Ruminations on hermeneutics for adult Christian education

When I wrote my A Course in Basic Christianity (which I thought of as remedial catechesis for adults) in 1994 I outlined a set of criteria and assumptions behind my method.  The final assumption dealt with hermeneutics. In reading it now I see how much I was influenced by Karl Barth, Hans Frei and Brevard Childs. It is my hope that these thoughts will be useful to pastors and teachers leading adult education. Here is an excerpt:

“The communal language of the church is irreducible and must be taken on its own terms.  The whole project has been guided by a set of hermeneutical assumptions that inform the way Scripture in particular and theological language in general are treated.   In some respects these assumptions run counter to the assumptions that have guided the modern academic study of Scripture and theology.

Modern approaches to the Bible have been dominated by the historical–critical method.  These were the methods in which I was trained in college and seminary and they continue to yield genuine insights into the truth of the texts.  Nevertheless, I came early in my ministry to regard them as “good servants but bad masters” and I have gravitated toward a hermeneutic that takes the finished text much more seriously.

In a comparable way modern theologians have often accepted the ideologically driven “hermeneutics of suspicion” as the basis for their approach to Christian language.  Again, I have been well–exposed to these approaches and take with appreciation their genuine insights into both the human situation and the history of the formation of sacred texts.  Nevertheless, I find them all seriously flawed as the basis for either constructive theology or hermeneutics and have looked elsewhere for the proper interpretive tools to do my work.

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