Jump to content

Biblical Hermeneutics Is Damge Control


Recommended Posts

While a practicing Christian, I had a few short conversations about hermeneutics.  At the time, hermeneutics was a lofty word that my seminary –bound friends would bring up when we would come across scripture readings that rubbed our sense of morality coarsely and in the wrong direction.  In a broad sense, hermeneutics is the method of interpreting scripture in a certain way (often dishonestly) so that the clearly immoral God of the Bible maintains some element of moral credibility. 

 

I didn’t see it at the time but this proud theological concoction is a way of inappropriately shifting the immorality of the bible onto the person who is reading it.  Let’s explore this concept through an issue in which history has been an excellent tutor; slavery.  In a nutshell the ethos of hermeneutics goes like this: because god is the source from which all goodness flows, his divine edicts of how to maintain slaves cannot be bad.  Since I accept the impossibility that god be bad or endorse bad things and I know that slavery is indeed bad,  it follows that I must be reading the scripture incorrectly.  In summary: because god cannot get it wrong – it must have been me that got it wrong.  Typically this conclusion is reinforced by the Christian notion that all people are stuck in a state of depraved sinfulness (prone to immorality) which explains why the lay reader cannot comprehend the true message of scripture.

 

In this way, God’s moral credibility is maintained by throwing rational individual and collective morality under the bus.  This surrendering of our ethical selves in order for an imaginary deity to maintain face is both unnecessary and disgraceful.

 

It bears mentioning that biblical hermeneutics did come into being during the 19th century.  I hardly think it coincidence that church authority needed a new angle to defend a slavery supporting god while the collective conscience of western society decided it was immoral for one human being to own another.  Both England and America made deliberate decisions to ban the institution of slavery in the 19th century.  Because religion had argued in support of slavery in the centuries prior, it needed to address its past sins while clinging to authority it didn’t wish to lose.  Additionally, since the unchanging god of the bible is clearly pro-slavery, something also had to be done to make the ever-present sins of scripture more palatable to future masses already shifting toward identifying secularism as the source of their moral compass.  This is the culture into which modern biblical hermeneutics was born.  Clearly necessities of that time and culture were mother to the invention of biblical hermeneutics

 

When we look objectively at the time and place that birthed biblical hermeneutics, we see that it bears all the markings of what it really is: political damage control for an institution attempting to maintain its illegitimate authority.  As one of my former favorite writers Os Guiness says: this is “lawyered” truth – a position with a clear agenda for maintaining power that disparages the actual search for truth.

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I remember when this term (hermeneutics) became all the rage amongst apologists, as if simply uttering the word provided authority or correctness.

It was usually combined with "scholars say" for added effect.

I found the Christian apologetics industry to be particularly dishonest, preferring to intimidate with airs of authority and convoluted word salad.

Most apologists I've encountered could rationalize the ears off of a jack rabbit.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I remember when this term (hermeneutics) became all the rage amongst apologists, as if simply uttering the word provided authority or correctness.

It was usually combined with "scholars say" for added effect.

I found the Christian apologetics industry to be particularly dishonest, preferring to intimidate with airs of authority and convoluted word salad.

Most apologists I've encountered could rationalize the ears off of a jack rabbit.

 

Indeed, I see it as a new label on the same old and tired product.  Thanks for your thoughts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually, the term is now used on both sides. It simply means to interpret. But you are

right in that the apologists have absolutely no shame as to how far they will go to make a perfectly clear Bible passage which is not favorable to them say the exact opposite.

It's hard to believe anyone can do that in good faith. It appears to me that they are

"lying for god". But it's ok if it is for god. They are merely correcting the bible so it will say what god had really intended to say from the beginning, right?

After all, god can make mistakes; he's only human. bill

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lol reminds me of a conversation I had with my mom. I was talking to her about the adam and eve story and how this inherently made god cruel since he is all knowing. If he put the tree there he knew eve was going to eat of it and give it to adam and he would eat of it and all mankind would suffer for it. She said the tree is free will and god put it there so we could have a choice to which I responded with this analogy. A parent sets a plate of chocolate cookies in her toddlers room. She tells her toddler who does not no right from wrong that if you eat the cookies I am going to kill you. Does the toddler need a plate of cookies in front of it to have free will? We don't need evil to have free will God chose to put that tree there knowing it would damn all of humanity. Then I broke it down further for her.

 

and gave her three possibilities There is no God, God is Evil, or God is imperfect. She got really quite after that and I think she understood it but she is afraid of this reality so she chooses to ignore it lol. She hasn't been to church in years so there is no real harm in her having a belief so as long as it makes her happy I guess. I love hermeneutics though because the more apologists use this they open up gaping holes for the average follower to deal with. I encourage them to use it because it opens the door for logic and reason to put a smack down on it =D. It is usually the last walls most Christians I know put up and if you can pry those ones off there is no where else to go once you succumb to that line of reasoning. Its like a game of poker and Hermeneutics is going all in with a pair of jacks and we have a pair of aces.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

During my de-conversion process I got into a few online discussions and this term was often thrown around by those who could not adequately defend their biblical position.  I was somehow at fault (even though my perspective made complete sense to me) because I didn't understand Hermeneutics.  I was so fed up with the back-pedaling and dishonesty by this point I didn't even give the subject matter of Hermeneutics the time of day. 

 

Thanks for explaining it to me.  Glad I know now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am by no means an expert and I would like to read more on hermeneutics. But I remember that it seemed to be something seminary grads and pastors threw around when backed into a corner. Hermeneutics is the manner that pastors dismiss the sexuality of song of psalms or explain away how it was perfectly okay for Lot to offer his daughters to an angry mob, or defend slavery "in the correct context"

 

However, if we look at it from Occam's razor we see literature that is very typical for 1st century Palestine. All Of the beliefs match parallel monotheistic religions at the time and place where Christianity started. Now the answer with the least variables is usually the best. Hermeneutics is the best way to avoid the most obvious answers - I see it as scholarship with the agenda of maintaining belief. It is also interesting that hermeneutics split from literature and philosophy to make its own biblical branch. Like most faith based separatism, it needs a separate atmosphere to continue breathing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If God is not the author of confusion, he's the author of some very complicated shit.  The time we're to devote to "his word" so that we can rightly divide its truths, seems to take a lifetime.  No thanks.  This is my life.  I want to do stuff I enjoy while I can.

 

But then again, we're all supposed to want to read an ancient text, right?  Well, that's what the Christian world would seem to be saying... And yet, most of em hardly ever read it themselves.  So they don't even buy their own brand of bullshit they sell. 

 

How many denominations are there, how many versions of the bible are there?  And he's still not the author of confusion?  Gonna have to call bullshit on that.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

at my old church a friend of mine (youth pastor) did an entire sermon on hermeneutics . And we had several classes on it afterwards. By this time I was half-way out the door anyway.

 

I'm all for apologetics and hermeneutics. Just before deconverting, my pet peeve was dumb christians who didnt know their bible and went through the motions. If you are going to do it, do it right.  I think concepts like these encourage thinking which is lacking in the church. Going to feel good every sunday until you die is how religion has made it this long. If more people looked into the history and intricacies of christianity, I think they would turn from it but thats just MHO. 3vidence's video called "other christians" reminded me of my journey

Link to comment
Share on other sites

at my old church a friend of mine (youth pastor) did an entire sermon on hermeneutics . And we had several classes on it afterwards. By this time I was half-way out the door anyway.

 

I'm all for apologetics and hermeneutics. Just before deconverting, my pet peeve was dumb christians who didnt know their bible and went through the motions. If you are going to do it, do it right.  I think concepts like these encourage thinking which is lacking in the church. Going to feel good every sunday until you die is how religion has made it this long. If more people looked into the history and intricacies of christianity, I think they would turn from it but thats just MHO. 3vidence's video called "other christians" reminded me of my journey

 

I think I understand what you are saying about Hermeneutics and from that vantage point we could definitely stake out some common ground.  Part of hermeneutics that attempts to place what is being said in scripture (or any ancient language) in the proper context of time, place, custom, only makes for a more honest interpretation.  However, this has spurred on what I consider to be atmosphere of selective literalism.  Through the placing of scripture in time, place, and custom - something which we read at face value might have been way off.  So we learn to interpret.  But then, who gets to determine when to decipher the "actual" message or intended meaning?  Will they do that consistently?  I've been around plenty of Christians who love to draw authority on the hermeneutical interpretations of the past 20 years so scripture comes out just like they want it to; and this might very well be honest.  However, those same people can flip a switch and infer authority in the black and white words of the bible - the literal meaning is good enough.

 

When I was getting comfortable with the idea of hermeneutics and putting things into proper context, the homosexuality and faith debate was just as relevant as it is today.  I had a few friends who had known for a long time that they were gay and had beat themselves up for their nature years on end until they were given some fair interpretations of the bible.  When looking at the translations from Aramaic to Greek and Greek to Hebrew, the origins of the word homosexual really meant a man who was a sexual servant - usually one that had been forced into that role.  This opened up huge holes for believers who wanted to incorporate consenting gay Christians into the body of the church...this was the first time this had really been conceived as a possibility and putting the terms in proper context to determine meaning was the reason for the progress.

 

However, some of the same people could not engage in a parallel situation.  The word "virgin" also has a more accurate translation than our modern version of: a person who has not had sex.  In biblical times, the word we translate as virgin meant 1: an unmarried woman OR  2.  a young woman.  As you can guess, believers who were all okay with homosexual Christians were not as keen on engaging in a similar conversation that would tamper with the traditional belief of Jesus’ divine conception, so they downplayed, denied, or refused to engage it.  It wasn’t that this additional argument was not true…it was just inconvenient to the foundations of Christianity.

 

Hermeneutics was a great way to justify the homosexuality argument - and I won't say that wasn't some form of progress.  However, many of the same people would deny that the blade cut both ways.  These people were gay or were pro-gay and they saw how proper context could give them a leg-up in their argument.  But when the same tactic was fairly applied to a parallel concept that they had no agenda for the matter was quickly dropped.  We might call this a lot of things but I see intellectual inconsistency.

 

I loved hermeneutics because it made people inside of faith a little more open to be challenged and possibly a little more open to change.  However, the structure of faith is still an institution with an agenda and that agenda can quickly contaminate (honest) biblical hermeneutics into a tool of convenience.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I loved hermeneutics because it made people inside of faith a little more open to be challenged and possibly a little more open to change.  However, the structure of faith is still an institution with an agenda and that agenda can quickly contaminate (honest) biblical hermeneutics into a tool of convenience.

 

 

 

Yes it is a slippery slope. I bent from fundy to progressive liberal christian but it didnt last very long ebfore I threw it all out of the window. The bible is clear in black white (and red) what they mean. Any diversion from it is clearly subjective and this bothered me because so many people were doing it their own way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

at my old church a friend of mine (youth pastor) did an entire sermon on hermeneutics . And we had several classes on it afterwards. By this time I was half-way out the door anyway.

 

I'm all for apologetics and hermeneutics. Just before deconverting, my pet peeve was dumb christians who didnt know their bible and went through the motions. If you are going to do it, do it right.  I think concepts like these encourage thinking which is lacking in the church. Going to feel good every sunday until you die is how religion has made it this long. If more people looked into the history and intricacies of christianity, I think they would turn from it but thats just MHO. 3vidence's video called "other christians" reminded me of my journey

 

I think I understand what you are saying about Hermeneutics and from that vantage point we could definitely stake out some common ground.  Part of hermeneutics that attempts to place what is being said in scripture (or any ancient language) in the proper context of time, place, custom, only makes for a more honest interpretation.  However, this has spurred on what I consider to be atmosphere of selective literalism.  Through the placing of scripture in time, place, and custom - something which we read at face value might have been way off.  So we learn to interpret.  But then, who gets to determine when to decipher the "actual" message or intended meaning?  Will they do that consistently?  I've been around plenty of Christians who love to draw authority on the hermeneutical interpretations of the past 20 years so scripture comes out just like they want it to; and this might very well be honest.  However, those same people can flip a switch and infer authority in the black and white words of the bible - the literal meaning is good enough.

 

When I was getting comfortable with the idea of hermeneutics and putting things into proper context, the homosexuality and faith debate was just as relevant as it is today.  I had a few friends who had known for a long time that they were gay and had beat themselves up for their nature years on end until they were given some fair interpretations of the bible.  When looking at the translations from Aramaic to Greek and Greek to Hebrew, the origins of the word homosexual really meant a man who was a sexual servant - usually one that had been forced into that role.  This opened up huge holes for believers who wanted to incorporate consenting gay Christians into the body of the church...this was the first time this had really been conceived as a possibility and putting the terms in proper context to determine meaning was the reason for the progress.

 

However, some of the same people could not engage in a parallel situation.  The word "virgin" also has a more accurate translation than our modern version of: a person who has not had sex.  In biblical times, the word we translate as virgin meant 1: an unmarried woman OR  2.  a young woman.  As you can guess, believers who were all okay with homosexual Christians were not as keen on engaging in a similar conversation that would tamper with the traditional belief of Jesus’ divine conception, so they downplayed, denied, or refused to engage it.  It wasn’t that this additional argument was not true…it was just inconvenient to the foundations of Christianity.

 

Hermeneutics was a great way to justify the homosexuality argument - and I won't say that wasn't some form of progress.  However, many of the same people would deny that the blade cut both ways.  These people were gay or were pro-gay and they saw how proper context could give them a leg-up in their argument.  But when the same tactic was fairly applied to a parallel concept that they had no agenda for the matter was quickly dropped.  We might call this a lot of things but I see intellectual inconsistency.

 

I loved hermeneutics because it made people inside of faith a little more open to be challenged and possibly a little more open to change.  However, the structure of faith is still an institution with an agenda and that agenda can quickly contaminate (honest) biblical hermeneutics into a tool of convenience.

 

I agree its just a more complicated version of picking and choosing. When we start putting the whole new testament into context the whole thing just FALLS apart in a big way. That is really what started my deconversion was Hermeneutics. Once there was no virgin birth what next. compounded by conflicts in the new testament it just really opens doors for things to fall apart. I kinda feel if you cant accept the bible as a whole with out it you might as well not even bother trying to use it to justify your beliefs because you cant take half measures in life somethings are or they are not especially when we look at the idea of a god. Its either 100% or none at all for anything less is not enough to be concerned with.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When all the pillars of my Christian belief were removed the only thing I had left was blind faith. At that time I found hermeneutics to be completely unnecessary. I mean, if faith in Jesus was supposed to be the only way to salvation what was the purpose of getting into the weeds of every little topic. If anything, hermeneutics proved to me the bible was nothing but an incomprehensible and self contradicting text written by superstitious sheep herders with a political agenda from antiquity. Eventually I decided to throw the whole system of belief out and learned to enjoy life today and live as if I'll die and cease to exist forever.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.