As a seminary student, I cannot tell you how many hours I spend discussing all things theological. From the relevance of perichoresis Trinitarianism to the singing of Psalms in modern worship services (which everyone should embrace!). Round and ’round we go. One of my favorite topics of discussion is theory and method for interpreting the Bible.
A bit of background for these discussions is probably required for the reader who is not a theological yuppie like most who indulge in these debates. There is a set of cultural attitudes that, although they have begun to wane, exert force on modern culture called Post-Modernism. Without seeking to define all of these attitudes, it is necessary to note the emphasis it places on the contribution that we contribute to what we know. This is especially clear in its approach to interpreting texts, whether it be Herman Melville’s Moby Dick or the book of Chronicles. Postmodern advocates would argue that it is naive to pursue the intention of the author or the meaning of a text because our minds (trapped as they are by language and community) so shape what they receive that it creates a whole other text. (think Neo before that pesky red pill).
Okay, those of you who just stopped reading the above paragraph at “Post-Modernism” can just go back and read the parenthesis. For the rest of you, thanks for bearing with me. So whats the point of all this? Well, mostly it provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate where the rhetoric of my postmodern-leaning friends is often more powerful than the substance of their thinking . When arguing for what might seem to be a common sense distinction between observation, interpretation, application in biblical interpretation; my friends often ask me to specify where one ends and the other begins. I must confess I found this retort to be persuasive for a time, and experienced no small amount of existential frustration.
Yet clearer thinking has won the day, at least in my old attic. If anyone uses this kind of argument with you, ask them to perform a simple exercise that should clear the matter up straight away. Clearly, we all know (that pesky common sense again) what a forearm, elbow, and (upper) arm are. Yet would someone please point out to me precisely where the elbow ends and the arm begins? Or another anatomical example, where your foot ends and toes begin? Ergo, it is possible to have a difference without a clearly defined distinction.