Theology, Presuppositions and Evangelism

Two of my friends have excellent posts on their blogs. So, I humbly suggest you take a look at them. I also have some comments of my own to make regarding them that seem a bit more substantive than would normally go into a comment.

Hermeneutics and Theological Systems
by Adam – Adam brings up some excellent points in this post. Perhaps the most important is that no one comes to the Bible with a blank slate. We all have presuppositions. Even I, who despises systematic theology, come to the text with presuppositions which color my reading of the text. This is simply reality. In this post, Adam also manages to point out some of the very bad things about theological systems when it comes to hermeneutics. He also points out some of the good that a theological system can bring. I actually agree with some of his points here, largely because of recent conversations with Earl, who has convinced me that at least some systemic theology is necessary for us to go about life.

I will take issue with one thing that Adam says. I’ll quote him below, in case anyone is too lazy to click on the above link.

Suppose one comes to a text that has several viable and somewhat equally substantiated interpretive options. What makes one choice better than another choice? I think one chooses the interpretive option that fits one’s theological system best (supposing that every available option is equally viable). By adopting such an approach it gives the reader a way to deal with the material in a positive way, instead of ignoring a passage as if it does not matter or is insignificant.

I see where Adam is coming from here, and he’s making sense. I would, however, like to propose that a far better way to handle multiple interpretive options would be to hold loosely to all of them. I understand that sometimes two interpretations of a given passage are mutually exclusive. But there are many, many ways of looking at a variety texts that are not mutually exclusive. This is actually something I might place under “The Bad” of systematic theology because, although it may keep people from ignoring a passage they don’t understand, it ultimately limits the interpretation of a passage. I’d like to leave open as many options as possible, while recognizing that we all have certain options to which we gravitate and still allowing that sometimes options are not equally valid and so should be discarded.

Does Evangelism HAVE to mean converting the unconverted by Earl – I have linked to part 2. You can read part 1 here. As always, Earl is being provocative. Nevertheless, he brings up some good points in both of the above posts. I’m not sure if Earl is aware, but this is a discussion that has been at least touched on in youth ministry circles in recent years. This probably stems from it being discussed in emerging/Emergent circles. Regardless of where the conversation began, it is an important one. Before anyone runs off and calls me a heretic I’m not about to argue that God is not a personal God, nor am I going to go against anything the creeds say in affirming that Jesus, the Christ, is the son of God and the object of our faith and hope. However, I don’t see a whole lot in the Bible, as Earl has pointed out in his first post, that speaks of a “personal relationship with Jesus” like we see today.

As a result of this I see “salvation” as much more a process than an event. Certainly there is a moment in which one crosses from “death to life” as St. Paul (or St. John) might say. But that moment is, I believe, neigh on impossible to discern. It is a moment that God most certainly knows, but of which we may be woefully ignorant. So, I’m very interested to see where the conversation at Earl’s blog leads, and I encourage everyone to take part. Of course, Earl is speaking more broadly that what I’ve touched on here, but that is all the more reason to visit his blog and take a look.

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2 thoughts on “Theology, Presuppositions and Evangelism

  1. Calvin, thanks for interacting with my post (and for the plug). To discuss your dissenting point, I don’t think it (an interpretive choice) limits the interpretation of a passage. Choosing an option simply allows the interpreter a starting point into the text. Ultimately if a person is in dialog with other systems then they are able to weigh the strength and weakness of a given interpretive tradition and can better sort through a particular passage.

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