Eagle's Wings Community Church

Theology & Science – Part 2

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Click HERE for an introductory YouTube video for Theology & Science (Part 2)

 

This blog series will cover my final exam for my recent Theology & Science class.  Here is the first question and part two of my answer.

Click HERE for Part 1.

Write an essay explaining (A) what hermeneutics is about, (B) what hermeneutics has to do with theology and science, and (C) why hermeneutics was important for the topic of this course (give examples).

B) Hermeneutics is generally about interpretation and not just interpretation of communication. We reflect back on our lives and interpret our whole story, even though it is unwritten. So, hermeneutics has to be used in the realm of nature and when that nature is evaluated in the context of communication between scientists and theologians and between regular folks like me with interest in one or both of those topics, there is no questioning the certain need for the discipline of hermeneutics. Each of these two disciplines of knowledge are seeking to understand truth, and once discovered they each tell the story of that truth. The moment that story enters into the picture there is a hermeneutical requirement.

In science observations have to be interpreted and communicated and once that communication happens, it is necessary to interpret that. Theology is not much different except our observations largely come out of a text that tells a story where we notice certain things within a text rather than inside a beaker. Theology and science both have within them an art and a science. In theology, one might easily think of the art side first. We think of theology differently than we think of doctrine or dogma. Theology is freer than doctrine or dogma to explore possibilities. It is about piecing things together to create something that is expressed uniquely, something expressed differently than at any other time.

However, theology, at least if it is going to be good theology, has to contain an element of science as well. Anything and everything is not permissible to the church regarding theology. There are checks and balances, tradents within the church. There is a great community also interpreting and reminding of certain truths when someone goes too far. There is history and those who interpret history and its truths. Like the world of science those truths are not always agreed upon by everyone, but also like science certain false truths eventually fade, unable to stand the test of time and the scrutiny of their growing number of interlocutors.

Neither science nor theology is strictly logical. For many, it may be easier to think this way in the realm of theology. But science has been characterized by logic. It would seem to many people that that is the purpose of science. However, Reynhout uses Heidegger to show that science is not a place of strict logic, allowing for no infiltration of things like subjectivity (Reynhout, 104). Like theology, science has a search for meaning, and wherever there is a search for meaning, there is interpretation. Reynhout says that “the most unbiased experiment conducted under ideal conditions will still involve a certain kind of interpretive process” (Reynhout 121). If science was only based on facts and no interpretation was needed, there would never be any changes to scientific theory. But changes come when new information is discovered, just like changes to theology as one grows in that field of knowledge come.

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!

Theology and Science – Part 1

[If you’re new to this blog, we’d love it if you subscribed to our RSS feed or email updates to the right. Should you decide to in the future, unsubscribing is easy, too. If you like it and share via Twitter or Facebook that’d be totally rad.]

 

Click HERE for an introductory YouTube video for Theology & Science (Part 1)

 

This blog series will cover my final exam for my recent Theology & Science class.  Here is the first question and part one of my answer.

Write an essay explaining (A) what hermeneutics is about, (B) what hermeneutics has to do with theology and science, and (C) why hermeneutics was important for the topic of this course (give examples).

A) I have borrowed my definition of hermeneutics from Grant R. Osbourne in his work, The Hermeneutical Spiral (pg. 5) as the art and science of interpretation. I like both sides of this definition. Hermeneutics is about precision in communication and this is where the science comes in. There are rules to be followed in interpretation. Not just anything will go. “I love dogs.” cannot be interpreted as “The weather is cold today.” There may be a range of interpretation but there remains the ability to go outside of the range to a place where the interpretation is wrong. For example, when a communicator wants to exaggerate and intends to use hyperbole, it should only be interpreted as such. If the intention is to go over the top to make a point, the interpreter is obligated to read (not necessarily just text) the communication as hyperbole.

However, there is a certain art to hermeneutics, as well. Typically we don’t have the time to clarify every intention, and often we don’t have the communicator present to ask for clarification. But, original intention has to be at least a part of our hermeneutic. Some people recognize figures of speech more easily than others. This is also where the art comes in. The kind of art I’m thinking about here isn’t some sort of “born to do art, gifted directly by God” kind. Becoming someone who excels at art takes practice, even from those it comes most naturally to. Hermeneutics also takes practice. The good news is that we do hermeneutics every day. We’re constantly interpreting communication. However, those who get really good at it tend to be those who reflect on it and study it.

Reynhout has used a slightly different definition which serves to enhance the one I typically use. He says that interpretation is “the dialectical process of understanding through explanation” (Reynhout, xv). Reynhout’s focus figure, Paul Ricoeur, agrees with the idea that all interpretations are not equal (Reynhout, 73). The fact that there are arguments about the correct interpretation shows they are not all equal. If hermeneutics was only a science or only an art, then the case could be made that all interpretations are equal. But that is not the case. For him, we go back and forth in a dialectical way from understanding and explanation. I liken this to Kierkegaard’s idea of going back and forth from epistemology to hermeneutics.

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!

 

Brian Bram August 13, 2014 4 Comments Permalink