International Woman’s Day with Eta Linnemann … Identifying Historical-Critical Methodology

I thought in honor of International Woman’s Day, I would spend some time reading a female theologian. I am sensitive to these kinds of special days as I am always trying to find ways to fit in. In light of that,I am finishing up Eta Linnemman’s, “Historical Criticism of the Bible; Methodology or Ideology?” Linneman was trained by some of the best known Historical-Critical “theologians” on the Continent (Bultmann, Fuchs, Gogarten, Ebeling). After writing a couple books using this methodology she was, by her own testimony, converted. In this book, she examines her former “theology” from a Biblical foundation. From the outset Linnemann lets her mind be known,

“Today, I realize that historical-critical theology’s monopolistic character and worldwide influence is a sign of God’s judgment (Romans 1:18-32).

Eta Linnemann
Historical Criticism of the Bible; Methodology or Ideology — pg. 18

She has confirmed for me that the Historical-critical hermeneutical school is characterized by the following,

1.) Historical-Critical theology presupposes that the supernatural is not true. Now, they may talk about the supernatural and they may talk about God but in their worldview “God” is defined in one of two ways. God is either defined as non-transcendent so that he is completely immanent

“A scientific historiography arose which first excluded God as an active agent in the historical process by introducing ‘a god of the philosophers’ who conveyed awareness of himself immanently in the course of history. This pseudo-god soon turned out to be superfluous, but he had served to eliminate the possibility of the true God’s real and ongoing activity in human history. In this way there came to be a totally atheistical historical ‘science.'”

Eta Linnamenn
Historical Criticism of the Bible; Methodology or Ideology — pg. 30

Or God is so transcendent that His transcendence is beyond the ability for the creature to know anything about himA God this transcendent ends up being no different than a God who is completely immanent. Any talk of the “supernatural” for this kind of theologian finds such supernatural as the result of the outworking of the Geist in the historical process. This remains a completely immanent process.

Yarbough offers in the introduction to Linnemann’s work,

“In the historical-critical hermeneutic, God as understood in historic orthodox Christian, thought is systematically ruled out of consideration and is replaced by human self-awareness and purely immanent forces; as the historical theology textbooks put it, anthropology replaces theology.”

Robert Yarbrough
Translator’s Introduction
Historical Criticism of the Bible; Methodology or Ideology — pg. 12

2.)  Historical-critical theology insists that the text must be approached by neither presupposing that it is or is not true or false. Complete neutrality as accompanied by a putatively presuppositional-less bias is the required approach. Of course, by not presupposing that the text is God’s authoritative Word the result is that man becomes sovereign over God’s Word in determining what is to be believed and what is to be eschewed. Of course, this is sold as the ability to be “completely objective,” but objectivity has been completely surrendered the minute that presuppositions affirming the truthfulness of God’s Word are surrendered. There is no reasoning from nowhere. Everyone approaches texts with faith assumptions. Surrendering proper God-centered presuppositions means embracing improper humanist centered presuppositions. Neutrality is a myth.

Linnemann offers,

“In Historical-Critical methodology, the research is conducted ut si Deus non daretur (as if there were no God). That means the reality of God is excluded from consideration from the start, even if the researcher acknowledges that God could bear witness of Himself in His Word. The standard by which all is assessed is not God’s Word but ‘scientific’ principle…. Scientific principle has come to have the status of idol.”

Eta Linnamenn
Historical Criticism of the Bible; Methodology or Ideology? — pg. 84

3.) One sign of Historical-Critical theology is the tendency to read the varying human authors of the Scripture as if they are in contradiction with one another. As a random example, when one pits the “Theology of Luke” against say the “Theology of Peter,”  as if they contradict each other what one has done, whether they realize it or not, is to have embraced a paradigm that eschews divine inspiration. If God is ultimately the one author of all the authors of Revelation then it cannot be held that those authors contradict one another unless one is willing to say that God contradicts Himself.

4.) The Historical-Critical method tends to find a canon within a canon. This arbitrary canon then becomes the prism through which all other books of the bible are read.

Linneman again,

“In order to do justice to the claim of authority which the Biblical canon has for the church, and also for personal orientation, one seeks a canon within the canon. A few come up with little more than Romans 7, the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, and the parable of the final judgment in Matthew 25. For others, this ‘canon within the canon’ extends further. In either case, this standard is used to assess the rest of the Bible, and Sachkritik (a method in which what is deemed to be of central importance is used as a standard against which other parts of the Bible are measured) is employed, whether implicitly or explicitly.”

Eta Linnamenn
Historical Criticism of the Bible; Methodology or Ideology? — pg.  86

By using this Sachkritik methodology all that lies outside of or is in contradiction to the Historical-Critical “theologian’s” hobby horses are readily overturn.

5.) The art of Pseudomorphosis is ubiquitous. Linnemann informs us that Pseudomorphosis is when concepts are emptied of their meaning and then filled with a new content which has no more in common with the original meaning than the name itself.  In Pseudomorphosis Christian words and phrases, while being retained, have been hollowed out by the Enlightenment project. The ideas of the Endarkenment, from Deism to Transcendentalism – Romanticism, to Darwinism, to Existentialism – Nihilism to Postmodernism, all have been as so many ichneumon flies who laid their eggs inside their Christian host. On the outside, the host may look fine but on the inside, the larvae are eating out the host from the inside out. The outer form of Christianity has remained undamaged. We still use the same language and jargon. But the thing itself is dead, and what will soon emerge is the ugly offspring of the flies who successfully laid their eggs. What Linnemann offers as Pseudomorphosis others have labeled as “linguistic deception.”

6.) There is a distinction made between the words of the Bible and God’s Word. The Bible is the Word of God is exchanged for “the Bible contains the word of God and so may become the Word of God.” This forms the genesis of what became known as encounter theology. The Bible may well become the word of God for the reader in an encounter that results in a meaningful experience but Scripture itself is not the objective word of God.  Eta Linnemaan offers,

The Bible is no longer esteemed as God’s word in the way it is handled. It is taken for granted that the words of the Bible and God’s words are not identical. The printed matter between the two covers of the Bible is said not to be God’s word in and of itself. It becomes God’s Word only from time to time when it functions as through reading or preaching.”

Eta Linnamenn
Historical Criticism of the Bible; Methodology or Ideology? — pg.  85

Reformed vs. Lutheran Preaching … A Brief Synopsis

 

Lutheran preaching uses the Law and Gospel hermeneutic. It will often begin with what God requires and man can not give (Law) and will finish with what God alone gives (Gospel). Like Lutheran theology, Lutheran preaching terminates on man.

Reformed preaching often likewise followed the Law and Gospel hermeneutic. Reformed preaching will also emphasize how the law leaves us guilty before God, with the same ringing announcement that God must do all.

The difference between Lutheran and Reformed preaching is that Lutherans saw Justification (the Gospel glad tidings in preaching) as being an end in itself. Once the announcement was made to man that God has done all that is the end. Not so the Reformed. The Reformed agreed with Lutherans on the wonder of Justification (the Gospel glad tidings in preaching) BUT the Reformed insisted that Justification was not an end but a means to a higher end — a higher end that could not be spoken of apart from the good news. The higher end of Justification was the answering of the question, “How shall we now live, as a Justified people, in order to glorify God.”

In brief the Reformed didn’t absolutize the antithesis between Law and Gospel. The Reformed in their preaching, following Scripture, saw the hermeneutical antithesis as between the seed of the Woman and the seed of the Serpent. The law does not function solely as negative in the lives of those who belong to Christ. The Reformed saw a harmony between the Gospel and the third use of the law with which Lutherans are not typically comfortable.

And so Reformed preaching goes on from Lutheran truncated Law Gospel to explain what it looks like now, in keeping with the third use of the law,  for a purified people who have been Redeemed by Christ from every lawless deed to now live as a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14)

Lutheran ears hear Reformed preaching and think that it fails their Law Gospel hermeneutic, and so is legalistic, but the point of the matter is, is that Lutherans have made the Gospel end upon man’s salvation (and so really is anthropocentric) while Reformed preaching understands that man’s salvation serves God’s glorification and so Reformed preaching, while announcing the same glad tidings as Lutheran preaching goes on to instruct God’s people that salvation means that we make it our goal to please Him and then spends time how it is that people who God is pleased with, for the sake of Christ’s atoning work, can live as children who please their Father in all their living. Thus Reformed preaching is Christocentric.

Subtle differences. Important differences.

Now, Reformed preaching can break down and where I have heard Reformed preaching break down is in the respect that it is often Law/Gospel/ and then the Law again as a means to earn God’s favor. It ends up sounding something like, “Yeah. Isn’t the good news good. OK. That’s enough of a break from the burden of the law. Now get back under there and start doing some “sanctified” law keeping.” To avoid falling back under the works of the law, we need to keep in mind the Heidelberg Catechism which teaches us that good works are,

Only those which are done
out of true faith,
in accordance with the law of God,
and to his glory,
and not those based
on our own opinion
or on precepts of men

We also need to keep in mind that we, as God’s Redeemed, never obey in order to attain an uncertain forgiveness, but we obey out of love and gratitude for a certain forgiveness granted. We do not obey to gain life.  We obey out of life already obtained. As such, our third use of the law, law respecting, is not a threat to justification by faith alone.

Next, we need to remember that the Holy Spirit has been given as a deposit guaranteeing that which is to come. Because we have been given the Holy Spirit we are a people thirsty to work out what God has worked within us. We are not a people who are obeying by lifting ourselves by our own bootstraps, seeking to curry an uncertain favor. Rather we are a people who are only living in ways that we are bent toward due to our possession of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, we need to keep before us that even when God is pleased to increase in His people sanctification that we still are only received by Him for the sake of the finished work of Jesus Christ. We remain unprofitable servants who have, even when we have done what we think is our “best,” only done what we ought (Luke 17:10). There is nothing in us or our performance that wins our salvation. Our salvation is anchored only in the performance of the Lord Christ on our behalf. This is a comfort to us when we begin to see that even our best of works are far from what they are called to be.

Scripture and Light

In the Genesis record, God said, “Let their be light” (Gen 1:3) and that light appears overcoming the darkness, saturating the creation realm with God’s authority.  In Isaiah the Servant of the Lord was promised to be a light both to Israel and to the Nations who were not yet covenanted with God as Israel was,

“I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness,
I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You,
And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the nations.” Isaiah 42:6

He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also make You a light of the nations
So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6

In the Gospel accounts, that Servant of the Lord promised … the Lord Christ is the Redemptive light come to inaugurate a new age, a new realm, and a glorious new day as from the Father of lights (James 1:17). He is the light who enlightens every man (John 1:19) Christ is the new covenant age light that shines in the darkness (John 1:5). The Apostles saw He who was the radiance of the glory of God (Hebrews 1:1) as the glory of the One and only who came from the Father (John 1:1-4). As the age to come Light, the followers of the Lord Christ never walk in darkness (John 8:12). Christ as the Redemptive light of the age to come demonstrated and revealed itself with a white hot intensity at the transfiguration wherein even His clothing became dazzling white (Mark 9:1-4).  In the crucifixion He who is “the Light of the World” is snuffed out and as on cue, the light goes out for three hours Christ (Matthew 27:45). Light is picked up again in John’s Revelation wherein John the Revelator falls as dead as before a super nova God-man (Rev. 1:14-17). Finally, as the Scripture started with light, it forms an inclusio by ending with He who is the light, as it closes with the motif of Christ as the light which illuminates the new Jerusalem.  He who ever was very light of very light remains the light of the world (Rev. 22:4).

The Untenableness of Neo-Orthodox Theology Exposed

“The (neo-orthodox) theologians stand before the Bible in the expectation that through preaching the words of the Bible will become the word of God as the Bible’s audience encounters them in the written witness to Jesus Christ. Barth is famous for the syollogism, ‘The Word written: the Word preached: the Word revealed.’ In other words the written words of the Bible become the word of God to the Church through the preaching of Jesus Christ. As the Bible engenders faith in Jesus Christ, it becomes the Word of God. Surely it is important to combine Word and Spirit  to know God in Jesus Christ, but to restrict the revelation  of the word of God to the human encounter with God in that preaching locates the Bible’s authority in the Christian’s experience of revelation, not in the Bible’s  divine inspiration of that revelation. God’s Word is God’s Word whether or not it is recognized as such, just as a father and a mother are a child’s parents whether accepted or rejected by the child.

The neo-orthodox tend to distinguish between Jesus Christ as the Word of God and Scripture as a ‘witness’ to the Word of God. Barth grounded his dogmatic theology on an orthodox understanding of Jesus Christ as the embodiment of God and of God’s purpose for humankind, but regrettably not on the whole Bible, which he did not regard as inerrant. According to neo-orthodox theology, biblical statements that do not contribute to the witness to Jesus Christ are not necessarily true. This position is unstable because it exalts Christ by depreciating the text that bears witness to His exaltation. In other words according to the neo-orthodox, one hears the Word of God in the Bible as one hears music on a scratched record. In this way they tend to set up the canon of the message of Jesus Christ (i.e.– The music) as more valuable then the whole canon of Scripture (i.e. — the record); a canon within the canon. This dichotomy creates an unstable theology — evangelical and unorthodox regarding the authority of all of Scripture. A canon-within-a-canon theology ultimately places authority in the audience.”

Bruce Waltke 
An Old Testament Theology — pg. 75-76

A small beef with Waltke, in this otherwise fine quote, is his giving in to feminist theology as seen in his usage of “humankind,” as opposed to “mankind.”

Waltke’s Woolly Headed Thinking

The following quote is written by a Biblical theologian and it shows. Honestly, I think this is not well thought out.

“Biblical theologians differ from dogmaticians in three ways. First, Biblical theologians primarily think as exegetes. not as logicians.”

(So exegesis is done non logically?)

“Secondly, they derive their organizational principles from the Biblical blocks of writings themselves rather than factors external to the text.”

(This is the old “we just let the text speak for itself saw.”)

“Third, their thinking is diachronic — that is, they track the development of theological themes in various blocks of writings. Systematic theologians think more synchronically — that is, they invest their energies on the church’s doctrines, not on the development of religious ideas within the Bible.”

(“We’re more Biblical than you are .. nah nah nah nah nah.”)

Bruce K. Waltke
An OT Theology — pg. 64

I’m not sure many Biblical theologians realize how dependent they are on systematic categories before they even come to the text.

Biblical theologians would not seem to be able to be presuppositionalists. They seem to contend that they just observe the unfolding facts of redemptive history while then allowing a philosophy of fact to emerge. However, Van til was right when he offered that there is no fact without a philosophy of fact.  We need to reiterate again that “Biblical theology” still uses presuppositions and constructs to order their study just like systematic or dogmatic theologians.