The comments by Chris Spinks to a recent post of mine and discussions in my PhD seminar on the history of NT research with Donald Hagner have prompted me to think about biblical interpretation and presuppositions. This is only going to be a small post in which I start thinking about this subject. With several new books on my shelf that might help hone my thinking on this subject, expect me to be blogging about this more and more.
So here are just some initial thoughts to get the cogs of my brain moving (and perhaps yours too!):
1. All of us have presuppositions. In line with postmodern thought, the idea of purely objective investigation of any sort is untenable.
2. We all need to admit our presuppositions openly. This means that we can't wait until we are pressed on an issue and then say "Well, that's because I am a Mennonite" or "That's because I'm a proponent of process theology" or "Of course it seems that way; I am a white, middle-class male after all." Wouldn't it be easier if we let people know up front?
3. Despite its elusiveness, we shouldn't give up the task of trying to find out what Paul or John or Matthew or even Jesus intended. Theoretically, Chris is right, if we were to find this intention then the historical-critical method would be kaput. But with new discoveries, new technologies, and new historical methods this isn't likely to happen.
4. Lastly, perhaps we should consciously try to read the text against our presuppositions and traditions. This could help prevent us from making Paul or Jesus sound exactly like us and instead may help each of us see past our own fields of vision.
So where should I start? Perhaps I'll take my own advice and admit some of my presuppositions here. I am a Christian who tends to be moderate, though sometimes a little right of the center. I am married with no kids and I am 28 years old. I'm white, I'm male, and I'm middle class. I was raised as a Southern Baptist, became a moderate Baptist, and now I don't attend a Baptist church at all. I am ordained but I am currently not on staff at a church. I do, however, teach a Sunday School class for adults each week, which influences the way I read the Bible. I tend to prefer grammatical, historical, lexical, semantic, and literary arguments over theological or ideological ones. I prefer historical theology to systematics. I believe that the Bible is authoritative because it contains our only reliable witnesses to the historical revelation of God, which climaxed in the person of Jesus. And, I am a dog lover!