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Canonizing Culture

by Stephen Hebert on Friday - 31 July 2009

in Ministry

Let me tell you what is keeping me up at nights: hermeneutics.

When I say, “Hermeneutics,” I mean it in the rather strict sense that Gordon Fee defines in some of his essays. Fee describes hermeneutics over against exegesis in an effort to create a distinction between the two so that he can talk about two different operations that, for all intents and purposes, would fall under the same blanket term: hermeneutics.

  • Exegesis — The interpretation of a text with an eye toward historical context.
  • Hermeneutics — The application of a text to our time (e.g., taking the 2000 year old New Testament and applying it to 21st century Western society).

It should be clear that both of these operations are not without their issues. For example, when we look at exegesis, we must immediately ask: “How do we go from text to context?” That is, of course, a classic historiographical issue. With respect to hermeneutics, we must ask an equally basic question: “Should we be attempting to apply these texts to our context in the first place?”

Because I believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and that it is “useful for instruction” (See 2 Timothy 3:16), I must overwhelmingly affirm the application of Biblical texts to my own life. In fact, I take a very serious (some would say “high”) view of Scripture.

Here’s the problem: the texts of the New Testament were written roughly twenty centuries ago. Is it possible that some of the messages contained therein were not meant for a 21st century crowd? Or is it possible that some of those messages weren’t really meant for a 1st century crowd but are enormously important to those of us living in the 21st century? Quite the conundrum.

If our interpretation and understanding of these texts is inccorect, we may be in danger of canonizing culture.

What are your thoughts?

What do you see as the most contentious interpretive issues facing Christians today?

I would love to think about those issues that you find most difficult. So, let’s start a discussion.

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