Free to Disagree – Part 4

Posted: December 17, 2010 in bible, creation, theology

See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Dr. Al Mohler spends the bulk of his message explaining the so called “theological cost” of the day-age view of creation.  He begins this section with an overview of the “grand narrative of the Gospel,” breaking it into four parts: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation.  I think his comments on each of these sections are good.  And he is right to assert that we should keep this redemptive framework in mind when considering issues such as the age of the earth.  However, I would contend that the way in which Dr. Mohler links this “grand narrative” to the topic at hand is less than convincing.

The Historicity of Adam and Eve

First, Mohler points to the historicity of Adam, especially in light of Paul’s comments in Romans 5.  He calls this the “most pressing question.”  I would agree that this is an important issue that day-age proponents must be prepared to deal with.

And they have.  Many day-age proponents have spent much time thinking (and writing) about this issue, and have reasonable explanations for how the earth could be old and Adam still be a historical figure.  My purpose in pointing this out is not to promote nor provide a list of these explanations (although, a good place to start would be with the Who Was Adam? and The Genesis Debate), but simply to point out that many Christians who believe that the earth is old still affirm that Adam was a real person.  The two positions are not mutually exclusive.

Mohler does seem to concede this point.  But he notes the “scientific consensus of the meaning of that evidence [for the age of the earth] goes far beyond [simply suggesting that the earth is old] to suggesting that there were hominids and pre-hominids,” thus also serving as support for macro evolution.  Mohler argues that while it is possible to hold to an old earth and a historical Adam, “it requires an arbitrary intervention of God into a very long process.”  Day-age proponents would disagree, readily pointing to scientific and biblical evidence in support of their position.  Again, Mohler just makes assertions without offering any real arguments to support his claims.

A Side Note Regarding Adam and Eve

However, at this point, I would like to quote Tim Keller, author and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church.  In an article entitled “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople,” although expressing serious concerns with those who would deny a literal Adam, Keller is careful to note:

“Before I share my concerns with this view [the denial of the historicity of Adam and Eve], let me make a clarification.  One of my favorite Christian writers (that’s putting it mildly), C.S. Lewis, did not believe in a literal Adam and Eve, and I do not question the reality or soundness of his personal faith.  But my concern is for the church corporately and for its growth and vitality over time.  Will the loss of a belief in the historical fall weaken some of our historical, doctrinal commitments at certain crucial points?”

I think Keller’s perspective (and humble attitude) is what we should strive for.  Although we may boldly affirm that this is an important – even, the “most pressing” – issue in the creation debate, we must recognize that a denial of the historicity of Adam does not necessarily mean a person is not a true follower of Christ (I think Mohler would agree).  While I do see some serious theological problems with a denial of a literal Adam and Eve, those problems do not necessarily indicate that one is not saved. Although conservative evangelicals may argue (persuasively, in my opinion) that the denial of the historicity of Adam logically leads to a breakdown of Paul’s theology in Romans 5, we must remember that we are not always logical in our thinking.  Inconsistency plagues us all at times.  And people sometimes hold two seemingly irreconcilable beliefs in tension because they have not yet come to an adequate alternative in their own thinking.

Keller writes,

“I am not arguing something so crude as ‘If you don’t believe in a literal Adam and Eve, then you don’t believe in the authority of the Bible!”… that doesn’t mean you can’t have a strong, vital faith yourself, but I believe such a move can be bad for the church as a whole, and it certainly can lead to the confusion on the part of laypeople.”

The point in all of this is not to argue that Adam and Eve were not real, historical people.  I believe that they were.  Rather, my point in quoting Keller is to remind us that a person’s stance on this issue, just like the age of the earth, is not necessarily a good indicator for whether or not he/she is saved.  Rather than rejecting outright those who affirm a different position, we should seek more loving discussion and debate with fellow believers in Christ, for the sake of mutual edification and deeper understanding.

The Historicity of the Fall

Mohler next moves to his second argument – the historicity of the Fall.  He points back to that “grand narrative,” saying,

“We understand from Genesis 3 and from the entire narrative of Scripture, from texts like Romans 8 that what we know in the world today as catastrophe, as natural disaster, earthquake, destruction by volcanic eruption, pain, death, violence, predation – that these are the results of the Fall.”

The only problem with this statement is that it is far from clearly evident in the texts he cites.  Upon a serious examination of the texts in question, pushing aside pre-conceived notions regarding the results of the Fall, I believe a careful interpreter will see that Dr. Mohler says more than the Bible says.  He continues,

“We end up with enormous problems if we try to interpret a historical fall…in an old earth rendering.  This is most clear when it comes to Adam’s sin.  Was it true that, as Paul argues, when sin came, death came?  Well just keep in mind that if the earth is indeed old…there were all the effects of sin that are biblically attributed to the fall and not to anything but the fall.  And we’re not only talking about death, we’re talking about death by the millions and billions.”

At the risk of repeating myself too much, I think Mohler strongly overstates his case.  He implies that all death (among other things) is an “effect” of sin.  But why does he say that?  What Scriptural warrant does Mohler have for saying that all death is a result of the fall?  In fact, Paul seems to say the opposite in Romans 5:12, when he writes,

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned–” (ESV)

Paul says nothing about animal death in this passage, but rather seems to specifically limit the spread of death to humans (see the article “Creature Mortality: From Creation of the Fall?” and Hugh Ross’s excellent chapter entitled, “Good God, Cruel World,” in A Matter of Days).  In response to this, Mohler points to the fact that prophecies (Isa. 11:6 and 65:25) relating to the new heavens and new earth mention the lion and the lamb laying down next to one another in peace, leading him to question how this would really picture creation’s renewal if lions were always killing lambs (as day-age proponents would say).  However, underlying this argument is the assumption that the new heavens and new earth are simply a restored current heavens and earth.  It’s the assumption that God is merely wiping away all the effects of sin from this earth, taking us back to the Garden of Genesis 1, so to speak.  However, there are Scriptural reasons for thinking differently:

“The picture that emerges from Revelation 21 and 22 fits consistently with other New Testament passages indicating that the first creation, introduced in Genesis 1 and 2, will cease to exist when God’s purposes for it, including the redemption of humanity and conquest of evil, are fully accomplished.” (Ross, A Matter of Days, 112)

Although I can’t go into a detailed defense of this claim (and there are many passages that lead me to disagree with Mohler on this point), my purpose in mentioning this is simply to point out that Mohler assumes a lot.  That’s OK for life (we all assume a lot), but not so OK for argumentation.  And in my opinion, in regard to a number of his key claims, Mohler’s assumptions are not well-grounded in Scripture.

Natural Revelation

Mohler notes that many day-age proponents cite Romans 1 in defense of their claim that nature (natural revelation) can and does provide us with real information about the creation of the world.  However, Mohler notes that Paul indicates that “we no longer see what is clearly there.”  He continues, “The heavens are telling the glory of God, but human sinfulness refuses to see what is plainly evident.”

The only problem with this argument is that Paul is talking about unregenerate, unbelievers in Romans 1!  Yes, by their unrighteousness they suppress the truth.  And yes, their foolish hearts are darkened by sin and rebellion.  And yes, we were once exactly this!  However, Christians have been given new life!  Our eyes have been opened!  Our wills have been restored to desire God!  Therefore, we are actually in a good position to see the truths that nature is constantly proclaiming!  Of course, we can’t deny that sin still affects even Christians, undoubtedly (negatively) impacting our understanding of natural revelation. However, to imply, as Mohler does, that we are in the same hopeless and blind state as the unregenerate pictured in Romans 1 is, in my opinion, to misapply the text.

Later, Mohler encourages us to recognize that “disaster ensues when the book of nature, or general revelation, is used in some way to trump Scripture and special revelation.”  Although some people (even those claiming to be Christians) do allow science to “trump” Scripture, I believe it is simply unfair to construe all non-young-earth proponents in this way.  For many Christians, the question is not which “book” (nature or Scripture) trumps which, but rather, what is the correct interpretation of each “book”?  For the majority of evangelical Christians holding to an old earth, this is an issue of interpretation, not authority.  God has revealed himself in two important ways – through natural revelation and through special revelation.  And both of these revelations communicate true information about God, the world, humanity, etc.  The challenge for us, as regenerate Christians, is interpreting the information that we have been given.  Nature and Scripture will never contradict when they are both correctly interpreted, because they are both from the same source – God.

I find it disturbing that Mohler would make comments like this:

“It is the Scripture, the inerrant and infallible word of God, that trumps renderings of general revelation, and it must be so.”

In my opinion, what he should have said was that correct renderings of Scripture trump incorrect renderings of general revelation.  The tendency, as seen in this talk, toward disparaging the witness of creation is troubling.  I wholeheartedly share his conviction that we must guard against letting current theories of science overrule the clear teaching of Scripture.  However, as I have attempted to demonstrate, I believe that the issue of the age of the earth is no such clear teaching, and that many day-age proponents are holding firmly to the inspiration and authority of the Bible.

I think that Hugh Ross offers a compelling explanation for why some conservative Christians feel the need to disparage natural revelation:

“The fear that incites such a strong denial of physical reality and cosmic history implications must be addressed.  This fear runs deeper and wider than the specific case of creation time scales.  Underlying the sweeping denigration of old-earth views is the fear that science research may someday uncover some ‘new fact’ about the universe, earth, or life that clearly contradicts the Bible’s message… If we take the Bible seriously and literally, no basis for such fear exists.” (Ross, A Matter of Days, 211)

Conclusion

In conclusion, Mohler offers his explanation for the findings of science in regard to the age of the earth:

“The most natural understanding from the Scripture of how to answer that question comes to this: the universe looks old because the Creator made it whole.”

In other words, God gave the universe the appearance of age.  This is a common young-earth conclusion.  However, in my opinion, it does not stand up to close scrutiny (see the excellent articles entitled “Starlight and the Age of the Universe” and  “The Measurability of the Universe”).

Needless to say, I found Dr. Mohler’s talk to be somewhat frustrating.  In my opinion it was unconvincing and unhelpful.  The tendency to elevate secondary doctrines to a primary position, based solely upon unproven assumptions and “traditional” interpretations of the text, is dangerous because it can lead to unnecessary divisions and hostility in the church.  Instead of loving discourse, we end up with inflammatory statements like, “This position [old earth] seems to be at an insoluble collision with the redemptive historical narrative of the Gospel.”  We must look to the Scriptures as our guide, dogmatically affirming what it dogmatically affirms, but allowing for a range of differing interpretations where it is less clear.

We must continually re-examine our theology through the lens of the Word of God, not for the sake of change, but for the sake of faithfulness.  We are easily mistaken, easily confused, and easily influenced.  Our constant guide must be the Bible, both in regard to the age of the earth, but also in regard to determining the issues for which we are called to fight, and the issues where we are free to disagree.

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Comments
  1. Matt G. says:

    I certainly agree that Mohler can be frustrating because of the seemingly “common sense” approach that he takes towards interpreting Scripture. He doesn’t seem to consider that even evolutionists can give scripturally guided arguments, and perhaps that fact alone should be enough to accept them, even if we disagree with them. All in all, the whole age of the earth debate is probably the least helpful argument to engage nonbelievers in, however, because it merely accepts their rules of proof and gives them a reason to doubt the truth of scripture. Making the debate over evolution a “doctrinal” issue is a bit of a red herring; that is, Christianity isn’t going to fall because of some misunderstanding about how the world was created (who can really say they know?). Someone can say that God created the world using evolution, and even though I think they are wrong, I can still accept them and love them. I think the central concern should be demonstrating love to others because this is a matter in which non-Christians are very interested. Rather than overheat because one is supposedly protecting essential doctrines, one should see it as an opportunity to accept and express differences under more reasonable circumstances.

    Having said that, my chief interest is this paragraph from part 1:

    “The task of the faithful interpreter is to seek out the author’s intended meaning, which entails ensuring that we are asking the right questions of the text. We all have seen the wild interpretations and skewed applications that people can make from a certain passage when they have no consideration for authorial intent.”

    As I’ve expressed to you before, the blatant assumption that authorial intent is the final arbiter of interpretational certainty seems dubious to me (although I still use it), especially when I see God blessing people who act on what I would imagine are wrong interpretations of that intent. The author, when he writes a text, undoubtedly limits the possible interpretations because he chooses the words on the page; the fact that we must interpret those words and not others installs a parameter. However, the produced text immediately becomes abstracted from the authors context and person when it is put on paper; it becomes timeless because it continues beyond that moment and beyond the author’s life. The text can still have meaning even though and (as some argue) because the author is “dead.” When the text is thought of primarily as an access way into the author’s mind, as Terry Eagleton says, “reduces all literature to a covert form of autobiography: we are not reading literary works as literary works, simply as second-hand ways of getting to know somebody. For another thing, such a view entails that literary works are indeed ‘expressions’ of an author’s mind, which does not seem a particularly helpful way of discussing Little Red Riding Hood or some highly stylized courtly love lyric. Even if I do have access to Shakespeare’s mind when reading Hamlet, what is the point of putting it this way, since all of his mind that I have access to is the text of Hamlet? Why not just say instead that I am reading Hamlet, as he left no evidence of it other than the play itself? Was what he ‘had in mind’ different from what he wrote, and how can we know? Did he himself know what he had in mind? Are writers always in full possession of their own meanings?” (Literary Theory, 41).

    I think we can ask those same questions of the Biblical writers, particularly when discussing poetry, narrative, but also other genres. Even if a meaning can somehow be metaphysically attached to the text, why should that particularly interpretation be preferred to that of the reader? Choosing to always stick to the author’s meaning is not only rather arbitrary but also many times impossible simply because the author likely didn’t fully grasp his words. Really, can we grasp our words? Are words subordinate messengers that we can fully control, or do they sometimes have a will of their own with which they can defect? Or, even more fundamentally, do words not form us, shape us, and surround us? The idea that the text is stuck with authorial meaning absolutely implicitly assumes that language is ontologically derived from humans, forgetting how dependent we are in ourselves on language for who we are. Historico-grammatical biblical hermeneutics believes this, albeit only partially or inconsistently, in that it recognizes that the meaning of an author’s words belong first to his society.

    So, as I said, it is not as though the author has no bearing on the text, for without the author there would be no text to interpret, and no parameters of any sort to guide interpretation. However, as words are given to the author and change with time and society, one must not think that the author is the one in absolute control of those parameters that are established. Now, “absolute” is a dubious word, but what I am trying to communicate by it is simply that classic reformed hermeneutics, or however you may want to label it, probably unduly stresses the importance of the psychological processes of the author as if we could know them clearly from any angle and as if the text couldn’t be good and meaningful in any other way. Obviously, that particular concern comes from thinking that the apostles must have known and been right about everything (which is an unnecessary assumption for Scripture to be considered inerrant and true) and therefore known what they were writing (also an unnecessary assumption), and a fear of interpretive anarchy. I’m not sure that anyone has a criticism-free answer to the question of interpretive anarchy, but pretending that we aren’t assuming anything by seeking authorial intent (to the exclusion of other methods) won’t help solve that problem.

    This is getting long, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

  2. matttully says:

    As you know, my understanding of this realm of philosophy is limited. However, I would offer these thoughts:

    What do you mean when you say, “especially when I see God blessing people who act on what I imagine are wrong interpretations of that intent”? I’m just not clear what you are getting at with this?

    You write,

    “When the text is thought of primarily as an access way into the author’s mind, as Terry Eagleton says, “reduces all literature to a covert form of autobiography: we are not reading literary works as literary works, simply as second-hand ways of getting to know somebody.”

    I’m not sure I would agree with this. Authorial intent is not the same as autobiography. When we speak, we often communicate (or at least, attempt to) more than just information about ourselves. When Paul writes about Jesus’s incarnation in Philippians 2, he is communicating his personal thoughts about Jesus, but also objective truth about Jesus. Eagleton’s argument fails the experiential test as well – when we communicate, we often seek to (and perceive ourselves as successful in this endeavor) communicate objective truth. Again, if I say, “Jesus is alive,” I mean more than, “I think Jesus is alive.”

    You continue, “Was what he ‘had in mind’ different from what he wrote, and how can we know?”

    There isn’t a difference when you locate the true meaning of what was written in authorial intent. You are correct that our only access into the author’s mind is through what he wrote, but because of the nature of language, a nature which allows meaning – real meaning – to be embedded into strings of words (in a specific culture and language, of course), I believe there is an “objective” meaning to be found. Of course, if that meaning was plainly evident to all at all times, the struggle of interpretation wouldn’t exist. So, language doesn’t perfectly or absolutely or infallibly carry an author’s intended meaning. But it does carry meaning, at least to a limited extent. But, I think I may be talking in circles…

    You ask, “why should that particularly interpretation be preferred to that of the reader?”

    Well, because I read the Bible to see and understand what the writers of the Bible were trying to communicate. If we locate primary meaning in ourselves, why read anything? Why talk to anyone, if the objective reality of what they say doesn’t really matter?

    “Choosing to always stick to the author’s meaning is not only rather arbitrary but also many times impossible simply because the author likely didn’t fully grasp his words. ”

    What is your support for this statement? I’m not sure I would agree.

    “Are words subordinate messengers that we can fully control, or do they sometimes have a will of their own with which they can defect?”

    I really don’t know what you are talking about with this. Of course words are subordinate messengers. In fact, they’re nothing but non-sense sounds (or scribblings) if detached from the culture, language, and intended meaning of the author.

    “pretending that we aren’t assuming anything by seeking authorial intent (to the exclusion of other methods) won’t help solve that problem.”

    Oh, I certainly wouldn’t be so naive as to assume that I’m coming to the text (or any type of communication) without a “perspective” or “bias”. That’s why getting to authorial intent is so hard. We’re stuck in our culture and Paul was stuck in his. But a true connection can be made. Real (although, imperfect) access to authorial intent is possible. And its crucial.

    I’d love to hearing more about any other “methods” of interpreting the Bible that you would see as valid. Then I would like you to explain why those methods would or would not be valid in any other context (say, in this conversation).

    On a more foundational level, I’m pretty wary of this kind of thinking about language primarily because it doesn’t seem to line up with our experience. Our words do carry meaning, true meaning, that often (perhaps even more often) lines up pretty well with what we were trying to communicate. No, its not perfect. In fact, we are constantly misunderstanding each other. But that doesn’t negate the reality of true communication, true transfer of (authorial) meaning. If it did, there would be no point in us having this discussion. And if your interpretation of my words is just as relevant as my intended meaning, why read my words at all?

  3. Matt G. says:

    As I try to respond point by point, keep in mind that I’m not trying to discount the author entirely; I’m simply trying to question the emphasis placed on the author, as opposed to the text and the reader, more for the purpose of exploring the process of interpretation and to diminish the subjectivity introduced by presumed objectivity. To put it perhaps more or less clearly, my questions’ aims are not primarily epistemological (how can I know “truth”?) but ontological (what is the nature of language and how it conveys “truth”?). Of course the two are interrelated, but they do reflect different starting points and form a discussion that I don’t think can avoid a dialectical answer, if it can provide any. In other words, I don’t think you can avoid sounding extreme on one side or the other, but I am trying to be in the middle by just asking the questions. I am really trying to think through the implications of what it means to be in language as being in a language is to be in the world with direct access to reality, rather than thinking of language as something we use to merely “communicate” with, touch, or talk about this apparently other or “outside” world, as an objectivist approach assumes. Basically, I am trying to argue for the “givenness” of human existence and the passivity that we have in and before the world as we aren’t as in control of everything as we would like to think.
    Now, I realize that what I have just said is ambiguous and refers to many things that you won’t be thinking of, and that you will take what I say and connect it to many things that you are more familiar with. I cannot fully control the words or force them to communicate perfectly to you—I cannot make them “mean” what I want them to “mean” to you because you are just as important in constructing the meaning as I am in putting out the words, not to mention the importance of the world in providing the means to mean anything at all; that is, the language is part of the fabric of our environment. My intentions are just one of the aspects involved in developing this abstract notion of “meaning.” Now, I realize that this discussion will be almost nauseatingly pleonastic on the point of “presuppositions” (to use terms of biblical apologetics), but I will try to avoid being annoyingly self-referential as I answer your responses.
    When I quoted Eagleton on literature becoming, in effect, a form of autobiography, my point is that the focus on authorial intent finds, as its objective, only the uncovering of the psychological processes of the author. Reading is just recreating the author’s thought processes. I think this point is better understood if one considers fiction: is finding the author’s intent a very enlightening way of discussing any given story or poem? Can’t one enjoy a story even if you have no idea who the author is or what his goals may have been? Can’t one find meaning in simply exploring the corners of a creative work as it opens up a new world to the reader’s mind?
    If authorial intent is what one has in mind, then there isn’t room for exploring a written work for themes, metaphors, pictures, and connections in its structural layers because one assumes that the author was trying to communicate some truth about something else and nothing more. It doesn’t leave room for non-propositional expressions that are so often embodied in art—where artists don’t have a particularly “deep” or “meaningful” reason for their art; the artist may allude to things and refer, but his overall intention may not be truth at all. Many artists will laugh when reflecting on the question of “meaning” in their art because they didn’t explicitly intend anything (this fact demonstrates the common conflation of authorial intent with meaning), although they often invite interpretations of how their art reflects this or that thing.
    The writer is an artist, and often times language and writing is not strictly propositional, I think perhaps even when we think we are being propositional. A focus on some particular truth draws attention away from the seemingly miniscule ways of creative expression that come out in all types of writing—creative aspects that give personality and thus meaning to any work. And, these aspects are not merely ornamental in that they make words simply interesting but that they are essential to the author’s understanding of the world and thus his expression.

    I said: “Are words subordinate messengers that we can fully control, or do they sometimes have a will of their own with which they can defect?”
    You said: “I really don’t know what you are talking about with this. Of course words are subordinate messengers. In fact, they’re nothing but non-sense sounds (or scribblings) if detached from the culture, language, and intended meaning of the author.”
    My point is that words, if they find their essence, to use a poor term (I don’t want to reify language, but it is almost impossible to speak of it otherwise), in the author’s intention, are then dependent upon the author’s volition and can have no other possible understanding. Words take on meanings and interpretations that the author in no sense intended. This process happens to the “best” of interpretations of Scripture because we can never perfectly understand the biblical authors’ contexts, as you well know. If words could only mean exactly what the author intended and nothing more or less, then a “true” interpretation of biblical authors (or anyone, for that matter) would be utterly impossible, and paraphrase, if the meaning could be attained, would always be wrong. In order for words to function as we see them do in the context of culture, etc… then they must be, in some sense, free from authorial volition.

    I said: “Choosing to always stick to the author’s meaning is not only rather arbitrary but also many times impossible simply because the author likely didn’t fully grasp his words. ”

    This statement is again an assertion of the inability we have to “possess” language as if we controlled the meanings associated with it. I often use words without taking the time to consider all the connections that they have with other words and the ideas formed by them. I don’t consider all possible contexts, and I certainly cannot limit the way in which words apply themselves to different people as they have different associations with an idea than I do. Quite simply though, from the reader’s standpoint, there is nothing in the text itself that forces us to try and find the author’s intention. From where does that notion even come?

    You said: “I read the Bible to see and understand what the writers of the Bible were trying to communicate. If we locate primary meaning in ourselves, why read anything? Why talk to anyone, if the objective reality of what they say doesn’t really matter?”
    (First of all, I must point out that it isn’t necessarily an either/or between author and reader. I’m not arguing that meaning be primarily found in the reader.) Who says that finding meaning in ourselves excludes others? What if others are essential finding meaning in ourselves? I ask these questions somewhat facetiously because I think the deeper question is, “What is meaning?” Why must we have epistemological certainty to have…hope?…love?….happiness?….fulfillment….what is embodied in meaning? We can point to things that seem to give meaning, but that is about it.
    I read a fascinating book this last spring which argued that the question of “what can I know?” or “What is certain?” cannot fulfill humanity’s desire but only a positive answer to “does somebody love me?” Although I am not fully convinced by his arguments, I think it points in a profound direction towards a more Christian approach to loving others in the world rather than simply trying to argue them into being Christians.

    You ask: “What do you mean when you say, ‘especially when I see God blessing people who act on what I imagine are wrong interpretations of that intent’? I’m just not clear what you are getting at with this?”
    There are many interpretations out there which, I would imagine, miss the biblical author’s intention, or at least misunderstand what the author was talking about, and God will still bless people when they act on that supposed misinterpretation. Therefore, finding the author’s “intent” is likely not the critierion for being a “good” Christian, by God’s standards. Again, I don’t say that to justify thinking whatever I want, but it should maybe make us wonder about the strictness of our criteria for interpretation.
    The practical outworking of a hermeneutical shift from authorial intent would lead, I think, first to giving more time to the biblical text as a literary work, with attention to literary structures, than as a historical factbook. The preoccupation with authorial intent is harmful, I think, when people forget that the author doesn’t always have just one thing in mind, or even anything in particular in mind; the perfect example of which is the Creation account. Mohler’s attitude toward the situation illustrates why I think “authorial intent” can obstruct scriptural interpretation. Also, I think we forget that it is God’s word, written through men, so the point is necessarily what the human author was thinking. Isaiah was liking not thinking of the Messiah nailed on the cross quite like it happened when he prophesied in Is. 53, nor was Ezekiel intending an illustration of divine will and freedom in the rationalistic debates of Calvinism and Arminianism in Ez. 36-37, yet we appropriate those passages in reference to these things all the time, far from authorial “intent.”
    I’m going to stop there because I have a lot to do today, but to try to quickly answer your final question, twice: (1) I have to read your words to interpret them because they wouldn’t be an interpretation of your words without having words to interpret; (2) the assumption that you are hanging onto in that question, and what I am questioning, is “my.”

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