At the 60th General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas, David Ripley, Ministerial Association Secretary for the Northern Asia-Pacific Division, made a recommendation that the General Conference Executive Committee address the Adventist Church's many hermeneutical approaches. During the last business meeting of the session, General Conference Undersecretary Myron Iseminger announced that the General Conference, together with the Biblical Research Committee, would address the issue. Pastor Timothy Alan Floyd of the Kansas-Nebraska Conference of Seventh-day Adventists provides the following bibliography on biblical hermeneutics, a thorough (though not exhaustive) list of significant Adventist contributions to the study of Scripture. Have another book or article to recommend? The comments section awaits! -Ed.
Two papers on the subject that I found interesting are:
Miller, Nicolas P., DIVIDED BY THE VISION OF TRUTH: THE BIBLE, EPISTEMOLOGY, AND THE ADVENTIST COMMUNITY, Andrews University Seminary Studies, Vol. 47, No. 2, 241-262 (2009).
Miller, Nicholas P. , Alongside Foundationalism: Adventism’s Alternative Protestant Philosophical Path. A paper presented at the Society of Adventist Philosophers Meeting in Nov. 15, 2012.
The last paper looks at the different philosophical traditions influencing Western biblical hermeneutics in general, and particularily the relationship of Adventist hermeneutics to the fundamentalist tradition.
I hope we include in this discussion something of the ethics of fixating upon a narrowly defined hermeneutic - whatever that hermeneutic might be.
What do we intend to accomplish through this process? Will this newly vote and specific hermeneutic result in more freedom or more oppression? Will certain people see it as their duty to fashion this hermeneutic into a cudgel by which to put down all disagreements? Will we still be able to ask of others, “What is written in the law, how do YOU read…?”, or will we already know the answer because of our new 29th Fundamental Belief?
Do we think that - with two contrasting hermeneutics on the ballot - the one that is most reasonable and academically sound will get the majority vote at the next GC?
Ambiguity, disagreement, and multiple points of view are not the enemy. The enemy is “Old Man Coercion” and whatever we decide to add to his toolbox.
I share your concerns. If the WO vote and revisions of the FBs are any indication, there is a force among our leadership to “purify” our doctrine. I could easily see this becoming a tool to further purge the church of undesirable differences of view.
In response to efcee blog
"I hope we include in this discussion something of the ethics of fixating upon a narrowly defined hermeneutic - whatever that hermeneutic might be."
You raise an important issue in that biblical interpretation can NEVER be done by "fixating upon a narrowly defined hermeneutic."The existence of Scripture is the proof that this is precisely how God creates his people, and what he aims to do with those who “trust and obey” by shaping them as a community of believers that ARE NOT “fixating upon a narrowly defined hermeneutic”.
These are books that should be studied in our quest for truth.
Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden, eds., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, John 1-10 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture) (Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2007).
Samuel Wells, ‘Why Christian Ethics Was Invented’, and ‘How The Church Managed Before There Was Ethics’, in Stanley Hauerwas and Samuel Wells, ed., The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004).
Joel B. Green and Max Turner, eds., Between Two Horizons: Spanning New Testament Studies and Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999).
Stephen E. Fowl, Philippians (Two Horizons New Testament Commentary) (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005).
Stanley Hauerwas, Matthew (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2007).
A recent book has come out by two notable Adventist scholars, and seems to have important implications for Adventist hermeneutics, but has not received much notice–The Bible Jesus Interpreted by Hans K. LaRondelle and Jon Paulien. As the title indicates, it takes a serious look at how Jesus interpreted the OT, suggesting Christians, as his followers, should try to reading their Bibles in a similar manner.
Two works by non-Adventist authors I don’t see on the list, but would be very helpful to our community would be Truth and Method by Hans Gadamer and the helpful commentary on the book by Merold Westphal, which draws out insights relevant to the interpretation of the Bible–Whose Community? Which Interpretation?
Considering all the above, and the recent history of another successful study committee, it’s clear to me now that the most significant need in the SDA Church is the prompt creation of the TOHSC (Theology Of Hermeneutics Study Committee). Results to be presented in 2020.
Validity in Interpretation by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.,. This is the best work regarding the methodology of hermeneutics. Highly important is his discussion of genre, which is totally misunderstood in all Seventh-day Adventist writings on hermeneutics that discuss genre. Hirsch’s thesis in the book is that the meaning of the text is what the author intends to say.
Truth and Method and anything else you can find written by Hans-Georg Gadamer. He is the most important thinker regarding philosophical hermeneutics. (Methodology and philosophy are two different things in the study of hermeneutics). Gadamer does not focus on methodology per se but on what actually happens when interpretation occurs. I find that we cannot opine about proper methodology unless we understand what actually happens when interpretation occurs.
For something more practical, The New Testament Use of the Old Testament by Robert L. Thomas is an excellent introduction to inner-biblical exegesis, which is one of the thorniest issues in biblical interpretation. http://www.tms.edu/m/tmsj13d.pdf. What is the Seventh-day Adventist Church position regarding inner-biblical exegesis? There is none.
I like this short essay by Bruce K. Waltke, written in 1984, called Historical Grammatical Problems. http://media.sabda.org/alkitab-2/PDF%20Books/Working%20PDF/Waltke.pdf. I met Waltke years ago in a creation/science weekend seminar. He has a nice encapsulation of different Christian hermeneutical approaches that he shared with me and my friends. This essay offers a nice discussion about prejudgment. If Seventh-day Adventists were to ever come to understand how their prejudgment affects interpretation and if that understanding of their prejudgment were to be sensitively reflected in their writings, then much would be accomplished.
The study of hermeneutics as a science, as it were, is only a few centuries old. An excellent survey of the development of the modern study of hermeneutics, particularly with focus on thinkers that are less talked about, is this nice essay written by Michael N. Forster: Hermeneutics. http://philosophy.uchicago.edu/faculty/files/forster/HERM.pdf.
I think a better essay written by Richard S. Briggs is his What Does Hermeneutics Have to do With Biblical Interpretation. https://www.academia.edu/3079145/What_does_Hermeneutics_have_to_do_with_Biblical_Interpretation. For traditional folk Adventists who can make their way through Richard Davidson’s essays and are willing to courageously tackle the writings of a non-SDA, I think Briggs would be an excellent choice.
One of the most important disciplines of the interdisciplinary study of hermeneutics is law. The Bible is often read like a law book that governs behavior both personal and ecclesiastical. Wrong conceptions about law are ever present and they invariably distort interpretations of the biblical text. I highly recommend Antonin Scalia’s A Matter of Interpretation, which contains four responsive comments and his final response. You might think that he is a political hack, but you will find his book very approachable and well worth the price. For online resources, an excellent essay that distinguishes legal formalism from legal realism is Frederick Schauer’s Legal Realism Untamed. http://www.law.yale.edu/documents/pdf/Intellectual_Life/LTW-Schauer.pdf. And of course, the greatest essay ever written by an American about the law is Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s The Path of the Law. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2373/2373-h/2373-h.htm.
Take some time to read Scripture not for the purpose of determining what substantive truths are set forth but for the purpose of ascertaining principles of interpretation that are either expressly stated or implied. Our hermeneutics should not be superimposed upon Scripture like a veneer but should arise out of Scripture. Don’t be content with canons of construction, as the little chestnuts that they are, which many Seventh-day Adventist writers articulate about how Scripture should be interpreted. Make sure every principle of interpretation articulated is supported by a cogent argument that relies on specific biblical texts.
One question I would like to ask
How Much of ALL This Hoopla WILL Make A Difference At The Local Church Level?
The average person in the pew with High School or maybe some college, but not in Religion?
Will the only thing all this will do is make more work for Theology Students at the University?
Any amount is too much if it ends up like TOSC. If the committee makes something that represents a true compromise among progressive and conservative hermeneutical approaches, then it will get voted down at the next GC, or it will get modified somehow to make it more conservative before GC gets it. Alternatively, if it comes out as nicely conservative, it will easily be voted through and will then be used as a hammer for setting all pegs.