Shall We Slumber through a Hermeneutics Problem?

Adventism has a hermeneutics problem, and key players don’t want to talk about it. Not in public, anyway; not where differences are out in the open and debate genuinely forthright. Officials at the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio promised that the General Conference Biblical Research Institute (BRI) would give official attention to hermeneutics over the next quinquennium, so conversational reluctance seems, especially now, inappropriate, or even ominous.

I asserted all this in a July 17 article on this website, citing two instances of refusal to embrace public conversation about the best strategy for making sense of what the Bible teaches. One instance had to do with Jiří Moskala, the dean of the Seminary at Andrews; the other with the Biblical Research Institute, or what Ekkehardt Mueller, one of the Associate Directors, reported to me about it.

You can read my article for more detail. No one from the Biblical Research Institute responded to the July 17 post, either on the website or in personal communication with me. But the Seminary dean offered an encouraging public reply, and he has since expressed to me his hope that the two of us might talk about these matters later in the fall.

My own naivete constantly annoys and astounds me. Still, I am more hopeful than I was that truly open public discussion may ensue. Wider Adventist involvement, lay as well as professional, in hermeneutical conversation is surely necessary. We cannot expect greater consensus on the meaning of Adventism unless we find common ground, or at least more common ground, on how to read and apply the Bible. As I argued earlier, one place to find such common ground is the Bible’s own testimony to the ultimate authority of Jesus Christ for Christian life and teaching. It is just this ultimate authority, however, that official doctrine concerning Scripture (Belief #1 of the church’s 28 Fundamental Beliefs) fails to credit or acknowledge.

Even among Adventist theologians, a doctrine of Scripture centered on Christ is apparently controversial. Knowing that the Biblical Research Institute would soon be weighing in on the issue, the officers of the Adventist Society for Religious Studies (I was not an officer) came to the organization’s annual meeting in November of 2015 with a proposal. Should the membership now endorse an explicitly Christological revision of Belief #1? The officers said Yes, and their proposal involved a written statement, or recommendation. Members declined, however, to endorse it, instead asking an ad hoc committee to return with something different.

But what strategy could be better for getting at the Bible’s meaning than one focused on Jesus Christ? A website commenter, responding to Dean Moskala’s article, wondered if the problem might lie with details in the officers’ proposal. A mistake there might explain a negative reaction to an otherwise attractive statement. The commenter asked to see “the specific proposal.”

I knew the gist of the proposal when I wrote my post in July, but did not think I had the entire document, and could not scare it up from anyone else. Afterwards, while I wasn’t looking, the document turned up among the downloads on my computer. When I now sought confirmation for what I had found, an ASRS officer was finally able to find and send a copy of his own. So for the record, here is the statement ASRS officers presented in 2015:

Statement on the Centrality of Christ for the Interpretation of Scripture

Adventist Society for Religious Studies

November 20, 2015

Worldwide, religious believers tend to read their sacred scriptures “selectively,” mining authoritative texts for support of pre-existing theological, moral and political positions. Various groups in theological conflict whether within Judeo-Christian, Muslim or Hindu traditions, for example, identify resources in their respective traditions to support opposing points of view.

Unfriendly critics of religion also engage in “selective” reading of sacred texts. They focus on passages that make religious faith seem silly or morally offensive—or even conducive to violence—and overlook or minimize passages that count against the case they want to make.

From our standpoint as Adventist scholars, we firmly believe that “selective” reading of sacred texts produces arbitrary, and even dangerous, results. Although Scripture is the authoritative word of God, our own reading of it involves unavoidable bias. However, internal evidence from the Bible itself points to a reading strategy that helps overcome interpretive danger and simultaneously assures a more responsible interpretive outcome. Here are some key elements of that internal evidence:

• The Bible has a narrative quality: it is the story of a people listening to, and learning from, God’s words and actions in history that climax in the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus.

• As part of this ongoing narrative, the characters and authors of scripture offer distinctive perspectives from their experience with God. Micah sees the day when all nations beat “their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Micah 4:3; cf. Isaiah 2:4); while Joel, on the other hand, envisions Israel coming out ahead in future violence, with the nations beating their “plowshares being beaten [sic] into swords” and their “pruning hooks into spears”; Joel 3:9-12). And when John describes Jesus’ final supper with the disciples, the foot washing stands out; in other New Testaments accounts, the sharing of bread and wine stands out (John 13:1-18; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 and Mark 14:22-25).

• The New Testament asserts that God has inspired all of scripture, and that all of it is “useful for…training in righteousness,” to the end that “everyone who belongs to God may be…equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). At the same time, the New Testament attributes special authority to Christ. “‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to’” the risen Jesus; if God has “spoken in many and various ways by the prophets,” then God’s own son, Jesus Christ, is “the exact imprint of God’s very being…” (Matthew 28: 18; Hebrews 1:1, 3; our italics).

It follows that the reading strategy best suited to the internal evidence of the Bible is one that makes the risen Christ the ultimate criterion for interpretation. Most importantly, this strategy provides leverage against “selective” readings that conform more to the biases of the interpreter than to the actual substance of the whole story the Bible tells. For the Seventh-day Adventist Christian, the proper response to divine grace is to honor and fear God the almighty in Christ the eternal logos. This maxim is absolutely crucial for any faithful theory concerning the interpretation of the Bible.

###

But as I said, the ASRS membership declined to endorse this statement. When the ad hoc committee came back with a different one, the membership was still unsatisfied, and took no action. Here is the second statement:

Statement on the Interpretation of Scripture

Adventist Society for Religious Studies

November 20, 2015

As our church community gives renewed study to how Scripture is read and interpreted in the church, the members of the Adventist Society for Religious Studies believe that it is important to participate in this process. ASRS affirms that an adequate hermeneutic asserts the full authority of Scripture in its plain and intended meaning. The “plain reading” of Scripture, however, is not to be confused with a selective or superficial reading of the text.

An adequate hermeneutic facilitates the sharing of the wonders of Scripture so God’s Word can live anew in our worship, ministry and mission. It affirms the unity of Scripture even as it acknowledges the diversity within it. It affirms the full authority of Scripture as the inspired word of God, even as we admit that we always read the Bible as broken people who need the Spirit of God and each other’s correction in order to read well.

The hermeneutic needed suggests that a true plain reading of Scripture is not a superficial reading. As scholars, we long to assist our church as it seeks to be ever more faithful to the Word.

###

Most readers will agree, I expect, that the second statement has no apparent theme or purpose, unless it be groveling before the (unnamed) constituency that, in obeisance to a “plain reading” theory of Scripture, would have to affirm death for persistently “stubborn and rebellious” sons and interpret Psalm 137:9 as veritable present truth. (Look it up!)

As to the first statement, the one ASRS also refused to endorse, I hereby defy anyone to identify in it a single error of fact or logic. Perhaps I should say “major error,” as I do not assume perfection for any human document.

Nor do I assume, by the way, that it’s easy to arouse Adventists (except for a few of the retired) from their theological slumbers. But we’re talking Scripture here, and conversation about that still seems, despite my aforementioned naivete, worth trying for.

Charles Scriven is a member of the Adventist Forum Board.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9849
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Glacier View looms, so why try to engage scholars in any analytical discussion that challenge a Corn field vision endorsed by a discredited self proclaimed prophet? There is not a scholar in any position of power in so called evangelical communities. Power not providence is in sway. nuts don’t fall far from the tree.

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The first statement was a pretty good one. It was too pointed to be acceptable. “Selective readings that conform more to the biases of the interpreter…” seems likely to be a sticking point with it. Is there a more frankly accurate description of traditional SDA “proof texting?” The truth can be painful.

The second statement, which is hardly a statement at all, sounds like it came from a chastened group. They went off script and got told off.

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November 2015. That is almost 4 long years ago!

It is interesting that Theologians and Religious writers of other parts
of Christendom are NOT AFRAID of Jesus.
Nor are they seemingly afraid of either the OT or the NT.
HOWEVER, they Do have an Advantage we SDAs DO NOT HAVE.
They have “The Bible and the Bible ONLY”.
We SDAs do NOT.

Charles, THIS is the problem. THIS is why no body wants to talk to
you in an “investigative” and “learning” mode. FEAR! FEAR! FEAR!
Anytime some one wants to come up with a Scripture lesson, someone
or several will pipe up and ask, “What does Sr. White say about that?”
Or, more to the point, will quote something she wrote.
And THAT Kills the discussion!

No matter what you and your friends come up with, it will HAVE to be well
Footnoted with Ellen’s comments.

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Beginning of Summer we began a new series of Sabbath School
classes. The traditional Lesson Quarterly, but also available was
Luke, the Holy Spirit, the Sanctuary.
I joined the Sanctuary to see what would be taught.
Our “Lesson Quarterly” is “Lessons on the Sanctuary”,
January 5 to March 30, 1895. The lessons are photocopied. It does
not say who was the main writer back then. Probably on a page not
given to us.

Continuing the discussion from Shall We Slumber through a Hermeneutics Problem?:

I’ve speculated on this site before about the refusal of church managers and their theological allies to engage views that appear threatening to established ideas and practices. Suffocating silence is a luxury of the powerful. What goes apparently unnoticed by the powerful and their enablers is the fact that the very large majority of worshipers in Adventist churches on any given Sabbath morning are unaware of and indifferent to the conflicts that the Adventist hierarchy and its favored academics desire to suppress. Those conflicts are profound and institutionally embodied in the two associations of Adventists with advanced education in theological studies, namely the Adventist Society for Religious Studies and its alternative the Adventist Theological Society. As always in history, divisions have as much to do with personalities and remembered offenses as they do with competing perceptions of reality. And there are some cheerful souls, Zack Plantak being an example, who appear to think differences are not all that significant given the fact that a single individual has, at different times, been the president of each of the two associations.

In fact Adventist disputes about the meanings of scripture might seem to lend themselves to an assessment of relative insignificance to the extent that all of those meanings can be shown to leave hope for the new creation as a rational disposition in tact. But as pleasing as that communal prospect is to me, I recognize that scriptural interpretation also authorizes present structures of power and some of those structures are antithetical to the new creation for which we hope. It is this phenomenon that has made social critics hostile to religion precisely because hope seems to leave latitude for present oppression.

Therefore I offer my heartfelt endorsement of Chuck’s call for an explicitly Christ centered and Christ subordinate hermeneutic. I have never found any opposition to this sort of reading the Scripture in the thirteen years I pastored an ordinary Adventist congregation in the Chicago area or in the 17 years I have taught hundreds of young Adventist college students along with many more hundreds of Christians from other branches of the Christian family tree. The only place I have encountered opposition is in dialog with other Adventist academics. Church managers have no reason to talk with me.

Is it worth asking about the significance of this tiny segment of the church’s intransigence in dealing with issues about which it alone seems to care?

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There is no question that the SDA church is going through a severe crisis facing an uncertain future. It is true that those worshiping in the pews of Adventist churches on Sabbaths, as Daryl Ward says, don’t care about denominational battles at the centers of power. It is also true, I think, that they are concerned about the the way in which the young people are leaving the church as they become alienated by the way in which the Bible, read “literally” or “according to a plain reading” makes no sense to them. The Sabbath School’s Lessons Quarterlies are written for adults with the minds of 12 year- olds. Academy students already find them antiquated.
As a denomination, the SDA church needs to have a doctrinal “aggiornamento.” All doctrines are theological expressions and theology becomes irrelevant when it does not speak to the present situation of those who are expected to use it as a guide to their lives. At the moment the church, rather than to face the present cultural realities and have something to say about them, is digging in to remain firmly fixed in the XIX century reaffirming the authority of Ellen White as the final word in the interpretation of Scripture. Steve Mga is right. In 1969 I resigned from my professorship at the SDA Theological Seminary because I became totally frustrated by not being able to do exegesis of the gospel According to John without students objecting that Ellen White said that the passage in question meant “this,” and that was final. They were the ones who had been indoctrinated in their Academy years and had not learned anything in College.
I would agree with the final paragraph of the statement presented by the officers of ASRS in Nov. 2015. “The internal evidence of the Bible is one that makes the risen Christ its ultimate criterion for interpretation.” In other words the criterion is not the Jesus of the gospels, because in the gospels we find four different portraits of Jesus and his demands. They were written not to tell it “as it actually happened” but as it serves the needs of a particular early Christian community. Did Jesus actually end his Sermon ( was it on a mountain or on a plain?) saying, “Be ye therefore perfect” or saying “Be ye therefore merciful”? Did the risen Christ tell his disciples “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” or “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations”? Was the commission to preach obedience to commandments or forgiveness of sins" To use the different accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus in the gospels is an opportunity to “engage in ‘selective’ reading.”
On the other hand to have the risen Christ as the criterion of interpretation is to have one’s faith in the risen Christ as the criterion of interpretation. And faith is what I find in the Bible. All those who wrote the books now found in the Bible, without knowing it, were expressing their faith to their contemporaries within the cultural framework their contemporaries understood. The risen Christ is the Christ of faith, not the Christ of Matthew, or Mark or Luke or John or Paul. According to Luke the risen Christ has a body of flesh. According to Paul the risen Christ has a spirit body. What was placed in the tomb was a physical, perishable body. What was raised was a spiritual, glorious, eternal body. I hope and pray to have the faith of Abraham, the father of all those of faith. I have no idea of what Abraham’s doctrine of God was. I am sure it was shaped by his cultural experience. I trust that just like his faith motivated him to leave his country and journey to the land of promise, my faith will motivate me to look for the guidance of God to live by faith and teach the Faith according to my cultural experience. By the way, Ellen White did not say, as some Seminary professors have said, that God is the author of the Bible. She said that inspiration acted on the men, who then wrote using their own words and ways of expression which, of course, are cultural tools.

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This is a strange use of words: “It follows that the reading strategy best suited to the internal evidence of the Bible is one that makes the risen Christ the ultimate criterion for interpretation.” Hermeneutists do not talk or write like this. I cannot think of a remarkable instance in which the word “criterion” or the word “criteria” is used in the hermeneutics standard literature.

And what do these strange words mean? Jesus is a main character in the Bible and Othello is a main character in Shakespeare’s play, but I can’t imagine that anyone would say that Othello is the ultimate criterion for interpretation of the play. Jesus as God is the divine author of the Bible and Shakespeare is the author of his plays, but I can’t imagine that anyone would say that Shakespeare is the ultimate criterion for interpretation of his plays.

It’s obvious that there is a theological agenda at work here. The perspective is that God of the OT is malevolent, but Jesus is nice. The reality is that God of the OT and Jesus are one and the same. We could say then that God rather than Jesus is the ultimate criterion for interpretation of the Bible, but this grandiosely over-inclusive statement says very little. The teleological progress we see in the Bible is not a result of a changing God but a changing society. Accordingly, it is more correct to say that the ultimate criterion for interpretation of the Bible is not the risen Christ but a forever-changing society, (i.e. historical context), that the Bible responds to.

A Christocentric theology of the Bible is obvious and necessary. A Christocentric hermeneutic, however, is a clumsy use of words. And it is hermeneutical error. Inasmuch as Jesus informs us of God of the OT, God of the OT informs us of Jesus. Those seemingly- harsh passages in the OT that some find objectionable are necessary in helping us know what Jesus is really like. The hermeneutical circle is a continual back-and-forth. If you go forth, you must also go back, and vice versa. Proponents of a Christocentric hermeneutic, which again is an absurdity, only want to go one way. And that is not how hermeneutics is practiced. Ironically, the ASRS’s appeal in its first statement that “selective” readings be avoided is undermined by its call for a Christocentric hermeneutic.

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Phillip,

I have a fair (not expert) awareness of the “standard” literature to which you refer. The Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies will within weeks publish an essay by me—“The Rabbi and the Gadfly: Finitude and the Dialectic of Tradition and Critique”—in which Hans-Georg Gadamer serves as the main philosophical influence. Gadamer is often considered the most important hermeneutical philosopher of the twentieth century.

You say it is “strange” to speak of someone as the “criterion” for interpretation of anything. That is certainly true. But I operate—like, say, Karl Barth or Dietrich Bonhoeffer (though not at their level)—within the perspective of Christian faith. That means I take revelation —or the self-disclosure of God in Jesus of Nazareth—to be a real event and to be our surest clue to the character and expectations of God. I agree with you that the Old Testament helps us to understand Jesus, and disagree entirely with anyone who plays down the importance of that document. I agree, too, that the “hermeneutical circle” invites us into continual back-and-forth interaction, continual good-faith conversation.

A Christocentric hermeneutic is certainly “strange” by the standards of the secular academy. But to say it is “absurd” is even stranger. Hermeneuticists well understand that there is no escape from the influence of “tradition,” and Christian faith in Jesus Christ is just one expression of that point, much as, say, American confidence in the Bill of Rights is one expression of that point.

You may suppose that people like me necessarily end up as relativists. Well, there is no denying human situatedness, and the impact this has on what anyone has to say. For myself, though, I reject hard versions of relativism that might be thought protect Christian faith from criticism. (That is where the term “dialectic” in my article title comes into play.)

Acceptance of “revelation” is certainly a matter of faith. But I want readers to know that your dismissal of its relevance to interpretation of the Bible’s meaning for Christian existence—your dismissal of its status as a “criterion” for such interpretation—means that you have to take on intellectual giants like Barth and Bonhoeffer. (I hope it’s clear, by the way, that neither I nor, presumably, any ASRS officer, believes that Christ determines the exegesis of any biblical passage. The issue here is interpretation of Scripture with a view to contemporary life and faith.)

You remark that “A Christocentric theology of the Bible is obvious and necessary.” That one sentence, though not your comment as a whole, is pretty much the gist of what I believe those ASRS officers wanted to say, and of what I myself want to say.

Chuck

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Shared hermeneutics is the key for our common identity as a worldwide church, next to shared history. One can‘t agree more with the view that differences in hermeneutics are THE actual problem of the Adventist church now. From it stem all its other current major issues. Be it the broad theme of what is a theological or cultural subject, or be it specific like the sanctuary doctrine, the character of God, the trinity, women‘s role in church, creation, the spirit of prophecy or others, whatever question you look at.

The first statement of the ASRS in the article above raised controversial texts which is never a good way to convince an unprepared audience. It even started in a polemic way, and maybe after the first sentence two third of its audience had decided that they don‘t like it and would vote it down.

Instead the statement could have included references to Jesus’ programmatic sermon on the mount: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago … But I tell you …!” (Matth. 5:21.22, NIV) This figure of speech is repeated several times. The fascinated people then realised that they were witnessing an outstanding reinterpretation of the scriptures: "When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law." (Matth. 7:28.29, NIV)

Jesus redefined the meaning of scripture explicitly. Through his words and through his acts. He pointed to the fact that even written laws (how much more then must this be true for stories!?) sometimes were only concessions of God to a sinful society, and that they didn’t express His will in its purest possible form: ““It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied.” (Mark 10:5, NIV). He told his disciples that “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9, NIV). Jesus readjusted his disciples’ distorted understanding of Old Testament stories: “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them? But Jesus turned and rebuked them." (Luke 9: 54.55). Or when they wanted to defend him violently: "The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied. (Luke 22:38, NIV) The examples are countless. Jesus’ hermeneutic skills together with his presence opened the disciples’ eyes on the way to Emmaus for the meaning of the scriptures they had been reading all their lives, and yet they had not understood them! Again he did the same a bit later when he met the twelve: “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:45, NIV).

Actually there could be books written about “Christocentric Hermeneutics”. Books by Adventist scholars that, by the way, we are desperately waiting for to appear at the Adventist Bookshop stand at the coming GC session 2020. Where are the publications by Adventist scholars? I’m not talking about BRI compilations, history glorification or devotionals. I wish to see Adventist scholars from our schools and universities publish more books that are a result of biblical-theological work. And I wish this church and its leadership to respect academic freedom! As God respects humanity‘s freedom. Just imitate the Example!

Linked to the problem of interpreting Scripture is the problem of interpreting Ellen Gould White (EGW). One of the major problems there is, that she is dead. A dead prophet a) can’t update or actualise his/her statements anymore and b) can’t intervene when he/she is misquoted. The fact that during her lifetime EGW corrected other people’s quotes of her words many times should get much more of our attention. If it happened during her lifetime, how much more then does it happen today? This can’t be stressed enough and could be a key to deal with the strange reflex of many Adventists today, who, when asked a theological question, immediately reply with a “…well, let me first check what sister White said…” This, by many, is considered being a pious reply, I know. But I rather think that it is inadequate as an initial response. “Sola Scriptura” - The Christian bible is the basis for our faith. And this Protestant core belief means: our individual reading and understanding of it. Not that of religious authorities, whatever their name or position is. For this view believers have died for through the centuries. Also during her lifetime EGW was never the source of new truth but she was the one who confirmed what other persons had discovered and encouraged the church to take this direction. If we want to develop dogmatic truth as a church, we have to encourage our people to educate themselves and study the scriptures first, not commentaries. Personal study and prayer come before reproducing quotes. The results of these studies have to be verified against the teaching and example of Christ. That’s why a Christocentric hermeneutic is essential.

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (John 5:8, NIV)

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In a sense, the Old Testament is a History Book with Commentary.
Take Jeremiah 2:5-13 and Jeremiah 18.
In both instances God asks – Has anyone heard of such a thing? A
nation reject its gods for other gods? And then replies, Israel has
done this.
And this tradition began way back at Mount Sinai with the Golden Calf
with all the smoke billowing on the mountain.
God continually calling humans to life, and giving instructions on HOW to
have a good life in community.
Continually demonstrated that the wages of sin was bondage and slavery,
but the Gifts of God bestowed a good life individually and in community.
And it was God’s wish that Israel would spread this Good News to other
nations.
Which was God’s original prediction when He talked to Abraham – all the
nations of the earth will be blessed through your family tree. Meaning, taking
the Good News throughout the whole earth.
They did not do this willingly. And so God used “dispersing” of individual
Israelites to other nations to accomplish this task. And they were still there
at the time of Peter’s letters.
The Actual Rules for a successful life were very few, as outlined in the Old
Testament Scriptures. But Pride, Greed, Power also challenged the life-styles.
And Pride, Greed, Power won out much of the time. And was devastating
to the Community as a whole.
They had a FORM of Religion, but denied its Power in their lives. These
Problems continue for humans in the 21st Century.
The Old Testament and the New Testament was and is calling to
Humanity back to True Religion.

A question we need to ask about Seventh-day Adventist Religion – IS IT
A FORM? If it is being PROMOTED as a FORM then it will Offer NO
POWER for the members’ lives.
I see Compliance Committees as part of this FORM of Religion.
I see the Rejection of Women, the Rejection of GLT’s [many who are
children of members] as part of this FORM of Religion.

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This is probably the most important subject on the Spectrum web site in many years, and the most obvious fundamental question for the SDA church. In the meantime we will continue picking our own favorite cherries and insist that ours are the best.

As I am finally beginning to grow up, on the occasion of my 70th birthday I decided to write down a short list of ten items that “I believe”. Here are the four points describing my understanding of hermeneutics:

  • BIBLE: That the Bible shows a history of man’s attempts and struggles to understand God, his requirements to us, and his rewards and punishments.
  • JESUS: That Jesus, gave the clearest picture of God, and demonstrably gave his life to free me from the burden of guilt and fear of punishment.
  • GROWTH: that my understanding of God continues to evolve, both collectively and individually.
  • LOVE AND RESPONBILITY: that the deepest truths of the wisdom literature relate to my daily life, how I treat others and all of God’s creation, and how I relate to the divine.

My ten cents worth…

Carsten

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I agree with your understanding of what the Bible is about. I would just rephrase thus: a record of men of faith trying to express their faith in God while struggling with the issues they and their contemporaries were facing.

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Thanks, Herold, you are Weiss man😉

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Herold –
Wrote that in my bible. Thanks.
Another one I have there – “Somebody else’s mail. Only one side
of the conversation.” “Instruction to specific people/persons.”

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I look forward to reading your paper. I liked your essay on humility that was published in the AUSS journal a few years ago. And I like your comment, having allowed it to season for a day and having read it a few times. I sense that your comment takes the conversation in a different direction from what my comment focuses on, which is fine. I just want to make sure, for the benefit of readers, that we are on the same page regarding what we mean when we speak about hermeneutics.

Barth and Bonhoeffer were not hermeneutists. One can be a visionary, prophet, brilliant theologian, biblical author, intellectual giant, or saint and not be a hermeneutist.

Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation and the art of understanding. This definition hints that hermeneutics has methodological and philosophical concerns. Interpretation and understanding are human constructs. Accordingly, hermeneutics is informed by the human sciences, not in any specific way by Scripture, divine revelation, or the Holy Spirit. (There are caveats and clarifications I can add, that readers might appropriately beg me to add, but allow this statement to sink in and think about it for a while). Hermeneutics focuses on texts, not facts. Hermeneutics in the main (leaving aside Gadamer for the moment) focuses on meaning, not truth (which for him is something that is constructed in a fusion of horizons). And hermeneutics is not relativism, even though hermeneutists are routinely and unfairly accused of being relativists.

Reading your Bible and the writings of Ellen White every day will not make you a hermeneutist. Being wise and spiritually mature is not a substitute for hermeneutical knowledge. Sanctification does not result in a corresponding grasp of hermeneutics. The only way to learn hermeneutics is to study the material.

My sense is that your thinking is on a very high theological plane. In contrast, the study of hermeneutics is relatively mundane and unimportant. The problem, though, is that hermeneutical knowledge, which you clearly have, is requisite to the thinking that you are inviting the Seventh-day Adventist Church to engage in. The question is not what “hermeneutic” the Church should adopt and implement. That there might be a special or particular “hermeneutic” that we should adopt and implement is not seriously urged in the literature. The question is whether Seventh-day Adventists will ever be motivated to learn the material.

False problems and false solutions, a satanic dialectic. Christ sheep know His voice, they know His victory, they know His answers.

Phil,

I appreciate your comments. I specifically picked up on the beginning of your third paragraph: “It’s obvious that there is a theological agenda at work here. The perspective is that God of the OT is malevolent, but Jesus is nice. The reality is that God of the OT and Jesus are one and the same.”

I’m not approaching this subject as an academic or hermeneutical expert of any sort. I will gladly align myself with “the least of these.” I am simply frustrated with my church which to me seems to have for a long time been on a trajectory away from the convictions of truth that were the foundation of Adventism.

We cannot all be theologians or topflight academics, but as I understand the Gospel we are all invited with the capacity to know truth, at least enough truth to be able to accept Christ’s offer of salvation.

Another Spectrum article this week seems pertinent to this conversation, “Monkey See, Monkey Do.” Monkey See, Monkey Do This article emphasizes the risk of taking our truth from others and tradition devoid of our own personal Bible knowledge.

We must each dig into our Bibles personally. Fabricating the right wording to publish on the denomination’s website regarding our reliance on Jesus does nothing for us if we are not personally able to defend our faith.

When people talk about Jesus these days it’s hard to tell which version of Jesus they are talking about. It could be the real and true Jesus we know from God’s Word. It could be an antichrist variety of a false Jesus claiming to be Jesus or to have the authority of Jesus. It could be man’s own interpretation simply put forth using the name of Jesus in vain.

Would you ever consider writing an article elaborating on your opening of paragraph three in your comment? The tendency these days to portray Jesus as loving and pacifist avoids the Biblical truth that Jesus destroyed already once the entire human population save one small family. Jesus is the single most prolific source of Biblical references to hell. Revelation tells us about the wrath of the Lamb. Jesus speaks with a tongue as a two-edged sword. Jesus says he didn’t come into this world to bring peace but a sword. Jesus foretells that the last days will be as the days of Noah, that His church will be a remnant, that the world will be destroyed by fire.

Bonhoeffer speaks of cheap grace. The conversation that I hear today talks about Jesus as if He is some version of a Disney styled fairy godmother only delivering nice things and circumstances. The love called for by many who use the name of Jesus is more a selfish agenda. Jesus anticipated this when He said in Matthew 7:21 “ 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Calls to adjust the official Adventist use of the name of Jesus must be true to the real Head of the church.

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To my knowledge this is not the present position of of the Adventist church, – to be specific, ever since the ‘spirit of prophecy’ became the integral part of the 28 FB. We have two sources – Bible and Ellen White.

Much of the extra-biblical input of Ellen White covering Genesis to Revelation is undoubtedly new truth because it is not found in the bible and goes beyond the bible.
It was true however, she was consulted as a medium to verify their findings on difficult bible passages.

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Aben, what is a prophet? Ellen White aside, do you believe God will have prophets in the last days? Will these prophets simply repeat word for word what is in the Bible? Does God ever say that new truth will never be given by prophets? To denounce EGW as you do here subverts the Bible’s authority that God will raise up prophets in the last days. I still appreciate the counsel and insights of EGW but I do not place anything she says as authoritative above the Bible. You may argue that EGW is not a true prophet, but you argue against the Bible itself to suggest that God will not reveal extra-biblical truth through prophets.

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