Monday, June 22, 2009

Hermeneutical Hypocrisy

I am guilty of it; the selective ear that opens up all conduits for hearing the promises of God, the heart that savagely fights to defend the clear comforts of the Word, the mind that denies all reason to continue magnifying God in seasons of darkness. The selective ear that stems from a selective faith, the faith that avoids examining the side of God's wrath, the talk of Hell, the clear judgments of God throughout the whole counsel of scripture, the warnings, the threats and the decrees that knock all of our chateaus of peace and safety to the ground.

In a bout of temptation when the flesh and the foe entangle me with despair, I desperately quote psalm 121: "He will not let your foot slip, He who watches over you will not slumber!" And if the enemy calls into question the applicability of this promise, I defiantly boast," This is the eternal Word of God! Away with your historical-critical method! God didn't give us a stone age Sword that has become dull with time." I rush to defend the most antiquated of scriptures, the most hidden and forgotten portions of the text if they offer some shred of support or comfort. But if the text should say,"On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot" I am all to ready to start carbon dating the psalm and placing it amongst an assorted pile of things not-eternal and no longer applicable. Historical-critical method can really be just an intellectually swank way of avoiding the dire reality of God's anger. "Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel! (Isaiah 30:10-11)"

Why is it also that the blessed comforts of scriptures can be read and understood without commentary but the threats and warnings become "difficult passages", obscure, unclear, in need of a volume or two of patchwork and cover-up? Are we trying to push God out of the Bible? Jesus offers an apt diagnosis of the problem: "Why is my language unclear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your fathers desire. (John 8:43-44)"

Who will avoid this piercing word? I suspect that those who feel comfortable, out of the way of this statement have merely bought into the lie of self-righteousness. Hermeneutical hypocrisy, as in all forms of wickedness, comes from us because we belong to our father, the devil. It is hear that we must step up to the gospel once more and believe on Christ. He alone can heal us.


Thomas said...

"God didn't give us a stone-age sword that has become dull with time!"

Amen! However he did give us His Son "in the fullness of time" to redeem us from "weak and miserable principles... [such as] observing special days and months and seasons and years"

There is such an audacity of Paul here to treat his Jewish heritage with near contempt... Paul exemplifies hermeneutical hypocrisy
in regards to the Old Testament. But it is not hypocrisy. It is partiality to Christ. It is a sheep learning to hear the voice of the shepherd. We must follow Paul's lead in selective hearing. We must hear Christ who said "You have heard it said but I say to you..." The living word transforms the written word.

Emerson Fast said...

Thomas, I am afraid that I would have to disagree with you. Both you and I know that Paul was referring directly to the Law and the Prophets when he said," All scriptures are inspired by God and profitable for teaching etc..."
Is it possible to assume a hermeneutical hypocrisy regarding the Old Testament from Paul when those were Paul's words? Can such all-encompassing claims co-exist with a selective ear? Moreover, is it not possible to show contempt for Jewish heritage while still taking the Old Testament very seriously? Starting with the book of Numbers and leading to the very provocative Song of Moses in Deuteronomy, one might have a feeling that even the Old Testament itself is capable of showing contempt for Jewish heritage! Speaking of which, was Christ pitting himself against Torah in the Sermon on the Mount or a certain Rabbinic tradition that complemented it? Given that some of the glosses he refers to make no appearance in the Old Testament at all , I would suspect the latter.

I would sooner say that Paul and Christ's hermeneutical systems are complex and puzzling before I would call them selective. Never have I seen someone make such lavish use of the Old Testament in pedagogy as they!