Friday, June 09, 2006

On Finding an Evangelical Hermeneutics: An Exploratory Essay

Every once in a while I come across a book or article, and as I am reading that book or article, I get a sense that what I am reading is of real fundamental and profound importance to the Evangelical church at large. Of course only time will tell if my sense and assessment of said book or article is accurate.

Back at the beginning of the 1990's, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary celebrated it's first 100 years of existence. Upon that occasion, a number of Evangelical scholars presented lectures marking the event. Speakers included John R. W. Stott, Eugene Peterson, Gordon D, Fee, and others. In 1992, those lectures were collected and published in essay form by Gordon-Conwell as a collection titled, The Vision Continues: Essays marking the Centennial of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

The essay that caught my attention was the one by Gordon D. Fee titled Heremeneutics Today: A Prescriptive View. Fee himself suggests the title of his essay might better be called "On Finding an Evangelical Hermeneutics: An Exploratory Essay". Unfortunately this essay does not appear to be available on the WWW, and copyright considerations hinder me from publishing it in its entirety on my site.

In the essay Fee talks about the tension that exists in understanding the Scripture as God's Word coming through human writers. That tension is then illustrated by comparison with interpretive assumptions of the fundamentalist camp on one side, and the liberal camp on the other. The best summary I can give of Fee's discussion is found in Fee's own words in the final paragraph of the essay.

" To conclude: To insist that the very nature of Scripture as the evangelical understands it has locked in a degree of ambiguity, accommodation and diversity, causes some people to capitulate in despair, either toward the certainties of fundamentalism or the ambiguities of liberalism. I, for one, opt for what I call "the radical middle". If God gave us His Word this way, and I believe He did, then our task is to hold on to both realities -- its eternality and historical particularity -- with equal vigor. If we cannot always have absolute certainty as to meaning or application, we can certainly move toward a higher degree of common understanding. As I see it, the way toward that higher level of commonality is still to be found at the crucial point of authorial intentionality which by its very nature we would insist is thereby also the Holy Spirit's intentionality. If God did not speak timeless aphorisms, He did speak an eternal Word. That Word had specific intent in its historically particular moments. The task of exegete and theologian alike is to discover, or if you will, hear that Word in terms of God's original intent. I would argue that it is that same Word, with its same intent, that should now address us in our historical setting. Instead of seeing this as a debility, we should see it as the greater glory of Scripture and praise God for it. That He would so speak to their historically particular context is precisely what gives us hope that He will always through that same Word speak again and again to ours and to all of humankind's individual historical contexts."

Hopefully someday this article can be republished in its entirety. Such publication would be a real contribution to the Evangelical discussion of hermeneutical issues.

Sola Scriptura!

~ The Billy Goat ~

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