The second foundational aspect of a Christian approach to Scripture is that method ought to be pneumatological in character. That is, it should be driven and empowered by the Holy Spirit. From the first post:
This means it will recognize the role of the Spirit in both inspiration and interpretation, and will note the Spirit-generated ecclesial context (both historically and contemporaneously) in which interpretation occurs. It also recognizes both the contextual and presuppositional nature of all interpretation and the Spirit’s ability to confront our context and presuppositions.
Although an emphasis on the Christocentric nature of Scripture is sometimes controversial in the field of hermeneutics, I think this aspect of a Christian theological method hits against many of our interpretive presupposition. We as 21st century interpreters have, in my opinion, been pre-conditioned to focus on an “objective” reading of the biblical material that privileges the human author over the divine, even to the point where the divine author is ignored or consciously set aside. What I am calling a pneumatological method pushes against this entire stance towards biblical interpretation.
First, a pneumatological method recognizes both the divine and human authorship of Scripture. In my articulation of this foundation, I would further say that the divine author holds the privileged position in terms of whose intent we are seeking to understand. This does not mean the human author’s intent is no longer important; on the contrary, genre, literary devices, and historical background – all facets related most directly to the human author – each still play an important role in interpreting the text. The divine author, the Holy Spirit, though, has the privileged position. Connections between different passages, the intent of the passage, and especially the Christocentric nature of individual sections are all ultimately tied to divine intent. Again, the human author can and does make intertextual connections and point to Christ, but recognizing the Spirit’s superintending authorship of Scripture allows us to more boldly recognize these intertextual and Christological connections.
Second, a pneumatological method recognizes that the context of interpretation is the church. Often in modern exegesis the exercise is isolated and individualistic. The Spirit, though, has birthed the interpretive community in its work of regeneration, and it is in this Spirit-born and Spirit-led community that a properly Spirit-illuminated interpretation can and should take place. We should further say that this community transcends time and space, and so a properly pneumatological method will recognize that the Spirit has guided interpreters in different parts of the world and in different times than our own. The tradition and global nature of the church can help us in the third facet of a pneumatological method – confronting our own preconceptions.
Finally, a pneumatological method recognizes that it is the Spirit-inspired text that should master the interpreter and not the other way around. We cannot simply put the text through our hermeneutics machine and expect to grind out objective interpretations like some kind of Bible sausage. God confronts us through his Word, and a Spirit-led interpretation will recognize the confrontational and transformational nature of Scripture. The goal of God’s revelation is to point to Jesus, not only to help us understand propositions about God but so that through understanding God we might be changed into the image of his Son (2 Cor. 3:17-18). A theological method that does not recognize that the text is meant to transform us is not reading Scripture as it is intended to be read. To say it in contemporary terms, the text ought to apply to us. The Spirit does this through the text on its own, by the way – we don’t have to “find the application.” Additionally, understanding that the text confronts us helps us to own up to our own cultural presuppositions. Everyone comes to the text with baggage, and we should expect for that baggage – presuppositions – to be confronted in the text by the Spirit.