Monday, 24 May 2010

The Heavens Will Be Set On Fire

The story goes that an educational experiment was conducted to test the impact ofpreconceptions. Two classes of children were carefully selected to ensure that both groups of children were of near equal intellectual and academic abilities. Then two teachers of near equal ability and experience were selected to be the classroom teachers for these two classes of children. But both teachers were given wildly different information about their classes. One teacher was told that they had been selected to teach this particularly difficult class of children. This class, they were told, were disrespectful, unwilling to learn, hard to manage, and years behind the academic averages for their age group. The other class teacher was told they were selected because of their outstanding teaching abilities with gifted children. These children, this teacher was told, were the exceptionally gifted and needed to be stretched academically. The story goes that both teachers fulfilled their preconceived ideas about their respective classrooms of children. The alleged difficult learners proved to be very difficult learners and the gifted students seemed to indeed display all the traits of academically gifted children. The point of this story is that expectations deliver different results. Perhaps a similar point can be made about the way in which we approach Scripture...
I've been teaching the Art and Science of Biblical Interpretation for several years now for two Colleges. I've also been privileged to be a guest lecturer in this subject in several overseas colleges. The technical name for this field of study is "Hermeneutics". One of the first objectives I give my students is to get them to appreciate the overall message of Scripture. By understanding the "Big Picture" of the Bible, it better helps the student to correctly understand the particular details of a Bible passage. The other objective I give them is to then try and dispense with their preconceived ideas about what the Bible says, or at least to become open to other points of view, and to then learn how to test these interpretations of the text.
The problem with approaching a particular text of the Bible with a preconceived notion of what it means is that it can hinder us from appreciating its actual meaning. I think this might be the case with the Second Peter 3:12 text.
There are some things in Scripture that are deduced by reasonable implication. That is, there is consistent and sufficient evidence within Scripture to be able to conclude certain acceptable doctrines, even though the particular doctrine may not be discussed exhaustibly in one Biblical passage. This is the case with the doctrine of the Trinity. This doctrine is deduced by appreciating the overall message of Scripture. But there are some 'doctrines' that have been formulated on the basis of preconceived ideas. This approach to Scripture is known as "eisogesis". But then there is a more subtle form of eisogesis which takes a Biblically deduced doctrine and falsely reads it into texts which do not support it. This type of preconceived Biblical interpretation is far more difficult to discern because it attempts to endorse a legitimate doctrine but does so with inappropriate texts. I consider Second Peter 3:12 to be such a text. [Read full article]

No comments:

Post a Comment