Saturday, February 02, 2002

Who is This Herman Uticks Guy, Anyway?- Kevin Holtsberry gives a quick defense of hermeneutics this afternoon in reply to an argument by Ted Barlow that "the Bible, literally applied, is not a terribly useful guide to life." Barlow brings up the common anti-Christian argument that none of us can live up in full to Biblical principals, that professing Christians are by definition hypocrites. Well, the core of Christian doctrine is that we are all sinners and that Jesus died to take our sin upon Himself; we know we're going to come up short without help. Hermeneutics translates in lay language to "what does that mean for today." However, hermeneutics needs to go hand-in-hand with exegesis (what did the guy mean at the time he said it). Many liberals are quick to discount the Bible as a two-millennia-old document too stuck in the past to be relevant, that the times require a broader (translation-allowing them to do the sinful stuff with less guilt) reading. However, if proper exegesis read in the first-century (or BC for Old Testament) context makes the passage say X and X isn't politically correct today, you can't use hermeneutics to make it say Y. You can amplify X to reflect modern standards while still holding to it. For instance, passages on male headship of the household can be tweaked to make the husband a giving servant to his wife while still being in charge, but that still keeps the exegesis intact. We need to start with what the Bible writers were saying, then adapt it to today, not start with a desired result and shoe-horn our hermeneutics into a questionable exegesis.

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