Eagle's Wings Community Church

Book Review – Whose Community? Which Interpretation? by Merold Westphal

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This will be a bit different of a blog.  This week I have an intensive at school for Theology in the Emergent Church.  So, this one will be on Merold Westphal’s book Who’s Community?  Which Interpretation.  It will be something to think about in preparation for our group leading the discussion on the book.  So, here goes.

  • This book is a theory on hermeneutics.  (Click here for my stolen definition.  Yes, I’m a thief!)  It can be defined both by what it’s for and against.  It’s against a “common sense” method of hermeneutics and for an “epistemic humility” method.  I would agree with both.
  • “Plain sense” hermeneutics makes the assumption that we can just read an ancient text and the true meaning will just naturally come to us (some would add with the help of the Holy Spirit).  Unfortunately, experience and  in-depth exegesis doesn’t seem to bear this out.
  • Epistemic humility does not equate to relativism where any interpretation is valid.  Many interpretations are clearly not valid.  However, it does recognize that we all see and read through a filter of our own experiences.  So, the reason for various interpretations has largely to do with the fact that the various interpreters all have slightly different filters (presuppositions, knowledge, experiences, values, etc.).
  • The best we can do is to make strong attempts to clear ourselves of our presuppositions.
  • Because authors inherit language, complete with meaning, they are not the sole creators of meaning when they write.  However, readers can understand more and more as they study the writing even if they can never be totally engulfed in the writer’s “original intended meaning” at least in an absolute way.
  • It is wise to consult a variety of interpretations when trying to get to the truth of a text.
  • Interpretation, such as learning how to ask good questions, appeals partly to art.  In this way, conversation becomes an important part of the process of interpretation.
  • This conversation should take place between various Christian traditions.
  • God is immanent and transcendent as shown in the dialectical tension in scripture on this topic.  His revelation is immediate but what we get through scripture is not the immediate.  It is His filtered Word.  It is His Word spoken through the prophets.
  • Theories are subordinate to practice.

Finally, here are some things I question about Westphal’s approach.

  • Should we conflate interpretation and application (p. 112) or are they two different things?
  • Has Westphal over-minimized the value of foundationalism?  Is there value in foundationalism?  Do we automatically utilize and accept foundationalism in any other disciplines?

P.S.  For information on participating in our dialogue group, click on the “Become A Participant” tab and tell us if you’d like to join us in person or via the web.  We’d love to be in community with you!

Predestination 2

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YouTube Video Introduction –  Predestination 2

Below is a blog by John F. on predestination.

As one who is (slowly) emerging out of 5-point Calvinism, I find myself less passionate about articulating an answer to this “irresistable” question. Although I can find more texts in Scripture that seem to affirm God’s sovereignty in favor of Calvinistic soteriology, I cannot escape the feeling that the arguments rest too strongly in reason or forensic-legal interpretation methods. Furthermore, does the question positively shape my spiritual or theological formation? At the same time, I cannot avoid the question because the Bible is fixated on redemption and salvation. And of course, this is not the sort of discussion I am going to have with a person unfamiliar with the gospel.

Resisting the Irresistable. Being made in the image of God conveys a built-in attraction (in humanity) to the beauty of God’s holiness and glory. In this sense, God’s grace is irresistable because the image of God (humanity) is only fully and wonderfully experienced and known in a state of non-resistance; however, sin and death make the perfect and lovely God less desirable and so I “resist” God’s grace. Within the Trinity, there is no resistance to God or intimacy with other in one. Yet, I am born in sin and do not see the glory of God in my vanity or corruption. I am born in a state of resistance with the possibility for intimacy.

a. Pre-destination. The entire concept seems to favor a community-oriented event of salvation. Rather to conform the church to become the perfect image of God as a perfect bride for the bridegroom. The Torah, the Prophets, and Paul speak of Israel, the House of Jacob, the God of the Abraham and Isaac, Esau and Jacob as a corporate community of worship. This “aspect” dominates the pre-destination focus as God planning before the dawn of creation to create, redeem, and glorify a nation of those who cannot resist the love of God in Jesus Christ. It is not a question of individual salvation, but the determination of God to conform the ones who do not resist the Holy Spirit into a community.

b. Election. If the Holy Spirit can raise Jesus Christ from the dead (Rom 1:3), then the Holy Spirit can awaken hearts with conviction to see the light of the glory of God. The Spirit gives power to believe. As a (diminishing) Calvanist, I have never thought of myself as a robotic believer (God saved me in spite of myself); yet, I cannot see the fullness of my rejection of God’s grace either. Election is for me the discovery of myself in the righteousness of God by faith in Christ. My election is also the gift of God and my particular calling, vocation, and identity within the aforementioned community of worship. I am accountable to God and the church. To make my calling and election sure is to examine if and when I resist God’s grace or respond positively to the gospel.

c. Tautological…The fact that people reject the Gospel is not a statement about whether God’s grace is irresistable or not, but that they can suppress the truth in unrighteousness (another way of saying that God’s grace is “resistable”). I conclude with saying that God’s grace is irresistable to those who are called by God and resistable by those to reject Jesus Christ without qualification.

For Brian Bram’s blog on an alternative view of predestination, click here.

P.S.  For information on participating in our dialogue group, click on the “Become A Participant” tab and tell us if you’d like to join us in person or via the web.  We’d love to be in community with you!

 

John F. June 3, 2012 1 Comment Permalink