Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Ok, so I am currently involved in a discussion that touches on Hermeneutics (among other things) with some grad-school-type-friends, and I feel compelled to share some of my thoughts.

People outside of the fields of philosophy and theology don't really care/know about hermeneutics ("Hermeneutics may be described as the theory of interpretation and understanding of a text through empirical means."~from the wikipedia). So, if I'm concerned about having discussions with the unchurched, then it's important for me to know what they do care about.

Have you ever been somewhere and started into a conversation only to discover that you were trapped talking about a subject in which you have no interest?

To steal some comic material from Nick Swardson: it's like listening to your nephew tell you all about his Pokemon collection. You don't really care, but it's like crack to him.
"Hey, do you know about [instert Pokemon character name], hedoesthisandhelookslikethisandthecandothisandhelikesthis..." It makes you want to take him and show him all the products in the medicine cabinet and explain what they do. "Hey, do you know about conditioner . . ."

The way that hermeneutics came up in the dicsussion is that someone made the argument that the type of hermeneutic a church tradition uses is the defining characteristic of that church tradition. I don't really agree with this point. A big reason for my disagreement is that without a belief structure in place, one's method of interpretation is essentially meaningless. For example, you can interpret the bible very litterally, but not believe that Jesus is God incarnate.

If we start saying that things like hermeneutics are essential components of the Christian faith then we are moving the discussion out of the realm of the unchurched person. And if we do that, then we are violating the message of the cross. Now, I'm not trying to say that the study of hermeneutics or theology are bad. They have helped me incredibly, but without translation these helpful discussion become a hinderance to evangelism.

What say you?


Unknown said...

I never really get into this much but it seems like everyone is doing it so I might as well too, anyone going to the bridge later?

isn't a hermaneutic the practical side of theology. Like if theology is the meaning derrived from the text then isn't a hereneutic simply what we do with that practically?

I am really just trying to understand the definition.

Tim said...

Would this mean that we practice hermaneutics whether we know it or not, regardless of our faith tradition (or lack therof)?

The hermaneutic of the atheist, goth, skater, theologian, Catholic, Jew, etc. would then be based upon that person's experience and how it relates to the Word, however loosely defined or connected that is.

Adam Wolfgang said...