Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Jesus- Unlocking the Hermeneutical door

Jason Strange

I would have to say that most people who are professing Christians have never heard of the word Hermeneutics and for the few that have I believe would confess that they would not see the necessity as long as you have God in your heart and a Bible in your hand. I anticipate that their rational would be somewhat-biblical, but also at the same time some-what mystical. I hear them saying “Why do Hermeneutics when it’s the Holy Spirit that will lead me into all truth, or why trust in Hermeneutics when they are the methods of fallible men.”) Why should we get all technical and muddy up the simple Gospel? Some might even scoff at those who would suggest the necessity. If I were stranded on an island with just me and my Bible would I be deficient in my exegesis? The exception does not make the rule. Did God intend for us to operate in isolation, just me in my corner, with my Bible, a Vines dictionary, a highlighter and the Holy Spirit peeping over my shoulder just to make sure I get it right; or did he intend for us to employ these skills in community, using all the means available to us so that we might understand His word and his work in Redemptive History.

Hermeneutics is necessary when dealing with any literary work, but since we are dealing with sacred Scripture the stakes are much higher and “cutting the pieces straight” could mean life or death. It is also necessary because we are dealing with an ancient literary work that is thousands of years old, written to a particular people, in a distinct culture, who spoke a different language, along with many other factors.

Biblical Hermeneutics necessitates itself because we are seeking to understand the meaning of what is before us, we are seeking to know the mind of Christ. The question is why would we not employ all means necessary at our disposal to get to the heart of any text? I think for the most part evangelicals tend to be lazy thinkers and just end up tinkling with Gods word. Many Christians are just looking for the fire-side chat or the starbucks devotional.
Goldsworthy says that the function of Hermeneutics is to bridge build across cultural gaps between that world at that time in history and the present world at this time history. John Stott even has said “it’s our job to connect the two worlds.” The goal of doing this would be to draw out application from the significance within the biblical text. And as we observed Goldsworthy’s gaps we find that they are helpful to recognize as we begin our exegesis, but the danger is that “we might focus too much on the gaps and end up with a worldly or earthy hermeneutic, consumed and bogged down with cultural issues. (Not having a Biblical theological heavenly hermeneutic” Bridges and ladders).
Goldsworthy aligns himself with some of the neo-orthodox theologians such as Barth and Bultmann on the gap idea, when the critics argued that there is a gap, actually a huge gulf, one that is caused by human depravity and sin, thus shifting the emphasis from the cultural to the more pressing matters of spiritual alienation and reconciliation. We concluded that the gaps are artificial when the emphasis shouldn’t be on bridging the cultural gaps but on the Christ who is the spiritual ladder, he is the one who connects heaven to earth, and God to his people, and that we as his people are participating in the same eschatological age as the saints of old, and we are listening in, peering into and partaking in the same covenant, promises, and are connected by the same story line, the same Christ event, the same unfolding drama.
There is also a Hermeneutical necessity in the community life of the church. For this is where Gods people are fed and nourished when Gods word is properly understood. This is where grace is dispensed for fainting hearts and straying saints. This is where truth is heralded to make glad the people of God and to convict dead sinners. This is where the body is visibly united and God is glorified. This is where Hermeneutics and song connect in joyful praise and adoration. If sound Hermeneutics are not being employed by the elders and encouraged by the elders to the people than that congregation is in danger and they ought to take heed (Rev. 3) That church will most likely become imperative-driven and instead of reflecting Christ they’ll begin to, by and large, reflect the culture and lose their distinctive quality as Gods unique people. “The Hermeneutic must be Gospel-driven and if it loses the Gospel plot than it ceases to be evangelical.“ The Gospel becomes the interpretative norm for the whole of the Bible. And since Jesus is God and all meaning is derived from him (the gospel itself) becomes the hermeneutical principle for everything that exists. If all of life is not interpreted through the gospel one can not properly understand his world. So for those who go so far as to attack the gospel you actually harm yourself because you are moving further away from the center which rightly interprets all reality, and you perpetuate your confusion.

If I could boil down Goldsworthy’s diagram’s I would say that Jesus is the Chief Hermeneutic. He unites the communicator, the communication, and the receiver into one.

He is the true receiver and interpreter of the Father’s word. And now our receiving of this same word is tied to our union with him. “And as we have been united to the God-man, he provides the paradigm for our understanding as we come to the text where human words and divine words are fused together.”

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