Monday, April 27, 2009

Thiselton's Question That Arise

Anthony Thiselton's recent work, The Hermeneutics of Doctrine, seeks to examine if a more substantial interaction between hermeneutics and doctrine could, "rescue doctrine from from its marginalized function and abstraction from life" (xvi). Christian doctrine's premier pitfall has historically been the high-level of abstraction it dwells in. In Thiselton's first chapter he corrects this by shifting the focus from "free-floating problems", to "questions that arise".

An example of this would be the way we exposit a doctrine of creation. Thiselton's position is that early understandings of human origins did not actually come from the question, "where did we come from", but rather from a gratitude for life, a sense of human dependence upon God, and a desire to rejoice in the great natural gifts that we experience. "My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth" (Ps. 121:2). The doctrine of creation, therefore, was sharpened at the dinner table, not in the study.

The issue is not then whether propositions such as, "God is creator" feature at all, but whether we engage these propositions detached from the way they originally arose. This gives a call to examine, as best we can, what context authors were originally asking their questions in. The answers to these questions will naturally have application built into them, because the questions were originally asked in a context where application was their jumping off point. The task of clearly articulating relevant Christian doctrine may not be as difficult as is thought. It is simply a matter of asking questions as they arise.


P.D. said...

it is interesting how theology, and a lot of ministry, has been able to escape gravity. not being grounded onto anything, seeming to float about the earth. Paul wrote letters to real people with real questions. Preaching that way would be a good starting point.

david gentino said...

A fascinating and powerful point - we just don't have narratives or epistles that pause to give us a thorough lesson is christology or eschatology. This all fits well with our growing understanding of epistemology and how we think in story.

From a preaching perspective, how do you envision this approach shaping both the sermon and the series?

John Paulling said...

I think you actually can come relatively close to finding the original questions that the biblical texts were seeking to answer. This probably sounds modern, and naive but there you go. The task of the sermon then would be to seek to find correspondence between the questions your audience is asking, and the original questions in the text. This may lead to a textually centered way of preaching the announcements. For the series, its like we said before, it may mean that topical is a better way to go than preaching through a book. I'm still kind of up in the air on that but it's starting to be appealing to me. Those are simple, preliminary thoughts.