Post-Modern Hermeneutic Taught At A Wesleyan University

“One can very well hear God’s voice through Scripture just fine without the AHA, but you will never understand Scripture as it actually is if you think the meaning you see in it is ‘in there.’ Meaning is not ‘in’ a text. Meaning is a function of the way words are used by readers. The meaning of the Bible is not in the Bible. It is in the reader of the Bible.

If the reader of the Bible reads the words with the assumptions of common Christian faith, they will read it as Scripture. They will read it Christianly. If a person reads it with their denominational assumptions, they will read it and see the teachings of their denominations. And if one reads it in terms of the assumptions of the original contexts of each text, then one will read in it in terms of what it actually and originally meant.”

Wesleyan University Professor (WUP)

1.) WUP has given us a text in which, according to his own testimony, has no meaning in it. There is no meaning in this text. The only meaning in the text that WUP has given us here is a meaning of how I, the reader, use the words. Though it should be kept in mind that given WUP ‘s understanding, WUP has not really given us any meaning but only words in which we bring meaning.

So given that reality, the meaning I, the sovereign reader, find in this text is that “there is a need to pick up some Hairspray for Cinco-De-Maya day festival, condoms for party favors, hair glue for that stand up finish, and horses for pool dipping excuses.”

Now, of course, everyone thinks that silly but there is a point that I am making here and that is that in order for WUP’s postmodern interpretive process to get off the ground he is assuming what he denies to be the case. He is assuming some kind of static meaning in what he writes that is decipherable and yet he wants to deny that same static meaning to be found in other texts.

Second, on this score, clearly, as an author trying to communicate with a reader, WUP  would not want someone to do such interpretive damage to what he has written and yet that is a legitimate outcome according to his hermeneutic. Once the author is dead, there are no limits on where the sovereign reader can take a text.

2.) WUP denies that there is meaning in the text but still insists that God’s voice can be heard in Scripture. Clearly, the question is, “How.” Whatever voice of whatever god that WUP is hearing in the text is a God and a voice that has no connection to God as the author of the text. The advocacy of hearing God’s voice through Scripture in such a theory can only be the hearing of a completely objectively unknowable god. WUP has given us the mystical hearing of god’s voice that one might find in the writings of Meister Eckhart.

3.) Note that WUP still writes about “understanding Scripture as it actually is,” as if the text of Scripture has some stable objective meaning that can be appealed to. And yet such a statement is in clear contradiction to everything else WUP writes in these two paragraphs. If meaning is what the reader invents and has no correlation to any authorial intent then there is no understanding Scripture as it actually is because there is no Scripture that objectively is apart from a plethora of potentially differing sovereign readers.

4.) For all I’ve said so far, it must be conceded that meaning is not isolated to the text. In order for meaning to be realized, there has to be a confluence of the author’s intent w/ the reader’s understanding. The text does have objective meaning but if the subject who is reading the text never arrives at that meaning, meaning has not been achieved for the subject and remains dormant in the text and unrealized in the reader.

5.) It is curious that WUP would admit that “Meaning is a function of the way words are used by readers,” and yet not simultaneously realize that meaning also is a function of the way words are used by writers. Still, we have to realize that for WUP, the author is dead.

6.) WUP tells us that we must get to the assumptions of the original contexts in order to get to what was actually and originally meant. This is either subterfuge or ignorance on WUP ‘s part for it it simply is the case that according to WUP’s own paradigm it is impossible to get to the assumptions of the original contexts since it is only by means of texts that have no inherent meaning that one can explore the assumptions of the original contexts. If only texts can give original contexts and if no text has meaning that the reader does not bring then how can original contexts give us assumptions that informed texts?

7.) Note that for WUP that God as the author has completely disappeared. One can read the text w/ Christian assumptions and so come up w/ Christian meaning. One can read the text with Denominational assumptions and so come up w/ denominational meanings. And in a contradictory voice (see #6) WUP writes that one can read the text with originalist assumptions and come up w/ originalist meanings. However, what WUP never says is that the text can be read w/ God’s assumptions and so one can come up with God’s meaning of the text.

8.) Now having said all this, I would insist that arriving at God’s meaning in the text is not a “science.” I do think that arriving at God’s meaning in the text can at times be as much intuitive as it is following some kind of 10 step method. However, in order for the intuitive to work our intuitions have to be trained by an ordered process. Much like before an acclaimed artist can break the boundaries of his art, thus creating true masterpieces, so the Maestro Biblical interpreter will break the boundaries of his circumscribing methodologies and discover truths in God’s word that others will never see because he follows intuition that was formed by years of ordered process.

WUP wants to skip all the ordered processes and go straight to the Masterpiece. This is like thinking that a 5-year-old just beginning to learn the violin will create some masterpiece.

WUP ’s methodology is going to give us a generation of men in the pulpit that are just as dangerous as he is.

A Brief Meditation on Ecclesiastes 7:13

Consider the work of God

For who can make straight what He has made crooked.
Ecclesiastes 7:13

1.) Note that God is ascribed the power of making matters crooked. Clearly a statement of God’s sovereignty.

2.) Christians often are guilty in history of rushing in to make straight what God has decreed to be crooked and as such find themselves to be fighting against God.

3.) Note that God is not absent from the crooked things in the world. Things or matters are not crooked by fate, chance, or any other impersonal abstraction. God is personally present in all things … both crooked and straight

4.) Coming as this does in the context of wisdom, the appeal seems to be for the wise to show their wisdom by being able to discern what in God’s work he has made crooked.

May God give us the wisdom to rightly discern.

Revelation Before Reason

Naked Reason cannot rebuild Christian civilization.

No, there must first be a pre-theoretical revelational commitment that is anchored in the testimony of the Scriptures in order for reason to be reasonable and in order for reason to be of usage in rebuilding Christendom.

Well… it is not only Christians who understand that putatively naked reason cannot provide answers. It is also the case that many non-Christians get that point also. This explains our turn to the non-rational and the irrational. Pagan Intellectuals have for decades now have understood that there is no rational reason for rationality.

As of late, we have been deluged with the philosophy of postmodernism which boldly says things like what was recently said by a Syracuse University philosophy and religion professor Prof. John Caputo who critiqued the notion of pure reason as simply being a “white male Euro-Christian construction.”

Given its emphasis on first principles and abstract thought, it may be tempting to view academic philosophy as a turf where the race of participants matters little, but Caputo says that’s entirely untrue. In fact, race is of central importance, and it’s proven by the mundane phrases philosophers use. Captuo offered that the supposed “reason” underlying philosophy is just another form of white privilege … or something of that nature.

So, academia in many cases is proudly touting that reason and logic are themselves socially constructed, and being socially constructed they (logic and reason) are used by white people to be oppressors. And as this is becoming a watchword among academia it teaches us again that reason alone will not rebuild Christendom.