Friday, March 23, 2012

It’s about hermeneutics

How the creation accounts in the first three chapters of Genesis can be reconciled with evolution is one of those questions I largely avoid. I believe in the authority of Scripture and I also think there is ample evidence for an extremely old universe. The question isn't central to my understanding of the faith and so I am content to wait on its resolution, assuming that the apparent contradictions may not be. Others, however, do address the issue, knowing that it can be a stumbling block for those struggling with their faith. Internet Monk re-posts Peter Enns who has, I think, contributed usefully to the "Adam/Evolution discussion." Here is the first of three responses to arguments that Enns identifies as "Recurring Mistakes in the Adam/Evolution Discussion":
1. It’s all about the authority of the Bible.
I can understand why this claim might have rhetorical effect, but this issue is not about biblical authority. It’s about how the Bible is to be interpreted. It’s about hermeneutics.

It’s always about hermeneutics.

I know that in some circles “hermeneutics” is code for “let’s find a way to get out of the plain meaning of the text.” But even a so-called “plain” or “literal” reading of the Bible is a hermeneutic—an approach to interpretation.

Literalism is a hermeneutical decision (even if implicit) as much as any other approach, and so needs to be defended as much as any other. Literalism is not the default godly way to read the Bible that preserves biblical authority. It is not the “normal” way of reading the Bible that gets a free pass while all others must face the bar of judgment.

So, when someone says, “I don’t read Genesis 1-3 as historical events, and here are the reasons why,” that person is not “denying biblical authority.” That person may be wrong, but that would have to be judged on some basis other than the ultimate literalist conversation-stopper, “You’re denying biblical authority.”

The Bible is not just “there.” It has to be interpreted. The issue is which interpretations are more defensible than others.

To put all this another way, appealing to biblical authority does not tell you how to interpret the Bible. That requires a lot more work. It always has. “Biblical authority” is a predisposition to the text. It is not a hermeneutic. [more]
I haven't yet read the posts beyond the first one at the following links:
Pete Enns on Mistakes in the Adam/Evolution Discussion |, Recurring Mistakes in the Adam/Evolution Discussion | Peter Enns