Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Christians and Textual Deconstruction

A couple of posts ago, I demonstrated why textual deconstruction is a failed philosophy. And as Christians, we are told (through Paul, in Colossians 2:8),
Do not be taken captive by empty philosophy...
But despite the absurdity of textual deconstruction, this postmodern idea has infiltrated all aspects of our culture, including the church.

Up until 100 years ago, when we analyzed, say, a novel, what we were concerned with was determining what meaning the author intended to convey. It was his or her meaning that mattered. Gradually, literary critics began to move from this position and begin to see the novel itself as the meaning-maker. Thus, it no longer mattered, say, what Herman Melville meant in Moby Dick; instead, the story's meaning was somehow inherent to the text itself, completely apart from the author's intent. But now, the view has progressed even further. Today, the book itself isn't even the holder of meaning. Rather, each reader provides the meaning as he or she interacts with the text. This is the subjective view of postmodernism. And it is logically absurd.

But don't we hear this same sort of thing in Bible study? Most of us have experienced it in a small group; the leader reads a Bible passage and then asks, "What does this mean to you?" We go around the circle, each one sharing his or her own idea of the passage's meaning. We all (especially those of us who are the products of the Protestant Reformation) acknowledge the importance of personal Bible study. But when we take a subjective approach to interpreting the Bible's meaning, we have abandoned proper interpretation for the sort dictated by our postmodern culture.

A Bible passage means only one thing. And that is what the original author (and the Holy Spirit through him) intended to convey to the original audience. (There are, of course, prophecies--including those with multiple fulfillments--that complicate this issue. Nonetheless,) proper biblical interpretation has been held to involve (at least since the Reformation) use of the grammatico-historical method. This method is meant to focus our attention on the original meaning of the text, and by doing so we avoid "reading into Scripture" our own ideas of what it ought to say.

When we abandon this method, we have conformed to the empty philosophy of our present age and culture.

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