Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Suffering, Biblical Faith, and Value

In Response to Michael Jensen's Blog:

His notion of valuating 'suffering' seems very much like a typical reduction of modernity. Let us take, for instance, the reduction of the statement "from the point of view of biblical faith there is no inherent value in suffering." Whose biblical faith is he speaking of, the faith of the Philippian Church cf. Phil. 1:29? This text does not bear it nor do others in this concept genre. Biblical faith inheres with the weight of suffering in our post-fall paradigm. Suffering opens an emotional-thought-ful space for God's mystery to fill. Modernity's rationality neither fathoms the depth of this space nor properly conceives of its existence because mystery is other than such rationality.

That space of mystery is filled with glory, lament-comfort, fellowship, and a plethora that issues from the infinitude of God’s nature. It necessitates experience in-formed by the stories of His word to give it meaning.

Also, a brief allusion to one Pauline text is another reduction that misses the richness found in an extensive word study of “suffer” with its cognates in Pauline writing i.e. Romans 8:17ff; Col. 1:24 etc. I commend such a study to anyone serious about the subject. I suggest that you will find that "joy" is inextricably bound to suffering. I agree with his assertion that the believer is not called to seek suffering for that is an issue of misplaced valuation stained by sinful motive and intention not the biblical valuation of the inevitable, suffering.

To sum, I appreciate his provocative introduction of the subject but find his primary notion that "suffering has no inherent value in biblical faith" seriously wanting. For a non-western excursus I suggest Ajith Fernando's: A Call to Joy and Pain: embracing suffering in your ministry. From one who has tasted the joy and pain AND filling of that mystery, I hope some will give my critique consideration.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Is there a place for ethics in theology?

An inter-est-ing question posed at 12:02 PM at the Th.M. class end. My short reflection while careening down the Banfield suggests the following. Although my approach to fundamental moral theology is focused on the breaking in of mystery into ‘being and becoming’ moral, I suggest that ethics said within the framework of ‘good and evil’ dis∙closes elements worthy of study. For instance, those who cling to emotivism dis∙close the importance of emotion in thinking morally. Others that emphasize consequences in order to determine whether an act is right or wrong and call me to the recognition of the importance of ‘results’ from choice when ‘becoming’ through Spirit moved transformational moral decision making. The Divine Command deontologist brings the voice of principle which per me is an expression of what ‘being’ ought to look like when worked out.

So my point is that ethics provide various descriptions whereby humanity attempts to say ‘being’ morally. When I consider the place of ethics in theologico- morally laden discussions, I am attempting get beneath the ‘face’ of good-evil matrices and dis-cover underlying essentials in God’s created moral person, thus, a reflection of an aspect of God’s image. One’s ethic is but an inner wooing of a person in an attempt at expressing a linguistic living-symbol of becoming entrapped in the good-evil paradigm. When that living-symbol is transcended, however, it bears witnesses to some substantial truth of being. That is what I am after. So my answer to the question is a qualified and cautious yes, ethics has a ‘symbolic’ descriptive place in theology.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Rejoinder ad nauseum

MARCS Response:

Let me respond to Jerome’s historical question first. First, I probably should have mentioned that I dropped the word “literal” from the description of the hemeneutic we’re considering on purpose. At the very least, that word is usually used far too vaguely to be of any real help here.

Second, it seems that we’re mingling quite a few issues here that I think need to be separated for clarity: the object of hermeneutics (e.g., “meaning” of the text, intention of the A/author, etc.), the method(s) of interpretation, the level of confidence we can have in the accuracy of our interpretation, and the ultimate goal of interpretation (e.g. cognition, trasnformation, etc.). If we’re going to bundle all of this together, then obviously there are real differences, say, Augustine and Osborne. But, if we’re going to have a more meaningful discussion about hermeneutics, we should probably identify more clearly which aspect we’re discussing and what exactly the supposed differences are.

So third, my historical point only focused on “object” and “method” in this discussion. With regard to “object,” I would say that both ancient and modern interpreters aim at understanding the meaning that the human author tried to convey to us, though most ancient interpreters saw that as only one object among many. Even Origen, usually portrayed as the worst offender against “literal” interpretation, was keen to understand the meaning as presented in the text by the human author. That was clearly an important hermeneutical aim for him and the other early exegetes, and is a point of commonality with modern hermeneutics.

And, I would see similar commonality in method. If this is the aim of hermeneutics, both early and modern hermeneuts agree that close attention to the actual words of the text (grammar, syntax, lexical issues, etc) understood in their historical context is important. Early commentaries/homilies are replete with examples of early interpreters doing just this. Now again, they didn’t see this as the only proper method of interpretatin

So yes, I would disagree with Jerome that historical-grammatical interpretation is a tool dawn from modernistic assumptions. It is a tool that has long been a part of the church’s hermeneutical toolkit and has almost always functioned as a vital part of valid interpretation.

Now, none of this means that modernist philosophical assumptions have not had any impact on evangelical interpretations. There’s a difference between saying that modernist philosophy gave us the tool and saying that modernist philosophy influences the ways in which we wield the tool. But, I’ll have to save that for a later commet.

My Rejoinder

Alas, dis-closure of our difference /difference further emerges. This is very instructive to those who follow the discussion of this blog. Although my construct for hermeneutical clarity is quite different from the four divisions upon which you have elaborated, I do find them inter-est-ing to engage.

Marc’s Objection #1 Regarding your second point, the modern “aim at understanding the meaning that the human author tried to convey to us,”

Dico: That aim emerges from “common sense realism”. More poignant, however, is the statement “though most ancient interpreters saw that (the aim of the human author) as only one object among many.” The many, especially to those who seek spiritual sense that transcends the symbol/word of the author in order to embrace the Author distinguishes himself from the voice of modernity as do the voice of many ancients as you say i.e. Origen- in extremis. My point, univocity of modernity is in contrast to plurivocity of antiquity in the voice of object(s) in your very statement.

Marcs objection#2 As for method, “the hermeneuts” of common sense realism may have in common approaching “the actual words of the text (grammar, syntax, lexical issues, etc) understood in their historical context”

Dico: …but they get off of the bus at that stop. Surely, the prominence of allegorical and multiplicity of senses in the method of the ancients militate against commonality with the “one” sense of LHG method of evangelical moderns, i.e. Ryrie. Those riding to the school of Alexandria bus went many stops further than the moderns, so we seem to disagree. I say seem because I do muse over the hesitating affirmation “they didn’t see this as the only proper method of interpretatin (sic)”. That is my point, the univocity of modernity with a sole method embedded within common sense realism and the plurivocity of the ancients incorporating varying voicings from literal, allegorical, multiplicity of sense etc. show dissociation between the E-LHG hermeneuts v the ancients. Are you arguing on my behalf or showing agapeic being?

Finally, I do not view a univocal E-LHG method *as a tool* of common sense realism rather I associate it as a pressing out as accidens of the hermenuet’s philosophical substantia (Neo-Thomistic speak). By this I mean E-LHG method is actualization of its potential in their philosophical essence, common sense realism. Thus, for the univocal engaged in the method, it is no tool it is B/being. Now I seek the horizon of sweet dreamsJ

The Literal Grammatical Historical Hermeneutic: reflections on the ‘Face’ of my responders

At first glance my ‘wonderment’ faces “the literal-grammatical-cultural-historical hermeneutic used in current Evangelical exegesis as but a modernist construct arising from the fundamentalist-theological liberalism debates of the late 19th century like that of Charles Hodge’s common sense realism.” I suggested that it issued from a modified Baconian inductivism.

Defining contours of that face include an epistemic assumption that the human intellect correctly ‘perceives’ the outside world as an object of *sense* experience. That objective experience of the world experience the world outside is how the world actually is. There is no tainting from the subject’s interior preconceptions. The world as perceived as object is *real,* and accessible through *common* sensate experience to all. It is an approach that lauds basic propositional thought to tease out the knowing of reality.

I used Machen, Robertonson, Hodge, Henry and will add Robert Traina, Scofield, Terry, and Zuck to the prominent list of Evangelicals who taught this approach in 20th century seminaries.

This is the first point that I am arguing.

Marc - Objection#1:

The “grammatical-historical approach has been around for quite sometime…long before modernity” ergo “a clear defeater of your argument.’

Dico (I say):

It seems you have equivocated by: (1) dropping the term ‘literal” justifying the move by determining the term “literal” as vague so as to drop the notion (making it easier to comport) (2) comporting the sense of “historical-grammatical method” of those in antiquity like Augustine with modernity’s version of the “literal grammatical historical” method. In doing so, you have shifted the meaning of the sense of the phrase of used by E-LHG to advantage your argument in antiquity.

First, assertion of the vagueness “literal” as was common parlance in the mid to latter part of the 20th century understood by those teaching exegesis is truly questionable. A common Evangelical textbook for interpretation of the time, Mickelson-“Interpreting the Bible, defines “literal” as the “customary meaning of a word in its context” and then uses “literal” in his methodology for exegesis (p. 33, 211). The common parlance of “literal” in *L*HG context is not vague, rather it is quite clear.

Second, Augustine did not eschew allegorical or mystical methods in interpretation but combines methods to understand what is in the text-grammar-history (mostly Latin texts). The face of Evangelical hermeneutics is different. The E-LHG does not employ allegorical or mystical methods. My most important rejoinder if however, that my musing posits the characteristics and univocity of common sense realism as the construct wherein the LHG Evangelical hermeneutics finds its source and method. This posit was not addressed prima facie. My ‘argument’ seems to have been diverted toward appeals to antiquity instead.

Marc – Objection#2:

My query as to strands of the Evangelical LGH method’s of realism voiced in modernity have echoes from voices of antiquity and was (1) ambiguous, and (2) supports the fact that the source of the LHG method was voiced earlier thus my argument of of univocal Baconian/positivistic fails.


The response of ambiguity has some merit since I gave little support for my assertion. My point is that “there is nothing new under the sun.” The Pharisees and Sadducees did and taught a ‘univocal’ style of LGH methodology. It was precisely what Jesus faced and transcended. Jesus taught of the importance jots and tittles of the Law but not the univocal reduction of it to propositional rationalization. Respect was given for the jots and tittles but only as symbols pointing to another world (a spiritual world-Beryaev/Rahner) that transcended the common sense understanding that stopped at the voice of rationation alone. I assume history repeats itself and the pendulum of extreme allegorical methods to extreme wooden literalism in response and vice versa will continue as well. Certainly, elements of LGH method have been voiced in antiquity. But the kernel of the critique of my argument is attached to “univocity.” I have situated the voicing of the 20th century Evangelical LHG (E-LGH) method within the contours of common sense realism. I don’t deny that Marc’s argument regarding the univocity or plurivocity as having *similar* characteristics along with other voices in antiquity, that they have existed or that there is a connection. I would even assert that there is. It is called dynamic tradition

The points missed in the critique of my assertion and in most of the discussion are (1) the characteristics of the brand of E-LHG method *are* that of common sense realism, (2) the method in the milieu of modernity has an erroneous penchant toward univocity as solely *being* the means of divining truth and meaning in text through common sense alone, and (3) the method is important and valuable *when voiced in harmony* with other methods in the search for understanding. If you look at the narrative section of my first post, I am not asserting all voices but rather voices affirmed as we reflect the image of God emotionally, spiritually, communally, traditionally, mystically, as well as corporeally/rationally (common sense-wise). Herein, lays an equivocal correction to the drift toward univocity inherent in modernity’s construction of reality and that the LHG method should it forget from whence it came. For Western Seminary’s mid 70’s-80’s brand See http://bible.org/article/relationship-common-sense-realism-dispensationalism%E2%80%99s-hermeneutics-and-ia-priorii-faith-comm#P10_912


Is LHG method a consequence of modern philosophical developments or that it’s a consequence of certain philosophical influences that have been around since the early Church and have affinities with modern philosophy?


This is a good question pleading for clarification. My answer attempts to avoid false alternatives as one should gather from my previous answers. So my answer is: yes to both. *As has been discussed, the ‘face’ of the 20th century E-LHG hermeneutic is prima facie a consequence of modern developments and that other similar voicings throughout ancient history have struggled to find correctives.* Although antiquity is interesting my primary arguments are not situated there. I suggest addressing the characteristics of common sense realism, the historical milieu of 19th-20th century dialogs and sources of the method (i.e. training of the pundits of the LHG method), and my assertions of univocity needing a plurivocal correction. Therein lies my argument.


The way I’m reading you is that you see a both/and relative to antiquity voicings and the univocity in the modern. Even so, what’s your point? Is it in fact that you hold that there are many ways to get at the meaning of the text (from a philosophical interpretive and methodological vantage point)? If so, I’m left scratching my head — viz. because of the various and disparate philosophies that shape the multitudinous panacea of available hermeneutical options that furnish the exegetical landscape.


E-LHG method is “one way of saying being” amidst many ways (William Desmond-Philosophy and Its Others). The method is useful and ready-in-hand as a tool to unlock one of the bolts in order to enter the ‘Doors of the Sacred ’ (to mine Moria in Tolkien speak). It is not the only voicing needed to open that door, however. Exegesis emerges from a dynamic plurivocity where the Triune God conducts the voices from the middle (the metaxu to use William Desmond speak). He as Conductor leads to conscious emergence of exegetical significance and meaning.” The various and disparate philosophies that voice a panacea of options are removed from the choir as God- the conductor in the middle brings the spirit of truth to bear upon the voicings of tradition, salvation history, peace within the emotional-rational discourse, and agapaic character to corporeal practice.

Bobby-Objection#2: The matrix of E-LHG method by nature is exclusive


I don’t think the Evangelical LGH by necessity must be exclusive. I do think that given its modernist common sense realism orientation and the matrix through which it was shaped there is suspicion when called to co-operate with other models of interpretation. This is one consequence of the univocal and exclusivist *character* of modernity’s scientific meta-narrative wherein the E-LHG method was formed (see: Lyotard’s intro The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge). I am suggesting that there was character leakage of the scientific meta-narrative contaminated the E-LGH method with a similar closed-ness when faced with critique (hence the pejorative stereotype “fighting fundy”).

The E-LGH, if can be heard as the rational voice that is part of human psychofacticity in Viktor Frankl’s sense, then it can be harmonized with other voicings and their co-participation in hermeneutical activity. I suggested that the E-LGH method is primary to approaching the door of the sacred in the western world. It may even be universal since sense experience filtered through the bottleneck of our subjectivity is part of our essentia (Neo-Thomistically speaking). The correction within my construct when voicing the E-LGH is (1) recognition of the common sense realism character, (2) restraint from univocity, and (3) harmonization with other voices under the ‘conducting’ of God.

Finally, my correction issues from questions that disturb my waters. For instance, I wonder if the leakage of scientific exclusivism toward other ways of saying being has led to a narrowing to less transcendent ways of asking and thus answering certain questions. By this I wonder if a univocal E-LHG method asks and answers in ways that aren’t necessarily appropriate or driven by the “text-grammar-historical” locus?

Let me trot out a sacred cow for an example: the creation, intelligent design, theistic evolution or whatever you want to call it discussion. What if the *proper* inclusion of voices of ‘living symbol-mystery’ have been neglected? What if the consequence of such neglect results in the wrong question being raised and therefore the wrong answers being *bound-to-be-given* (hyphenated in the givenness of Heidegger)? What if the locus of the discussion is not found in common sense reality at all? What if the locus of the question really resides in the “who” not “how” and thus the answer resides in the mystery of worship?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Literal Grammatical Historical Hermeneutic and Modernity's Voice

Th.M. Discussion Western Seminary - Literal Grammatical Historical Hermeneutic and Modernity's Voice

I wonder if the literal-grammatical-cultural-historical hermeneutic used in current Evangelical exegesis is but a modernist construct arising from the fundamentalist-theological liberalism debates of the late 19th century like that of Charles Hodge’s common sense realism and Baconian inductivism It seems to have gained traction and solidified in the early 20 century by particularly as advocated by J. Gresham Machen/-in the Princeton Theological Seminary debates. Here the philosophy wherein the method is structured is predicated upon a logical positivism similar to the early Ludwig Wittgenstein’s ordinary language philosophy. It is taken up by Bernard Ramm and later by Carl Henry’s propositional revelation notions.

My notion has been better clarified by my good friend R.T. Michener where he suggests that “fundamentalism and theological modernism as simply different sides of the same radical modernist coin. Both embrace the paradigms of Enlightenment empiricism and rationalism too seriously. The way I see it ( Hauerwas affirms this and I agree) is that theological liberalism tries to keep the faith by cutting out all the things that don't fit into the empirical and/ or rational modes, whereas fundamentalism tries to defend them using the tools of empiricism and rationalism to the nth degree. Both end up embracing rationalism and empiricism as the first order bases or "metaphysic" as such, upon which to build a worldview. This is what led the fundamentalist strain in evangelicalism, according to Hauerwas, to make "Sola Scriptura" equal to "Sola Text." After pondering his clarification, I find myself in accord with his musings.

Further, I suggest mining the philosophical constructs of those who wrote grammar and hermeneutical textbooks used in Evangelical seminaries using ‘the method,’ as well as, the content of the books themselves. My counter to those who appeal to antiquity to demonstrate a golden braid free from modernity’s web is this. Could it be that the principles of the ‘the method’ found in antiquity are mere voicings of a Greco-philosophical rationalists’ strand of modernity that is critiqued by Heidegger and more properly Westphal, voicings that ‘became’ the univocity of modernity?

Now, one should not take my concord with the voices of Heidegger, Westphal, and R.T.( he does not demean) as ultimately demeaning the method. For me, it is “one way of saying being” amidst many ways (William Desmond-Philosophy and Its Others). The method is useful and ready-in-hand as a tool to unlock one of the bolts in order to enter the ‘Doors of the Sacred ’ (to mine Moriah in Tolkien speak). It is not the only voicing needed to open that door, however. Exegesis emerges from a dynamic plurivocity where the Triune God conducts the voices from the middle (the metaxu to use William Desmond speak). He as Conductor leads to conscious emergence of exegetical significance and meaning.

Picture the plurivocity of voices in the narrative of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, Acts 8:25-39). Whatever hermeneutic was involved in the Eunuch’s ordinary language understanding would be but univocal in had he sat in his chariot alone with his text-in-hand. Other voices that are ‘saying being’ co-participated in exegetical emergence when he sought dis-closure-of-truth-in-text. It included the current community narrative of Philip, the Eunuch’s emotional emergence of spiritual consciousness in community worship, the salvation history of church universal in process, spiritual illumination by the Holy Spirit’s voicing, the voice of the angel, and perhaps others as well i.e. Candace.

Well enough, I must return to my exegetical tasks of the day - constructing the sermon…take a look and uncover my hypocrisy http://www.gracepointfellowship.org/

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On the Progressive Utopian Vision

"Heaven without God is Hell" Dekoster: Communism and the Christian Faith. (Eerdmanns, 1956) p. 51.

i.e. Lenin and Stalin's Russia; Mao's China; Tito's Yugoslavia; Ceau┼čescu's Romania; Jong-il's North Korea etc.

"Watch out, you just might get what you're asking for" (Talking Heads) to Barry Soetoro fans

Socialism doesn't work!

To my socialist leaning acquaintances: Having lived in a socialist environment for almost nine years and seeing its health care system on the brink of collapse, experiencing the collapse of its banking system, and looking at the capital's takeover by Mohammedans...I am convinced: "Socialism doesn't work." You figure out the double on-tundra.