Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hermeneutical Philosophies for Interpreting Narrative Literature Part 2 - Hermeneutical Philosophies

        The conflict as to the place of the miraculous in the contemporary church stems from the problem of deciphering programmatic approaches in amongst the singular events found in the Lucan narrative in lull of didactic statements relating to their continuation. The Pentecostal may be tempted to base their entire ministry approach on the first century church, but before proceeding they must seriously consider the repeatability of certain events. John Stott questions the possibility of modern relevance for holding church elections by drawing lots (Act 1:23-26), selling all our goods and treating our resources as common property (2:44-45) and conversions being accompanied by bright lights and an audible voice (Acts 9:3). Stott believes that the narrative is largely impotent unless accompanied by the didactic (Stott 1990, 8), hence the narrative needs the didactic before being appropriate for doctrine. Doctrine cannot be rooted in the narrative alone, for the narrative is too slippery, too elastic, too imprecise (Menzies 2000, 39). It may seem obvious that not all elements of the narratives are to be repeated but upon which principle do we reject some and endorse others? If a Pentecostal is to reject certain practices endorsed by the narrative, but reject others, it is not unreasonable to ask for an objective standard to decipher which earns imitation and which is relegated to a singular instance. Stott's standard provides a concrete foundation for the subjective narrative to stand upon. But in doing so, Stott demotes the narrative's genre to undependable. If the narrative needs the didactic but the didactic does not need narrative then the narrative by itself is not able to teach us anything. This means that the narrative genre is only capable of complimenting the didactic, but not capable of independent instruction. A position such as this is entirely untenable for any theologian, as the narrative genre comprises 40% of the Old Testament and 60% of the New (Stein 1994, 151). Fee notes that the principle of the Pentecostal is to fashion their church entirely after the book of Acts. Yet they routinely reject practices such as church enforced communism and snake handling, thus violating their own hermeneutical principle. One camp cannot dismiss massive portions of scriptures as secondary only to the didactic, whereas the other cannot claim to abide by all, whilst rejecting those practices sound sense deems as absurd.

         Stott succeeds in the creation of an objective hermeneutical principle, but the principle fails to treat the narrative as a genre in its own right. In doing so, Stott, and theologians like himself reject the explicitly didactic principle of finding teaching in all genres (2 Tim 3:16). Yet this theology has become increasingly untenable. Thus in Klein, Bloomberg, and Hubbard's 1993 work on hermeneutics they “rejected” the maxim of those who believe narratives without commandments are not normative (Klein 1993, 349 – 350). Yet in their 2004 edition of the same work they note that those same theologians “correctly” suffix their previous dictum that narratives without didactics may be normative if it can be proven the author intended it to be read as such (Klein 2004, 424). This transitional suffix has shown that even those who birthed this hermeneutic of didactic primacy have seen the error of their approach, but they are silent on how to decipher whether or not the author intended the narrative to be normative. Over these years a paradigm shift has occurred that has given new life to the New Testament narratives (Menzies 2000, 42). Yet while the outright rejection of the commandless narrative seems unjustified, those doing so are searching for an objective standard by which to interpret the living narrative. Pentecostals, such as Menzies and Stronstad, provide critics of the issues associated with demoting the narrative and provide evidence of Luke's aptness as a theologian. But they do not provide principles that allow us to extract the normative from the unique. This approach creates a neat and simple hermeneutic philosophy, but rejects the obvious theological intent of the narrative author. Thus, when interpreting the Lucan narrative in relation to the miraculous, we cannot merely reject Luke's theological teaching because they are without didactic, but must discover which principles allow us to extract the doctrines Luke intended to be normative to the Christian experience.

God Love You -- Rev. Sheen

Part 3 - Typology


Stott, John R. W., The Spirit, The Church, and the World. The Message of Acts, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1990.

Menzies, William W., Robert P. Menzies, Spirit and Power Foundations of Pentecostal Experience, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 2000.

Stein, Robert H., Playing By the Rules, A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 1994.

Klein, William W., Craig L. Blomberg, Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville, TN, 1993.

Klein, William W., Craig L. Blomberg, Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville, TN, 2004.

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