Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hermeneutical Humility vs. Egoistic Eisegesis

Fundamentalist approaches to Scripture carry a fundamental egoistic component: they assume that the modern reader can assert a “God’s-eye” understanding of a given passage. The following is my response from a dialogue that I had with a fundamentalist creationist in 2007 in which he asserted that the proper reference point for understanding Genesis 1, and all Scripture for that matter, is God. In the following I attempt to show how such a “God-as-referent” approach equivocates God with the modern reader and looses the only basis for objectively-inclined study of Scripture: historical-critical hermeneutics.

In your posts you are asking for the reader to allow God to be the
scientist or referent of Genesis 1. In so doing I find that you are removing the
real-world anchor, the hermeneutical key, which is context. I see three primary
points of reference in Genesis 1 [and Scripture in general]: the modern reader,
the historical reader, and the ancient reader. The modern reader is any
contemporary reader that carries her biases to the text—we all do this. The
historical reader no longer exists, but through reading her reflections on
Genesis 1 [or any passage], we are given a glimpse into her interpretative
thinking about the text. The ancient reader is the reader that received the
Genesis 1 narrative in context. Our goal is to read the text as the ancient
reader. To posit that God is the referent is actually to camouflage the arrogant
assertion that one stands in for God to only now uncover meanings that are
relevant to the modern, individual egoistic reader (you or me).

Yes, the modern reader will never exhaust the possible meanings and
contexts that the ancient reader had at her disposal. This is unfortunate, but
it is the reality that every exegete faces with *every* text—ancient or not. I
do not assert that I have exhausted the hermeneutical means that were available
for the ancient reader, but I am trying to arrive at such a reading. Thus far
the reading that I am presenting does a much better job addressing historical
exigencies than the “God-referent” reading that you propose. Your reading
addresses modern-day exigencies. My reading grounds Genesis 1 in history and
deals with ancient exigencies.

Different readers read different
answers or questions into Genesis 1 [and any Scripture]. An Ethiopian will
likely find different meanings than a Laplander; a fisherman than a farmer; a
white collar than a blue collar, etc. This is important. When the individual
reader asserts that her biases allow her to construct the "God-approved" reading
of the Bible, this is bigotry....leading to such abuses of the Bible as
creationism. The *only* referent or point of reference that the reader can use
is that nestled in context: the sitz im leben. The process of contextualizing is
recreating the mind and interpretative framework that the original reader would
have relied on.

In this regard, special creationism as a scientific construct, fails at the
very foundation of its inception: the Bible. If the Bible contains the records
of numinous encounters, then the Author of the Bible is not a creationist. In
other words: God is not a creationist. If God is not a creationist, then the
entire creationist endeavor is simply intellectual backwaters, social backlash,
and repressive brainwashing. I think that creationism is all of the above. It
fails on the level of biblical interpretation. Need anything else be said?

1 comment:

Fizlowski said...

The ancient and modern readers have this in common: they both presume to put their insipid words in god's mouth. Because when your beliefs don't hold water on their own, you have to appeal a higher authority to lend them credence. Even if you have to invent that higher authority.