5:46 PM Good Wednesday evening to you, thoughtful bloggers! I’ve been preparing for my course on hermeneutics at Odessa Theological Seminary next month in Ukraine. For what it’s worth, I’ve been jotting down some initial thoughts about hermeneutics. I’m calling them “Tentative Tenets of a Course in Hermeneutics.” I want to be clear that I’m exploring this train of thought. Here goes:
1) In studying hermeneutics, the emphasis must always be on “praxis” as opposed to mere abstract thinking. We need to “do” theology and not just teach it.
2) This means that theology must be incarnational, must be brought down to earth, must always be oriented to the pastoral needs of the church.
3) In my view, missions and theology belong together. As Paul says in Rom. 12:1, we must present our “bodies” to God as living sacrifices because deeds can be done only through bodies. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, His heart and mouth.>
4) Thus hermeneutics — the science of interpreting Holy Scripture — is an eminently practical discipline. The Bible itself stresses the importance of practicing the truth. The apostle Paul places an extraordinarily high value on deeds (see Eph. 2:10).
5) That said, hermeneutics, as I understand the task, is a high-risk enterprise. We study so that we may love and obey Christ. And He promises us trouble.
6) In short, hermeneutics is from beginning to end a way of life. Great theology must always produce relevant Christianity. Once this is recognized, we can begin to separate ourselves from the dark seductiveness of modern-day Gnosticism. At the heart of hermeneutics lie sacrifice and service, endurance and suffering, and above all fidelity to the Great Commission and a rejection of any lesser cause.
Anyone taking my class in Odessa will be faced with these questions. These are monumental issues. I trust that my students will leave the class championing the inextricable link between theology and spirituality, orthodoxy and orthopraxy, knowing the truth and practicing it. We need to rediscover the fact that hermeneutics does not mean merely the study of Scripture but rather the relational activity of trusting, living, obeying, serving, and glorifying God, through death if necessary. Knowing Scripture, in other words, involves obedience. It is the chief function of hermeneutics to unleash the power of the Lord in the midst of His people so that we do His will and thus bring glory to His name.
Friends, we need constant vigilance against substituting knowledge for action. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep My commandments.” To live this way is to revolt against everything in our lives that is inconsistent with the reign of God. To honor the King rightly, we must never forget this.
Long live the King!