Saturday, June 03, 2006

Problem 3

To understand this aspect of the problem, you have to put on your post-modern glasses. (I’m not suggesting that you keep them on so long that you get a headache. But you need to see how the post-modern person is able to expose some serious flaws in the modernist view.)

First, let me make some “quick-and-dirty” definitions. By “modernism” I mean the philosophy that grew out of the Enlightenment. Most Christians are so deeply immersed in modernism that they cannot imagine any other way to view reality. They can’t imagine Christianity without a modernist foundation. (And some theologies are so entwined with modernism that it may not be possible to extract the modernist assumptions without “killing” the theology.)

And “post-modernism” is the reaction against the assumptions of modernism. The extreme expression of post-modernism proclaims that there is no objective truth (except, of course, this objective truth).

The modernist view is that a text is an object that can be examined objectively by a scholar and then explained to a listener or reader. The post-modern view takes the other extreme and says that a text has only subjective meanings that change with each new context: the culture, the examiner, the student, etc.

While the post-modern view is essentially self-refuting, it does help us to see that modernism has some glaring problems.

Here is Fitch’s analysis:

“The text becomes an object in the hands of the preacher as it is broken down into three points to be given out as something the listener can use. Once the sermon is given, the text becomes an object to be consumed by the parishioner, who in turn listens, analyzes, takes notes, and goes out to be a doer of the information just heard, which consequently distances the listener from the text” (p. 137).

As long as the text is an object, it has no authority and no power to transform lives.

Here is the great irony. While the preacher and the congregation are proclaiming the superiority of their high view of the Bible, they are shifting the control of the meaning of the Bible from the Bible itself to the autonomous (Cartesian) minds first of the preachers and then of the listeners.

The listeners are able to keep their egos firmly in place as they manage their consumption of God’s Word. They return home with what they think they heard or what they wanted to hear.

The method that was devised to give authority to the Bible has deftly robbed it of its authority and power.

So what do you think?

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”


nathaniel adam king said...

If the post-modern view is that the text has only subjective meanings that change, and if you say that this view is self-refuting, then I am assuming you believe the text to indeed have objective meanings that do not change. Am I correct?

If I am, if you do believe that the meaning of the text is indeed objective (not changing), then why again can this non-changing meaning not be examined objectively by a scholar? why can it not be explained to a listener or reader?

If I was to write, 'I like chai'. And if we assumed that the meaning behind these words were objective (as we are not to be post-modern here). Then the objective meaning behind this text would be that 'Adam likes chai'.

Could you not then understand this and explain this to someone else? Could you not convey this message to one of your friends or mine? Could you not tell them that 'Adam likes chai'?

I'm really not understanding here. Please help.

Pastor Rod said...


I can see that you are having a little trouble with your post-modern glasses.

The first step is to see the influence that Enlightenment thinking has upon us and our theology. Jesus was not a modernist. He did not think like Descartes, Hume or Kant.

I used to explain this by saying that Jesus was an eastern teacher, not a western teacher.

[stream of consciousness]
In the Hebrew mind a text often had several meanings.

Jesus often spoke in riddles and paradoxes that may have had no specific objective meaning.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews says, "For the word of God is living and active" (4:12).

The interaction between Jesus and Nicodemus is generally misunderstood because we tend to read it literally. Jesus was speaking in figurative language, and Nicodemus understood that.
[/stream of consciousness]

When we treat the text as an object, we do several things.

First, we create distance between us and the text.

Second, we put ourselves in a position of superiority over the text.

Third, we treat the text as something we can manipulate.


As for your example, most of the Bible is not in the form of "Adam likes chai."

Rather it is most often of this form:
On a Tuesday, Adam, Josh and Luke walked into Starbucks. They greeted the barista.

She smiled at them and made two lattes and a chai. Adam took the chai and joined Josh and Luke at a table with their lattes.

Adam took a sip of his chai and sighed in contentment. He completely forgot about Josh ridiculing him earlier about the goofy shirt he was wearing.

OK, so my attempt at narrative is lame, but you get my point. Even the letters have a narrative context.


Pastor Rod said...


I forgot something in my stream of consciousness: The New Testament writers did not use the historical-grammatical method in interpreting the Old Testament Scriptures.


Luke Britt said...


I agree that the NT writers did not use the historical grammatical hermeneutic, BUT they did usually have the same aim - to make much of Jesus by showing the objective meaning that the Spirit had revealed.

I don't think expository preaching is anything of what you or that author guy say it is. If a definition were given for expository preaching, then it would make more sense, but like typical postmodern approaches, your argument has started with seemingly endless negativity.

Also, I have a question that I would like for you to answer: What epistle is written in narrative?

Now before you answer this, Paul uses stories to prove his point, but he himself is expositing the old testament narrative to give an objective meaning.

Anonymous said...

I think the NT authors sometimes did not use the HG method.

Anonymous said...

I think Galatians is at least partially narrative.

One non-HG ref is the "out of Egypt I have called my son" quote from Hosea 11:1 in Mat 2:14-15 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son."

In Hosea is clearly refers to Israel and no one would even guess it had another fulfillment, but here Matthew says it has one. My take is he did this (1) under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (as it is Scripture) and (2) to Jews who would accept this kind of argument, even tho it is not HG.

Pastor Rod said...


The short answer is that nearly all the letters have a narrative context. Even Romans is built on a narrative structure.