Skip to main content

Introducing Hermeneutical Frameworks III

In the last post we examined the traditional Evangelical hermeneutical method, where inerrancy functions as a key control in interpretation. As I mentioned, though, others don't take this approach. Another very common framework is to interpret using the 'rule of faith.'

Those who hold this view interpret within the 'box' of creedal orthodoxy. Scripture is still fully authoritative in the life of the church, but the way we interpret individual passages is left open as long as one does not deny the basic claims of the creeds of the early church (think Nicea or Chalcedon). Most questions related to historicity of events in the Bible are left open. Thus the boundary has been pushed out further than the traditional Evangelical boundary (inerrancy) and is also different in nature.

When working under the traditional definition of inerrancy, the text of Scripture forms your boundary. You identify its genre and then affirm everything that the text affirms. The rule of faith places the boundary in church traditions, which were based on Scripture. For that reason, some will criticize this method of interpretation, arguing that it elevates the creeds of the early church to or even above the level of Scripture. However, it response, it would be said that the creeds are based on Scripture thus the objection doesn't carry as much weight as it may initially seem to carry.

Another charge leveled against the rule of faith is that it is arbitrary. Which creeds form the rule of faith and why? Typically opponents will then point to the possible danger. If all we hold to are creedal definitions, and we can, for example, deny the historicity of almost every pericope in the gospels, then what are we left with? Haven't we eroded the supports to the bridge making it unsound? Are we left with anything that is reasonable to place our trust and hope in? With that said, most detractors of this view will realize that most proponents of the rule of faith don't go down that path, but they still worry about the slippery slope.

Let's look at our Mark 2:26 example from last post to see how one would use the rule of faith to guide interpretation of a particular text. You would have no problem with coming to the conclusion that Mark erred[1] in his identification of Abiathar as high priest. What they are bound to affirm depends. At minimum they must affirm the general thrust of the entire section - Jesus is the Messiah. All also would probably (but not necessarily) suggest that we must also affirm whatever implications this passage has on sabbath/Lord's day observance. There is openness, when using the rule of faith, to have one's understanding of the nature Scripture changed based on what one sees in the text.


[1] This is true even those within this position who accept a redefined inerrancy like Kent Sparks does. He claims that while human authors erred God didn't. He accommodated himself to an errant human witness, and basically said, 'that guy speaks for me in what he wrote.'

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Commentary Series Overview

When I write commentary reviews, one of my main goals is to assess how well the commentator hit the intended audience of the commentary and utilized the format of the commentary. This often necessitates cluttering up the post discussing issues of format. To eliminate that, I thought that I would make some general remarks about the format and audience of each of the series that appear in my reviews. Terms like liberal, conservative, etc. are not used pejoratively but simply as descriptors. Many of you are familiar with Jeremy Pierce's commentary series overview. If you don't see a particular series covered here, check out his post to see if it's reviewed there. I am making no attempt at covering every series, just the series that I use. Additionally, new series (such as the NCCS) have been started in the five years since he wrote his very helpful guide, so I thought that it might not be completely out of order to have another person tackle commentary series overviews. This…

Paul's Argument in Galatians 3:15-29

15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. 19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. 21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! Fo…

Doctor Who: Rose Tyler - Traitor?

The end of season four was very, very controversial. When I first saw it, I felt cheated. I was angry. The more I think about it, the more I think I see what Russell Davies was doing. He is too good of a writer and the show is too carefully crafted for him to screw up Rose's character and the end of a four season storyline. So while the ending isn't strictly part of our series, it is tangentially related, and I've agonized over that scene in Bad Wolf Bay so much that I have to write about it. :)

To briefly set things up, near the end of the final episode of season four, there is a meta-crisis, that results in a part human. part Time Lord Doctor being generated. He has all of the Doctor's memories, and thinks and acts like the Doctor. However, importantly, he only has one heart and cannot regenerate. He only has one life to live. The meta-crisis Doctor brought full resolution to the battle fought against the Daleks, and in the process, wiped them out. Thus, the real Doc…