Beyond the Historical Grammatical Malaise

English: Icon of Jesus Christ

English: Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the things which has long bothered me about “historical-grammatical” (HG) methods of interpretation is the sense that it presupposes itself to offer a “scientific” approach to Scripture.  While the methods of HG can not simply be ignored in the context we find ourselves in (nor should they be)…they simply can not be allowed to dominate our study and exposition of Scripture.  What one needs is to be conformed into the image of Christ by the hearing of the Word.  It is the making of the “virtuous reader” who is formed by this text through the enabling of the Spirit who inspired and now illuminates these words.  Two particular things come to mind:
There must be humility in our hermeneutics that simply doesn’t seem present (or at least dominant) in the HG methods. It is the openness not simply to hear the text, but to be changed by the text, and by being changed to re-hear the text anew.  This is not to be confused with the notion of unthinking embrace, but to genuinely take great care in hearing and therefore being transformed in that hearing.  We are not to “check our brains at the door” of interpretation…we are to use all we have been given (knowledge, wisdom, experience) for the purpose of interpretation.  In the giving of our whole selves to the Spirit we can then be remade (wholly) by that same Spirit.
Love must define our hermeneutic.  This is another component that just seems lacking in the HG methodology. If our interpretation does not drive us to love God and neighbor more fully, than we are not interpreting in a manner befitting the revelation of Scripture. Too often the HG school of interpretation would have us believe that we must be “objective” (as in removed from the text), but we are subjects both confronted and embraced by the subject of the text as the living voice of the living God. This is a hermeneutics of relationality, not of scientific abstractions.  Our affections are called to the obedience of Christ…to the sanctifying work of Christ’s Spirit in and through us by this Word.  To interpret correctly is to respond correctly is to love correctly.

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5 Responses to Beyond the Historical Grammatical Malaise

  1. Do your thoughts relate at all to Childs’ “canonical reading” of the text?

    • Rick Wadholm Jr. says:

      In this particular case, no. But overall, I cannot get away from the basic arguments which he has made concerning a canonical reading. I find it rather persuasive (even if in details I would differ from him on a number of issues) overall.

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