Hermeneutical Foundations

First… I’m a horrible blogger. I know. This happens every time I try to start blogging. Some major event completely derails my futile attempts to maintain a steady writing pace. In this case, it was moving cross-country from NC to CA to start teaching at CBU; a magnanimous and happy event in my life, but one that nonetheless has prevented me from blogging here.

Ok now that my necessary confession is over… I’ve been thinking about hermeneutics (shocker).

I’m teaching Biblical Interpretation right now, and it’s been great fun watching the students interact with biblical material and challenging them to think well about hermeneutics. In the process of teaching the class, we’ve run into a number of issues in current hermeneutical studies, including the role of the canon, the locus of meaning, and just method in general.

Obviously, these debates aren’t just happening in the classroom; they are happening in evangelicalism at large. And it seems to me that the debate over proper hermeneutics is what is defining evangelicalism in the 21st century. Now, some may object with the fact that it appears that the relationship between science and faith is what is defining evangelicalism, or perhaps how the church handles social issues. But aren’t these issues fundamentally rooted in hermeneutics? How we understand the nature of story in the Bible underscores how we articulate the relationship between Genesis 1-3 (or is it 1-11 now?) and the origin of the earth. How we understand the ethical commands as well as the nature of humanity articulated in the Bible is a matter of hermeneutics, and influences where we stand on social issues.

The point is, hermeneutical method underpins most of the dialogue and debates happening in evangelicalism today. That being said, as I look through all the books I’ve ordered but not yet read ( 🙂 ) I’ve noticed a few distinct areas of hermeneutics that seem to be particular fertile ground for dialogue and debate. These include the role, function, and purpose in hermeneutics of:

  • Narrative
  •  Canon
  • Tradition
  • History of Interpretation (both methods and conclusions)
  • Doctrine

Do you agree that hermeneutics is the foundational issue in many other issues today in evangelicalism? Would you add anything else to that list of current issues in hermeneutics?

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6 thoughts on “Hermeneutical Foundations

  1. Welcome back! I’m glad the move went well and you are happy at your new post. My heart has become so hardened, I’ve stopped confessing my blogging absences 😉

    I agree–hermeneutics is foundational. One example for me is in Bible classes at church and in conversations I’ve heard it simplistically stated that, “We don’t go by the Old Testament.” My response is usually, “Yes, but…it’s still part of our canon,” etc., etc.

    But I’ve found it difficult to teach this in a pastoral setting. We had a class on “How to study the Bible” about a year ago and many found it helpful, but I’m not sure how to get people to think how they think about the Scriptures. Perhaps my own deficient understanding of methods is part of it.

  2. The question is whether my confession will turn to repentance…at this point it’s still up in the air.

    Yes I agree that it is difficult to teach in a pastoral setting, although I think this actually helps to understand it better. The more basic we are forced to make a complex issue, the more it helps us understand it, in my opinion.

  3. Pingback: Elsewhere (09.15.2011) | Near Emmaus

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