Saturday, April 16, 2011

How do you read this?

I am slowly reading through my review copy of  Science, Creation and the Bible: Reconciling Rival Theories of Origins by Richard F. Carlson and Tremper Longman III. One thing I like and agree with is the emphasis on hermeneutics as being a key issue. Here are a couple of relevant quotes:
Next we turn to a summary of four American viewpoints on the creation-evolution conflict. Each point of view—creationism, intelligent design, partnership and independence—is associated with a distinct principle of biblical interpretation and evaluation of the relevant science. page 24
One neglected factor in addressing the conflict between Christian faith and science is the need for careful biblical reading and interpretation of relevant passages. In fact, this may be the key factor for the Christian believer in resolving science-faith conflicts.   page 46 
I also thought the following passage was helpful pointing out how hermeneutics can be driven by different presuppositions about the purpose, nature, and function of language. Specifically, in a modernist view language was either taken to be referential or  expressivist.
Biblical hermeneutics have been aided by progress over the years in the theory of language. Nancey Murphy [Anglo-American Postmodernity, pp. 10-11] points out that in the modern period (seventeenth to mid-twentieth century) language was understood to function in only one of two ways.  
In the referential (or representative) aspect, language gets its meaning by describing facts or objects. Here one reads words in a sentence as actually representing that being described; the descriptions and events are to be understood literally. 
The second, the expressivist aspect, refers to a kind of second-class theory of language. Here language gains its meaning because it expresses some inner attitude, feeling, or intention of the speaker or writer. Language contains no factual meaning. 
In the modern period, theology could adopt only one or the other aspect of language since language at that time was understood as functioning only in these two ways. The conservative church opted for the referential aspect (and one might ask, was there really any other choice?), while the liberal church chose the expressivist. But neither version alone can describe all dimensions of how language actually works
 Carlson and Longman then go on to present a more nuanced view of Biblical hermeneutics. More on that later...

[The painting is A Woman Reading by Claude Monet].

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