore the human authorial intention paradigm must be false. Luther argued, “the work of God must be hidden and is not recognized when it happens” (Pannenberg, 1968, 43) (the divine incognito). So also, divine speech must be hidden and unrecognized.
A related problem with the grammatical-historical hermeneutic is that, while it might in principle leave the meaning open to everyone to understand, in practice it leads to a new kind of elitism in which the scriptures are held hostage by scholars. How capable is the average Christian of undertaking the “very sophisticated philological and linguistic studies” (Barton, 1998, 10) which are allegedly required to unpack the human author’s intended meaning in its historical context? In Luke 10:21 we find that God has hidden his truth from “the wise and the intelligent”, but has revealed it to “infants”.
In concluding this section, one more important, although controversial, scripture is worth considering; 2 Corinthians 3:6, “for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”. Many writers are adamant that this does not mean that there is a deeper, spiritual meaning beyond the literal meaning of the letter, and deride its “abuse” to support such claims (Ramm, 1970, 35; Barker, 1988, 8). However, things are not so simple. Verse 6 is part of a larger section that concludes in verse 18, and towards the end of this section (verses 14-16), the issue of understanding the written text of scripture is certainly in view. Paul writes that the Jews are not able to understand the true meaning of scripture because, “a veil lies over their minds”, a veil which is taken away in Christ. That the letter represents the law is true, but that this must also encompass a particular reading of the law is demonstrated by verses 14-16. Similarly, although the Spirit represents the new life in Christ, this must also encompass the new insight into the meaning of the texts of the law that previously the reader was unable to see. That the letter/spirit contrast encompasses ways of understanding the text is also implicit in the contrast in verse 3, derived from the exilic prophets, between writing on tablets of stone, and writing on the heart. Even if verse 6 is not relevant, verses 14-16 suggests that two meanings are present in the law: the meaning that its Jewish readers discern, and the meaning that is uncovered when the veil is removed.
Given the active role that the Bible attributes to the Holy Spirit in the understanding of scripture, as outlined above, it follows that in order to access the divine meaning of the text, some kind of supernatural enlightenment must occur. I do not pretend that the philosophical model of the phenomenology of mystical encounter that I outlined in my previous post is explicitly taught in scripture. I do, however, argue that it is a philosophically rigorous way of articulating the essence of what scripture teaches; that it is philosophically supportable and does justice to the text of scripture. In this respect, the Word of God only becomes the living Word when the Holy Spirit enlightens our heart as to its true meaning.
3.4 Other Examples
Two other examples are worth mentioning. The first is Ecclesiastes. The author of this work states in an unqualified manner many things which contradict NT teaching. For instance, he insists that life is meaningless and that all labour is vain; but the NT assures us that our labour is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). There is no plausible way to read a qualification into the text (such as, that life is meaningless for unbelievers only, or something like that). That is just not what it says. It states flatly that life is meaningless, full stop. This has always proved difficult for evangelicals to explain. On my view, however, it makes perfect sense. The author was simply an unbeliever, and what he says is not true. However, God spoke through him and through his error to give us a picture of what life without Christ is like.
Another problem passage for evangelicals is Ezekiel's failed prophecy about Tyre. In Ezekiel 26:1-14, he unambiguously predicts the total destruction of Tyre, and its transformation into a "bare rock", at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar (verse 7). But not only do we know from history that this did not happen, but Ezekiel himself makes it plain that it was not fulfilled in 29:18, where God says that because Nebuchadnezzar tried hard against Tyre, but didn't succeed, he will give him Egypt as a "consolation prize". Clearly, the prophecy that Ezekiel made failed, and God ensured that its failure was recorded. Why did God put this in scripture? I would suggest to tell us something about the nature of OT prophecy. Its real meaning lies in its foreshadowing of Christ, not in a "literal" fulfillment.
July 6th 2007, 09:27 PM #5
Re: GYM DEBATE: Debate on Biblical Hermeneutics (Rupert Pupkin vs. SteveScianni)
Hello all, sorry for such a delay in responding...
In principle, this means that the text of scripture should be read in exactly the same way that we would read any other ancient text. We attempt to determine what the human author of scripture intended to say.
It is not the only possible model of inspiration or of meaning. Therefore, it requires argumentation to establish its validity. I will leave that job to Steve
As you rephrased the Evangelical's position, "the text of scripture should be read in exactly the same way that we would read any other ancient text," this is all I am claiming we should do. We should read text naturally, normally, contextually and grammatically.
The burden is on the person who claims that we should NOT read the Bible in the same natural way. It is no more incumbent upon me to argue for the validity of reading the Bible in this manner, than it would be for me to justify why I read the Sunday paper at face value.
At the very least, if the apostles’ beliefs regarding the nature of God, say, directly contradicted major orthodox doctrines such as the trinity which were made explicit centuries later, then the SEV is in serious trouble.
Zwingli explicitly held to a doctrine of scripture having two senses, an “inner” and an “outer” sense, with only the “outer” sense being accessible to unbelievers.
It represents merely the opinion of some person writing in the first century, and is of historical interest only. However, I believe that the Holy Spirit shaped what the authors of scripture were writing, in a way of which they were not aware, to build into the text a deeper meaning that the human authors did not understand.
This deeper, divine meaning is only accessible to the eyes of faith, that is, to someone committed in faith to hearing God’s voice speaking through the text.
Human beings usually find what they are looking for, especially after they presuppose something is there. So why couldn't any person make the SAME claim about ANY text ever written or going to be written?
I believe that inspiration was an unconscious psychological process; that the authors of scripture were not aware of what was going on or what God was saying through them. It also follows from this that the hermeneutic we should apply to scripture is unique; that is, it is not the same hermeneutic that we would use for any other, non-inspired text. I
If I believed the Koran was inspired in an identical manner and that there is a deeper/divine meaning to it, how could you falsify such a stance?
We read in scripture that the a is P, and, if we are reading in faith, that proposition acts as a cue for the Holy Spirit to illuminate us by means of inward mystical perception as to how the a is P.
Like the car example,
When we first view a red car from a particular perspective, we see how the car is red. This perception brings with it an initial, rough and approximate, concept of the horizon of the car. But our initial viewing is limited, and it is only as we proceed to subsequent inspections, moving around the car, viewing it in different lighting conditions, and so forth, that we begin to make its horizon more accurate.
So revelation occurs as a mystical perception induced by the reading of scripture, when it is taken as God’s direct speech to the reader, and involves in that perception a synthesis of previous reading. From this perception we can then form linguistic expressions of what we have perceived, which then go to make up our theology.
What is a "mystical perception induced by the reading of scripture," and how is this different from hypnosis or any other common trance? Or different from an "allegorical" hermeneutic?
In other words, how would one know this isn't a natural/psychological occurrence, but is in fact the Deity communicating to you?
Moreover, what SPECIFIC need of "previous reading" is there? Why does this "mystical" illumination depend upon "synthesizing" previous reading? Seems compelling to me that whatever depends upon the natural (i.e., previous reading) is ITSELF ALSO natural.
What need has the Spirit of God for human text? Nothing.
What need has an altered state of mind of man for human text? Much more.
Thirdly, since the divinely intended meaning is not propositional, but consists in predicative perceptions which are not truth-claiming, the issue of inerrancy is irrelevant to my position.
I would also point out that I do not regard these illuminated perspectives as being conceptually infallible, no matter how “holy” one is. I think that they are in general reliable, but can be mistaken in the same way that ordinary perceptions can...The important point is that this kind of misperception is corrected by subsequent perceptions, not by some other modality.
One might object that we need a hermeneutic as a precondition for being able to read scripture in the first place, so how can we subsequently derive our hermeneutic from scripture?
Whether a book should be canonical or not depends upon whether the author was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and there is no way of telling that except by listening to the text with the heart of faith.
It seems evident that Faith should never precede propositions RP, otherwise the cart is before the horse. What are you faithful about? Who and what are you trusting? What claims do you have faith in? Approaching a text "in faith" means trust a traditional proposition(s) - trust them before determining how Tradition derived them, or what they are saying.
As for development of doctrine, my view allows for real progress and evolution of doctrine.
Doctrine can be genuinely new – but if it is true, it will subsequently commend itself to the body of believers, as happened at the Reformation. If a new doctrine emerges, but over a period of time does not commend itself to the body, then it is almost certainly false.
But again, how convenient RP to state if a "new" doctrine "commends itself to the body" it is true, if not, it is false. These are subjective, poorly defined rules and they govern very little. Who is the body? How did they become part of the body? How long should we wait to see if a "new" teaching takes hold in order to determine if it is true?
This reduces to a waiting game...let's propose something, or listen to the latest doctrine, if it catches on we've got the Truth...RP, how is any of this divine, objective or reasonable?
The secret Rapture and Dispensationalism sure caught on in the last 150 years, it must be true. Purgatory is still hot these days, that must be true...but it's also widely rejected, so it must be false as well. Do you see no problem?
I maintain that there are only four historical facts that need to be true in order for Christian orthodoxy to be possible. These are:
(a) That Jesus was really incarnated and was truly God and truly man.
(b) That Jesus lived a sinless life.
(c) That Jesus was killed.
(d) That Jesus rose bodily from the grave.
Moreover, how do we know these to be historical facts to begin with?
I believe that God made very sure that the evidence that was left behind from the resurrection was too insufficient and ambiguous to establish its occurrence empirically. If God had wanted us to be able to prove the resurrection empirically, then why not have the resurrected Christ appear before the leading Roman historians of his day, and make an appearance before Caesar, and so forth? Instead, God ensured that the resurrected Christ appeared only to people who were already believers. Think about that.
Rather, he said “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven”.
my view leaves me completely free to accept any scholarly findings at all in a quite unbiased manner. I have no axe to grind; I am happy to pursue historical criticism without fear or favour. I do not have to constantly invent highly implausible scenarios to protect the historical accuracy of the Bible against straightforward and obvious historical evidence.
I do not care if the Gospels are fiction, or the epistles of Paul written by an ironmonger named Manuel in Spain. They are inspired, the Holy Spirit speaks through them, so what of it? It is what the Holy Spirit is saying through them that matters, not what the human authors said.
Who or What is the community of believers?
How do they know a text is inspired?
How do they acquire the inspired sense?
How do they convince someone outside the Church that the text is inspired?
To conclude, RP, I respect your studies and your learning in this area of hermeneutics, especially in the more technical realms of epistemology and perception - you have spent more time than I have here.
However, I found that the opening post raised more questions than it answered - that should be evident by the myriad of them present in my response :)
How shall we proceed then? Would you like me to respond to your second post or should we tackle some of the above questions - questions which I find to be foundational and of first priority?
July 10th 2007, 09:58 AM #6
Re: GYM DEBATE: Debate on Biblical Hermeneutics (Rupert Pupkin vs. SteveScianni)
Hi Steve! If it's alright, I will do my final exposition as planned. After than, I will simply address the points you raise in your posts as you raise them. But don't despair, because I think that section 4 below will answer a significant number of the questions you raised. In any case it is the final crucial groundwork for my responses to your arguments. After that, I will not do any more exposition, but will just respond to your posts point by point in sections: I will respond to your first post as section five, your second post as section 6, and so forth. In this post I anticipate only getting part way through your first post.
4. The Principles of Hermeneutics for the Divine Meaning
4.1 The Iterative Nature of Rupert's Hermeneutic
A common criticism I have heard many times when I have argued that we should derive our hermeneutic froms scripture, and not develop it on an a priori basis, is that this proposal, no matter how pious it sounds in theory, is impossible in practice, because it involves a vicious circularity. In order to read the text at all in the first place, we need to have a hermeneutic; so how can we then read the text in order to derive a hermeneutic? This criticism commonly takes the following form. "Rupert, you have presented many scriptures to defend your view. That is all well and good, and we find that you make some interesting points that are hard for us to explain. But it seems to us that you are inconsistent. In interpreting the scriptures you use to defend your view, you actually interpret them in a "straightforward", historical-grammatical sense, in order to show that we should not interpret scripture in this sense. For instance, when Matthew says that OT scripture X was fulfilled by NT event Y, you take that statement in its "natural" HG sense, and then claim that the difference between the "natural" context of X and its fulfillment in Y shows that prophecies should not be understood in terms of "natural", HG meaning. So isn't your view just self-refuting?" I find that this objection is a big obstacle to my view, since no amount of scriptural evidence will convince most people of a view if they think that view is self-contradictory.
As an aside, which will be addressed in section 4.5 below, I think there are major problems with the claim that the SEV, HG meaning is the "natural", "straightforward" reading of the texts. But for the moment, let us grant that claim. Let me also grant that I am employing the standard, SEV, HG method in the first instance, in order to demonstrate that the scriptures are not consistent with that view. Is my procedure self-contradictory? I do not think that it is. Indeed, I think that people who make this objection, have a fundamental misunderstanding of hermeneutics in general, and how the interpretation of any kind of text occurs. But first let me explain how I deal with the objection, before moving on to hermeneutics in a broader sense.
I respond by claiming that my method is not circular, but iterative. That is, we proceed as follows. We have some starting hermeneutic, some default, baseline method for approaching texts. Since I am a modern, my default hermeneutic in this context is the HG approach. If I lived in the 2nd century Roman world, my default hermeneutic in this context might have been allegorical. I claim that it does not matter what default hermeneutic one starts with. Anyway, I approach the text with my default HG hermeneutic, which I will denote H1, and read it. I find that the HG hermeneutic comes into conflict with the text, for the reasons detailed in section 3, in my previous post. That is, when reading the text in the HG mode, it becomes evident that according to the text itself, I cannot continue to read in that mode without violating the intentions of the text. At this point, therefore, I must adjust my hermeneutic. I do not abandon it completely, I just modify it, in such a way as to attempt to adapt it to the demands of the text. For example, if the text demands that we make certain kinds of typological interpretations, then we must adjust our hermeneutic to accommodate typological interpretations in that context. I must do this in a manner that maintains the unity and simplicity of my hermeneutical approach, which means that such modifications must be done at the level of general principles, and not merely by means of localized ad hoc exceptions. Otherwise I no longer have a unitary hermeneutic. This is rather like how science proceeds in formulating general laws of physics.
Having now this modified, adapted hermeneutic, which we will denote H2, I return to the text. I start reading it all over again. This time I read happily for a bit longer; however, sooner or later, I find again that my new modified hermeneutic comes into conflict with the text. So again, I must modify my hermeneutic H2 to accommmodate my new insights from the text about how it should be understood. Again this adjustment must occur at the level of general principles. This generates a new hermeneutic H3. I then approach the text all over again with my new hermeneutic H3, and once again read, and once again modify, to get a new hermeneutic H4; and this procedure continues on and on until I find that my hermeneutic is methodological fully consonant with the requirements of the text itself.
Since one's hermeneutic evolves in this manner, one's starting hermeneutic is not really important. We are all aiming to end up in the same place, but it does not matter where we start from, what cultural assumptions about texts one starts with and what hermeneutic one gives default privelige to. As long as one is prepared to modify that hermeneutic in response to the text, there is no problem.
To those who still are unhappy, I ask, what is the alternative which evangelicals propose? The alternative is that we employ a HG hermeneutic on an a priori basis, and no matter how many times the text explicitly states that it is not intended to be interpreted that way, we just ignore what the text says, by inventing implausible interpretations to get around it ("fulfilled" does not really mean fulfilled, the apostles had special priveliges, and so forth). My question to people is this: what is a more satisfactory approach? To force the text into your a priori hermeneutic, or to allow the text to mold your hermeneutic? I know which I think is better.
4.2 Gadamar and the Hermeneutic Circle
As I developed this model, it began to dawn on me that this was not exactly new. I was re-inventing the wheel. The view that I have called the "iterative" approach, is actually just the "Hermeneutic Circle" which has been so important in philosophical hermeneutics, and which has played such an important role in the writings of Gadamar and others in recent times. In fact, what I have outlined as the case for the Divine Meaning of the Bible, is true of all texts, no matter what they are. The "Hermeneutic Circle" was explicitly described first by Dilthey (although it was anticipated by Schleiermacher):
Originally posted by Abrams
It follows from this that there are no fixed and unchanging "principles" or "laws" of interpretation that can be specified in advance of reading. Whatever principles we start with must evolve and adapt in response to the text. This idea has been particularly developed by Gadamar:
Originally posted by Abrams
4.3 Principles of the Divine Meaning Hermeneutic
With the background of sections 4.1 and 4.2 above, we can now say something about the unique principles that govern - or perhaps better, illuminate for us - the divine meaning of the text. However, these are not "rules of interpretation", because, with Gadamar, I reject the concept of any such rules. Rather, these represent the "way of approaching the text" in a broad sense, that will yield the divine meaning. In section 1.2 in my first post we saw that the divine meaning is not propositional, but is given by mystical enlightenment of the text by the Holy Spirit. This is the first key difference that distinguishes the divine meaning approach from the historical-critical human meaning. In order to arrive at the divine meaning, one must approach the text with humility, faith, and a willingness and openness to hear God speak through his word. This is principle (a) on the list below. The second principle is that one must regard the text as God speaking directly to you, the listener. This means that one should read the text in an ahistorical, universal manner, and not localize it to some particular time and place. It must speak to you directly. This also means that we should treat the text as speaking in a catholic manner - that is, to all believers in all times and places. This is principle (b) below. The third principle, is that, in line with the fact that we are now regarding God as the direct speaker through all scripture, it must be read canonically. That is, the proper context - or "linguistic whole" in Abram's terms as quoted above - is the entire canon of scripture. We must understand what God is saying to us in light of everything else that he has said.
The fourth principle for illuminating the divine meaning, is that the text should be read in the light of tradition, or, to put this another way, how the entire body of believers has read the texts in the past. It is crucial to emphasize that "tradition" encompasses every reading by every believer in the past, not some priveliged group like the Roman Catholic Magisterium, the recognized Church Fathers, or whoever. In fact, the idea of an idea of a priveliged sub-group of believers is incoherent on my view. Every believer's reading is relevant. Obviously, this does not mean that every believer's reading is correct, but it does mean that it should be considered as part of the background to the divine meaning of the text. The issue of how we recognize true believers for these purposes will be dealt with in point 4.4 below. But since other believers also experience mystical perception of the divine, we must rely on their insights also, just as we would rely on other people's perceptions of the visible world as well as our own. This means that the position outlined here rejects the individualism of the SEV, and holds that it is only in community that we can understand the divine meaning of the Bible, just as it is only in community that we can build up a proper picture of the external world. It is the intersection of our perspectives, in phenomenological terms, that comprises the objectivity of the divine meaning. Any reading of the text that was completely individualistic would also be completely uncertain. Hence, a person residing on a desert island with the Bible but no other knowledge of Christianity, could never arrive at any right doctrine with any degree of certainty.
The fifth and final principle of reading the text for the divine meaning, is that scripture should be read existentially. This means that we should place ourselves into whatever the text is describing, and regard that description as being fulfilled in our lives right here and now. This does not mean that we deny their broader application. It just means that, whatever broader application they do have, they must also be able to be existentially appropriated. The existential interpretation of eschatological texts is well illustrated by Franz Kafka's comment that:
Originally posted by Kafka
In summary, the five principles for illuminating the divine meaning of scripture are:
(a) Rely on mystical illumination from the Holy Spirit in faith and humility.
(b) Read the text as God's direct speech to the reader; universal and catholic in scope.
(c) Read the text canonically.
(d) Read the text in the light of tradition (the understandings of the total body of believers).
(e) Read the text existentially.
In contrast to this, the HG method, if applied accurately, would involve the following:
(a) Do not rely on mystical enlightenment.
(b) Read the text as the human author's direct speech in his historical context.
(c) Read the text in the light of the other texts written by the same author.
(d) Read the text somewhat in light of the theology of the local community of believers that gave rise to it.
(e) Do not read the text existentially.
I submit that the above provides an excellent and more than adequate guide to distinguishing the two senses of scripture.
4.4 The Intersubjectivity of Mystical Encounter
The issue of a "mystical community" requires philosophical elaboration, but the issue is too complicated to deal with comprehensively here; and, in any case, the precise nature of mystical perception and intersubjectivity is something which I am presently still engaged in thinking through as part of a philosophy thesis. In short, this represents a work in progress. Briefly, however, the theoretical background that I am working worth is provided by Husserlian phenomenology, and subsequent developments within that school. I hold that mystical perception is precisely analogous to ordinary sensory perception in its logical form and structure. According to Husserl, it is the intersection of our many perspectives of the world that gives rise to its objectivity. What I am claiming is that the same thing happens for the divine "realm" (which is actually just the comprehension of particular forms in the visible world by means of the eye of faith). This does not mean that I deny the transcendent nature of God, it just means that I regard God in his transcendent essence as incomprehensible, and our understanding of him as being tied to his functional activity in time and space. Anyway, the point is that if I alone viewed the mystical realm, I would be entirely unable to establish its objectivity. The concept of objectivity would not be applicable to it. In short, it would not be objectively real. It is only because others also perceive the mystical realm, and our various perceptions of that realm intersect, that its objectivity is established.
The question might arise, how do I know that others share the same kind of mystical world that I inhabit? The answer is that there are certain people whose mystical, theological language I can understand, and who can understand me; we speak the same mystical language. I would argue, for reasons that I will leave aside, that you can only share a language with someone who shares the same kind of perspective on the world that you do. Hence, the fact that I can share in meaningful discourse about God, his nature, Jesus, theology and so forth, with some people, demonstrates that they inhabit my mystical world. I call these people, "Christians".
This also gives us the practical means to distinguish believers from unbelievers, and thus to establish the believing community for hermeneutical purposes. I should stress that this is not absolute or foolproof, and is not a means to say categorically whether a particular person is saved or unsaved. It serves a vital practical purpose, but that is all; it does not provide an excuse for us to condemn people. The community of believers consists in those who speak the same mystical language that I do. This is how I recognize them.
4.5 The Myth of the "Literal", "Natural" or "Straightforward" Meaning
Many evangelicals (and fundamentalists) insist that they interpret the text "literally", "naturally", or "straightforwardly". I argue that all such descriptions are only valid within some particular hermeneutical framework, and therefore are irrelevant as justifications for preferring one hermeneutical approach over another. In short, what is "literal" is in the eye of the beholder.
I will use two quick examples here. In section 3.1, I pointed out that Caiaphas made the prophecy "You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed". I also pointed out that this statement had two meanings, the one intended by Caiaphas (that they had better murder Jesus to stop the Romans destroying Israel), and the one intended by God (that Jesus was to die for the sins of the world). The question is, which of these two meanings is more "literal"? It does not seem obvious to me that either of them is more "literal" than the other. They are just viewed from different contextual perspectives. But each is perfectly "literal" within its appropriate context. Hence, a "literal" reading will vary dramatically depending on context.
Another great example is 1 Cor. 15:51. There Paul states, "we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed". So what, you might say. The question I would like to raise is this. To whom does the pronoun "we" refer? There are, in fact, two possibilities. One is that the pronoun "we" refers to the people in the church at Corinth to whom the letter was written (and Paul). The second is that the pronoun "we" refers to all Christians in all times and places.
Now it seems to me, and almost all non-evangelical commentators, that if we employ the same method we use to understand other ancient texts, the historical-critical approach, and the HG hermeneutic beloved by evangelicals, then by far the most reasonable conclusion to come to is that Paul is only intentionally addressing the church at Corinth to whom he is writing. He is addressing those to whom he expects the letter to be read. He does not anticipate that people will be reading his letter two millennia in the future in continents not yet discovered. He is writing to a specific group of people, and they are the ones being addressed.
But if that is so, then the implications for the meaning of this text are profound. Paul would be saying that Jesus would return within the lifetime of himself and those whom he is addressing. He says, after all, "we shall not all sleep", and this in context means that some will live to see the resurrection. In other words, Paul is stating outright that the final resurrection of the just would occur within the lifetime of his readers. And, of course, we know he would have been plain wrong. The resurrection did not occur within that time frame.
On the other hand, if we take the pronoun "we" to refer to all believers in all times and places, then the meaning is altogether different, and quite innocuous. It just means that some believers, some day, will still be alive when the resurrection takes place. That poses no theological problems at all.
Now which of these two readings is more "literal"? It seems to me that they are both equally literal. The difference is in the assumption about who is being addressed by the letter. I would argue that if you take the HG approach, you should assume that the "we" includes only those to whom the letter is addressed; and hence you arrive at the human author's intended meaning, which was, in fact, erroneous. On the other hand, if you assume that you yourself are being addressed as part of the "we", and that its reference is catholic, then you get the divine author's intended meaning, which is true. This is a very clear illustration of the difference between these two meanings, and how it has nothing to do with how "literal" one is.
End of exposition of Rupert's view
5. Response to Steve's first post
Originally posted by Steve
Section 5 (response to Steve's first post) will continue next time ...
July 16th 2007, 12:59 AM #7
Re: GYM DEBATE: Debate on Biblical Hermeneutics (Rupert Pupkin vs. SteveScianni)
RP, feel free to post as planned...get your foundational stuff down and then we can go back and forth over specific questions.
July 20th 2007, 12:06 PM #8
Re: GYM DEBATE: Debate on Biblical Hermeneutics (Rupert Pupkin vs. SteveScianni)
Thanks Steve, for graciously allowing me to set down my position before flooding me with criticisms of it! However, I think the above is sufficient for present purposes and we can launch into the too-and-fro debate phase.
I started my response to Steve's first post at the very end of my third post (section 5). I will continue it here.
5. Response to Steve's first post (continued)
Originally posted by Steve
Annihilationism is a case in point. Steve seems to believe that all the Biblical authors, from Genesis through to Revelation, believed in Annihilationism. But that, I think, is unsustainable. The different writers at different times in different contexts had different eschatologies. In pre-exilic Hebrew thought, there is little concern with the afterlife, and the departed, whether righteous or unrighteous, are only seen to exist in a shadowy, ghostly underworld called She'ol. The blessings of righteousness and the judgments for wickedness are something which are seen as received in the present life, and not at the eschaton. There is no concept of resurrection at all. In exilic and post-exilic Hebrew thought, after the influence of Zoroastrianism from Persia, the doctrine of bodily resurrection at a final eschatological moment first makes its appearance, with punishment for the wicked and reward for the righteous. In the New Testament there are a variety of views, ranging from Paul's "spiritual resurrection", which at first he placed at an eschatological moment, but later (2 Cor) regarded as occurring immediately upon death; there is the "spiritual flesh" of the gospel of John; there is the bodily resurrection of the Revelation, and so forth. There is no single view of eschatology to be found in the Bible, if we consistently apply a HG hermeneutic. In order to get a single view such as Annihilationism out of the text, one has to in fact cease to be consistent in his application of the HG hermeneutic.
Originally posted by Steve
Originally posted by Steve
Returning, then, to the issue of the divine meaning in scripture, if God was to communicate with humans, it follows from the considerations in the previous paragraph that the only way that he could do this, would be in a way which was hidden, esoteric, and inaccessible except to those with faith. To do anything else would "blow his cover". Hence, it follows simply by pure reasoning alone, that there must be a hidden sense to scripture. Indeed, the human sense serves merely as the substrate from which the divine meaning is formed.
Originally posted by Steve
Originally posted by Steve
Originally posted by Steve
Originally posted by Steve
Your second point betrays your nominalist, dualistic dichotomy between propositions and perception. In fact, propositions and perceptions have the same logical form and are all a part of the one network of meaning. The propositions of the Bible serve to invite us to look, they tell us what to look for, in the same way that perceptions invite us to further perspectival investigation of objects. If I see a red car from one perspective, it suggest to me other perspectives; my initial perception acts as an invitation to move my body in space so that I can view the car from other angles. If I did not see the car in the first place, then there would be no invitation to explore its horizon. Similarly, the propositions in the Bible, when approached in faith, act as invitations to further mystical perspectives. So we read, say "God is love", and that then invites us to consider in mystical comprehension of the forms how God is love. But if we had never read that "God is love" in the text in the first place, then the invitation would never have been there. Furthermore, there is a constant interplay between mystical perception and the text of scripture; in order to understand what "God is love" means one must both continue to read how God has acted and what he says as described in scripture, but one must also receive mystical enlightenment that illuminates these readings with their form.
Let me give a great example from ordinary perception. We are all familiar with those optical illusions which can be viewed as either a rabbit or a duck. Now suppose that you look at such an image in a book, and see it as a rabbit. At this stage you are completely unaware that it can also be viewed as a duck. However, you then turn the page and read in propositional form the statement "the picture on the previous page is an optical illusion which can be seen as either a rabbit or a duck". You turn the page back, and stare at the image until suddenly you see it as a duck. You can now flick back and forwards at will between seeing it as a duck and seeing it as a rabbit.
This example shows the crucial significance of the propositional in relation to allowing us to perceive what we would not otherwise perceive. This is why the Bible is propositional, because it serves, like the statement in the book about the image, to point out that there is a way of seeing things which we have not yet perceived. Then, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, we can go back and look at things again, and, hey presto, like suddenly perceiving the duck, so we suddenly perceive the divine in history. But we would never have arrived there without the propositions to suggest the possibility to us.
Originally posted by Steve
Originally posted by Steve
Similarly, no other books have this divine sense. If they did, they would be inspired and should be placed in the canon.
I agree that some scriptures might have a "demonic sense", or whatever (maybe some occult texts for instance), but (a) nothing in the canon does and (b) the Holy Spirit is not going to illuminate a demonic sense for someone with genuine faith following Christ (illumination of a demonic sense could only come to someone who had rejected Christ and was deliberately seeking out occult knowledge in texts outside of the canon).
Originally posted by Steve
Of course, one might say that Evangelical scholars find much agreement with each other. But, firstly, that is like arguing that political science has yielded quite far-reaching and definite findings because all Communists agree with each other on most points. Secondly, the only reason that Evangelicals can reach agreement is (a) because they exist in a tradition which is an heir to orthodoxy, that traces back to the Reformation and beyond to early Catholic Christianity, and (b) because they don't employ the HG hermeneutic consistently, but adopt canonical readings which distort any given author. Furthermore, the last 30-40 years has seen an ever-increasing fragmentation in the Evangelical doctrinal consensus. I predict this will get worse - much worse - until Evangelicals abandon their rationalistic, naturalistic approach to hermeneutics.
That completes my response to Steve's first post.
6. Response to Steve's second post
Originally posted by Steve
I am a former neuroscientist, and I was involved in the design, implementation and analysis of many psychophysiological experiments involving unconscious (automatic) cognitive processing in contrast with conscious (controlled) cognitive processing. The distinction between the two (automatic and controlled processing) is now universally acknowledged and has a mass of data to back it up, which I am happy to say something about if required. We also know that speech generation is largely an unconscious process, both from empirical experiments, and also from both phenomenological reflection and logic. Phenomenologically, think about how you speak under normal circumstances, such as when involved in a natural conversation. When we go to say something, our mind does not present us with a range of different sentences all expressing a similar idea, from which we select one as a conscious decision, and then utter it. Rather, the words arise in us completely effortlessly and apparently spontaneously, without any conscious deliberation on our part. Of course, in some circumstances, such as when faced with a tricky question in a job interview, or when writing poetry, we may well carefully and consciously mull over the form of expression we are going to use. But that is just an example of the general phenomenon that conscious processing may be substituted on occasions for unconscious processing when it is deemed necessary. We know, just by logical consideration (and also empirically), that it would be impossible for all speech generation to be consciously deliberated in this way. Why? Because in deliberating to select a particular form of expression, we must mentally think about the different forms; and thinking can only be done in language (and yes there is amazing psychophysiological evidence that this is so, not just philosophical arguments). Hence, in order to consciously select one phrase, we would have to think other phrases; and in order to consciously select those other phrases, we would have to consciously select still more phrases, and so on in an infinite regress.
What I want to see is Evangelicals stop appealing to mystery and hand-waving, and explain how God intervenes in the process of speech generation to inspire scripture. I want a psychophysiological theory of inspiration from Evangelicals. I think their position is incoherent; I am presenting a perfectly coherent alternative, that God intervenes by manipulating the unconscious or automatic aspects of speech generation in inspired speech.
July 30th 2007, 11:34 PM #9
Re: GYM DEBATE: Debate on Biblical Hermeneutics (Rupert Pupkin vs. SteveScianni)in arguing for theological positions such as Annihilationism, Steve actually does employ the HG approach consistently or rigourously, and neither do Evangelicals generally. The problem is that Evangelicals read the text canonically, which is logically inconsistent with the HG approach.
For example, if Jude says an "eternal fire" is a fire that destroys permanently, we can be safe to assume that is how the ancients used the phrase and we can then apply that same definition to Matthew 25:41 (in addition, checking ancient sources other than the Bible would confirm this understanding also).
And though I would agree that the OT Jewish authors had a "shadowy" view (if any) of the afterlife, the point is, they did not believe or teach eternal torment and I have yet to see one author of scripture teach the traditional dogma of hell - it is not there.
The books of the canon, Old and New Testament, span a period of writing of say, a thousand years, and emerged in different places and in widely varying social conditions and in different languages. Here are some examples of the diversity of social, geographical, political, ethnic and economic environments from which the books of our Bible are drawn: from the Egyptian Empire, from the Northern and Southern Kingdoms in Palestine, from Persia during the exile, Palestine under the Greek Empire, Palestine under the Roman Empire, Asia Minor and elsewhere; in the bronze age, in the iron age; in Hebrew, in Aramaic, in Greek; in subsistence agricultural economies, in a sophisticated urban environment, and so forth). It is illegitimate, if one is going to read an author in their historical, cultural, and social environment according to the HG method, to read texts drawn from such diverse contexts in light of each other.
In order to get a single view such as Annihilationism out of the text, one has to in fact cease to be consistent in his application of the HG hermeneutic.
The main problem I have is that RP wants to say there is no "single view" of final judgment among the biblical authors, but is willing to accept the idea that although perfectly missing from the human text, God unanimously taught us about eternal torment THROUGH a text WITHOUT a uniform view of it, and what is worse THROUGH a text that teaches the exact OPPOSITE of it. This is the trouble we should all have with RP's approach - a "consuming" fire is actually a "non consuming" one.
To be blunt, I know that the Bible has a hidden, divine meaning, because the Bible says it does. I would also ask them to pray to ask God to open their eyes to the scriptures.
You see, RP can never escape having to read and understand the human authors, he simply allows himself to take some of what they say as authoritative and accurate, and most of what they say as not. And there are no rules to govern how he determines what is or what is not true.
To the unbeliever, who is asking a somewhat different question, my answer would be simply that I know that the Bible has a hidden, divine meaning because the Holy Spirit has revealed it to me in mystical encounter. Of course, there is no way that I can prove that to anyone but me.
But that is OK; I believe that God can move by his Holy Spirit to reveal himself to that other person, and when he does so, they can experience it too, and either accept it or reject it. In short, it is not my job to "prove" anything to unbelievers, but merely to tell them. I am a thoroughly committed and convinced subjectivist/mystic
RP's claim is no different from the Mormon who wants us to have a "burning in the bosom" and not be skeptical about what it might REALLY be. If you "accept" it (which means, if you believe as I do about what caused it) then good for you, but if you "reject" it (which means, you do not believe as I do) then oh well, you need spiritual help and maturity.
[QUOTE]It is obvious, that in creating the world we live in and putting us here, that God wanted to maintain some kind of epistemic distance between himself and us....He left us in an extremely ambiguous state, in which he is not readily accessible. He has put us in a position where we can, if we choose, plausibly deny that he even exists; and he deliberately chose to maintain this "plausible deniability".
Honestly, this is what I love most about RP - he is sincerely VERY in-touch with reality and can restate things as well as any atheist, but what is puzzling is that he refuses to accept the conclusions of his own observations - THERE IS NO GOD. Or, there is certainly no type of god that the Bible imagines exist.
...But he wanted to hide himself, and...God made very sure that the evidence he left behind from the resurrection was very little and very ambiguous.
I suppose I should have some respect for those who seriously wrestle with the difficulties of their faith and seek the best answers to the most nagging questions, and I do to a point, but there a comes a time when I just have to beg for naturally strong minds (like RP's) to just give it up and call a spade a spade; get on with life without this ancient relic of human imagination - god.
Millions of people have read the Bible and heard and understood it by faith as the Word of God. The proof of this is the ongoing progress and widespread dominance amongst those committed to the Bible as God's Word of the doctrines of orthodoxy, such as the trinity and so forth. In many different cultures, in different denominations, in different ways, millions of people have read the Bible and have had their eyes open to the divinity of the person of Jesus Christ in all that he said and did, and have come to agree with the Catholic and Orthodox faith of the Church.
Anyone who really studies the "word of God" knows that the Trinity is not there, along with almost every other "orthodox" fiction. The Church has abused the minds of people and have sought control over them through fear and threats, and up till recently have been supremely successful - that is why there is any agreement at all.
If there was no divine meaning to the Bible, there would just be endless disagreement, as their is amongst scholars....There is a virtually perfect consensus amongst people who actually believe the Bible as God's Word and submit to it alone.
Such a man hasn't thought two seconds about any of these things in his whole life! Yet because he and his pew buddy happen to assent to the same nonsense this is proof that there is a divine meaning behind the Bible.
I guarantee you that should each of these gentlemen actually pick up and read the Bible, they would cut each other's throats in minutes.
We are all familiar with those optical illusions which can be viewed as either a rabbit or a duck. Now suppose that you look at such an image in a book, and see it as a rabbit. At this stage you are completely unaware that it can also be viewed as a duck. However, you then turn the page and read in propositional form the statement "the picture on the previous page is an optical illusion which can be seen as either a rabbit or a duck". You turn the page back, and stare at the image until suddenly you see it as a duck. You can now flick back and forwards at will between seeing it as a duck and seeing it as a rabbit.
So RP can read "God is Love" and it can also really mean "God is rather hateful" - where are the rules to govern this? Where is the instruction page, the propositions that tell us what is going on?
The leading NT scholars, who are expert in the original contexts and languages of the NT writings, and have spent their life carefully and diligently researching the texts according to the HG hermeneutic, have come to the following conclusions about Jesus: (a) that he was a Hellenistic hero; (b) that he was a revolutionary; (c) that he was a wisdom sage; (d) that he was a "man of the spirit"; (e) that he was a prophet of social change; (f) that he was an apocalyptic prophet; (g) that he was the Messiah and Saviour...Where is the agreement that the HG method is alleged to produce?
Of course, all this uncertainty has everything to do with the diversity of its authors. And there probably ARE 5 or 6 different Jesus' in the New Testament...each one perfectly suited to fit the writer's agenda.
What I want to see is Evangelicals stop appealing to mystery and hand-waving, and explain how God intervenes in the process of speech generation to inspire scripture. I want a psychophysiological theory of inspiration from Evangelicals. I think their position is incoherent;
In closing, I want to say RP is a friend, I respect his intellect and I wish him well in life. It is unfortunate that he had an unhappy run-in with a certain Tweb member and had to cut the debate short. In addition, I have not had the time or the real drive to pursue this topic in very much detail and am fine with closing it up on this note.
Theologically, I think he is doing the best he can do given the fact that he wants to maintain an impossible view of the Bible and an equally impossible faith in a god. However, I think he poses a significant challenge to Evangelicals toward whom most his points are directed. As for me, a non-evangelical, I didn't find much in the way of persuasion that the Bible is more special than any other book.
June 1st 2008, 08:37 AM #10
Re: GYM DEBATE: Debate on Biblical Hermeneutics (Rupert Pupkin vs. SteveScianni)...the compass of existence held more than my text-books had revealed, more than I had ever dreamed of. In short I lost my superiority, and this, though I was not then aware of it, is the first step towards finding God.-A.J. Cronin
the burn notice commercial worked beautifully, the actual vid just froze. well played google-yxboom
By Little Shepherd in forum Christianity 201Replies: 7Last Post: July 22nd 2007, 10:53 AM
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