Without a hermeneutic movements become memories

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This post by Erik Raymond highlights a principle that must be applied to all our affinities and allegiances:

“Recently I was able to sit on a panel for a discussion among some local church planters. One of the questions was, “What are you most concerned about with the gospel-centered movement?”

Before expressing any concern I want to be clear: I am very encouraged by the recovery of the center, the gospel, among many, particularly younger evangelicals. This is essential for us at this hour.

At the same time I have a cause for concern. My chief concern is not primarily a matter of theology but hermeneutics (the art and science of interpretation).

It appears that the gospel-centered movement is very good at buying books, reading blogs and listening to sermons. We excel at catching John Piper’s passion for a God-saturated, joy-effusing, expository exultation (not to mention his penchant for hyphenated descriptors). We buy in to Tim Keller’s Center Church model. We can likewise read Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Spurgeon, Owen and the rest. We have theological comprehension.

But how did we get there? Did we simply read the right books, listen to the right sermons or go to the right conferences? Do we even know how to come to these conclusions on our own? Can we see the Solas arise out of the Bible before they pop off of Calvin’s Institutes? It’s one thing to have been able to say you have been to a nice restaurant in a particular city with some friends, but if you don’t know how to get there yourself then you’ll never be able to eat that food again, much less take someone else out to enjoy the same experiences. My fear is that too many have been piling into the RC Sproul theological minivan to go eat a feast but never learned how to actually find their way to the meal.

The danger here should be obvious. Without a hermeneutical base to undergird our theological conclusions we are susceptible to losing what we have. If we are just fan-boys then we may follow a new theological band someday. If we are just fan-boys then we can’t train a new generation to discover these truths themselves.

What is needed more than simply a theological system is a hermeneutic. If the gospel-centered movement is not built upon a consistent, biblical hermeneutic then we will lose this thing as fast as we seem to have received it. Without a hermeneutic movements become memories.”

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4 comments

  1. Are you saying that each and every Christian is able to develop their own hermeneutic apart from the skills and insights of those preacher/teachers you’ve mentioned? Is it wrong then, to use them?

    1. Hi Dick. No, I don’t think that’s what Erik is getting at. I’m sure he agrees with sound hermeneutic principles that do not give license to personalised, subjective approaches to interpreting Scripture.
      What he’s saying is, for a genuinely evangelical movement to have the longevity it deserves, the adherents have to have bought into the biblical/textual rationale behind the expression of a particular belief/emphasis. Otherwise, for these ‘second-generationers’ it might just be a ‘triba’l connection that will only last until the next new trend comes along.

  2. Yes, but whose hermeneutic?
    Much has been written about this by philosophers and theologians
    Dilthey or Heidegger?
    Schleiermacher?
    Gadamer?

    Perhaps we need a further article on Biblical Herneneutics?

    1. That’s a good idea Brian. Perhaps I would lead with: “Scripture interprets Scripture”. Which begs the question, what is Scripture? If we get that right there is hope for us all in interpreting the bible rightly. But see my comment to Dick for a explanation of the author’s intent.

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