I’ve been having a little discussion with a guy named Jeremy over at his site, Sober Culture We have been discussing the issue of hermeneutics, bibliology, epistemology under the rubric of “Millenial perspectives.” Here is something I said on the hermeneutic known as the: Literal, Grammatical, Historical approach:
I think our epistemological approach shouldn’t be rooted, necessarily, within a “rationalist” framework . . . which is where the LGH was shaped. That is, the LGH developed out of the “History of Religions” school of thought, at the turn of the 20th cent., and from other “rationalistic” streams of thought concurrent with this time period. Fundamentalists revolted against the “higher criticism” inherent to these schools, and combined with “Scottish Sense Realism” developed an Evangelically charged hermeneutic that (and I’m oversimplifying a bit here) was still consonant with their “liberal” brethren . . . albeit Evangelically charged! So instead of allowing arbitrary readings of history to primarily serve as the “epistemology” of scripture; I think it serves us better to approach it with Christ-centered spectacles which assumes a “positive” Christian hermeneutic provided in the scriptures. So that, the “history of Jesus” is indeed the history of scripture; and not various socio/cultural reconstructions. Furthermore, Instead of doing biblical intepretation, or approaching scripture with socio-analysis as the primary methodological apparatus (which is where the LGH comes from); Karl Barth gives us the best way forward for approaching scripture. His way forward is to start with the historical person, Jesus of Nazareth, as determinative of theology and its method. Here is T. F. Torrance on Barth:
Because Jesus Christ is the Way, as well as the Truth and the Life, theological thought is limited and bounded and directed by this historical reality in whom we meet the Truth of God. That prohibits theological thought from wandering at will across open country, from straying over history in general or from occupying itself with some other history, rather than this concrete history in the centre of all history. Thus theological thought is distinguished from every empty conceptual thought, from every science of pure possibility, and from every kind of merely formal thinking, by being mastered and determined by the special history of Jesus Christ. (Thomas F. Torrance, “Karl Barth: An Introduction to His Early Theology 1910-1931,” 196)
Going this route, epistemologically, makes Jesus, and the life of God, the predicator of history; instead of history predicating or determining who God (and thus Jesus) is. This also has implications for Westminster Calvinism as well (but I will refrain from that, for now ;-). I don’t think the LGH is the best way forward, then . . . it inherently delimits the life of God, and Christ, to ITS analysis; instead of vice versa.**
To be quite honest I am finding it hard to believe that I am saying this! I am trained in the ways of the LGH, I have been weened and reared on such thinking. It might sound like I am saying that I don’t believe that being “Literal” or “Grammatical” or “Historical” is a sound approach to Scripture; but really that is not what I am saying. Instead what I am challenging is the supposition that scripture, or indeed the Word, and its witness bearing to Jesus should be subjected to socio-cultural-historico analysis before it can be considered the Word of God. What I am opposing is the idea that our approach to interpretation should be the result of establishing the veracity of scripture, and answering apologetic questions about the text before we ever get to scripture as scripture. And I believe, in fact I know (not to be too arrogant) that this is where the LGH comes to us from.
Instead scripture should be allowed to set its own “agenda.” It should be able to present us with its own set of questions, so that it indeed can provide the right answers. The goal of scripture’s proclamation, cover to cover, is to bear witness to Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 5:39). Thus, if this is the emphasis that Jesus set for scripture, then I think we should follow a model that indeed starts at this point.
Do I think literary, grammatical, and historical analysis is good and needed? Of course, but it should be framed within a Christoformed hermeneutic; hence not setting out to provide an apologetic as the basis for its interpretation.