Category Archives: Hermeneutics

Treating the Gospels like a Bad Date

In an earlier post, I noted the comments of Jonathan Pennington of the transformative power of Gospel narrative. Here’s one of my favorite of his illustrations:

… Along these lines, imagine that a man wants to take his beloved wife on the date to romantic movie. Of the last minute he decides that it would be far cheaper and much more efficient to go to Blockbuster, find the “romantic comedy” section, and together read all the synopses on the back of the DVD boxes. Why would that not have the same effect? Why would this be a failed to date? Because it is the story – it’s setting, development, climax, resolution, and the fact that it takes time to experience – that is the films Hower. The all (often deceitful) summary on the back cover may guide one choosing a selection, but it cannot replace the experience of the story because story cannot be reduced to its content. If the narrative did not matter, then we could just have the synopsis and be done with it. We could suck the doctrinal truth out of the Gospels, and then we wouldn’t need to waste our time with studying them anymore. We have the “truth”; Mission accomplished. But this fails to understand God’s revelation in our God-created human nature.

-Jonathan T. Pennington, Reading the Gospels Wisely

Biblical Interpretation is Always Personal

And the hits keep on coming from Swain in Trinity, Revelation, and Reading:

Because of biblical interpretation is an act of covenant mutuality, a living in engagement with the living God through his living in Christ, biblical interpretation is always personal. As interpreters, we are always making decisions either for or against the truth, promises, and commands of a given text. There is no neutrality here. We are either in the process of further embracing Scripture’s truth, promises, and commands or we are in the process of distancing ourselves from them. We are either bringing ourselves into further conformity to God’s word or we are slowly drifting away from that which we have read and heard (cf. Heb. 2.1-4).The timing of biblical application therefore is always “Today” (see Heb. 3.7-4.13).

– Scott R. Swain, Trinity, Revelation, and Reading, 134.

Following the Living Voice of God

In my reading Trinity, Revelation, and Reading, I came across this gem by John Webster, Chair of Systematic Theology at the University of Aberdeen:

Exegetical reasoning is, most simply, reading the Bible, the intelligent (and therefore spiritual) act of following the words of the text. Scripture is not an oracular utterance but an instrument through which the divine speech evokes the unselfish, loving, and obedient tracing of the text’s movement which is the work of exegesis. This is theologically primary; the principal task of theological reason is figuring out the literal sense, that is, what the text says. This would be an absurdly naive claim if the literal sense were thought of merely as information to be retrieved from the inert source in which it had been deposited. But the prophets and apostles are alive, their texts are their voices which herald the viva vox Dei [the living voice of God]. “Following” these texts is, as it were, a movement of intellectual repetition, a “cursive” representation of the text, running alongside it or, perhaps better, running in its wake. To be taken into this movement is the commentator’s delight, tempered by the knowledge that we cannot hope to keep pace, because the prophets and apostles always stride ahead of us. This is why following these texts involves the most strenuous application of the powers of the intellect, demanding the utmost concentration to resist habit and to ensure that the text’s moment is not arrested in our re-presentation.