Taking the Long View: Christian Theology in Historical Perspective

Taking the Long View: Christian Theology in Historical Perspective

Taking the Long View: Christian Theology in Historical Perspective

Taking the Long View: Christian Theology in Historical Perspective

Synopsis

Taking the Long View argues in a series of engagingly written essays that remembering the past is essential for men and women who want to function effectively in the present - for without some knowledge of their own past, neither individuals nor institutions know where they have been or wherethey are going. The book illustrates its thesis with tough-minded examples from the Church's life and thought, ranging from more abstract problems like the theoretical role of historical criticism to such painfully concrete issues as the commandment of Jesus to forgive unforgivable wrongs.

Excerpt

The first essay in this book—“The Superiority of Pre-critical Exegesis”—might not have been written at all, had I not been invited to deliver the Kearns lecture at Duke University in 1979. Under the terms of the lectureship, I was expected to speak on a subject of general interest to biblical, historical, and theological students. It occurred to me at the time that it might be useful to raise some questions about the methods then followed by biblical scholars in the practice of their craft.

The lecture addressed a problem that the Church experiences every Sunday, when ministers, who have been taught to use historical-critical tools in biblical interpretation and never to allegorize, often allegorize when they preach and even appear reluctant to use historical-critical tools with a lay audience. Some critics assume the problem is primarily with the ministers themselves, who need to change their approach to the Bible to match the theory they learned in school. My own contention is that the problem is less with ministers than with the theory they have been taught.

From the very beginning the historical-critical method insisted that a biblical text had one meaning and one meaning only: namely, what the human author of the text had in mind when he wrote it. Older exegesis thought it probable that many texts had more than one legitimate meaning, without arguing that a text could mean anything the interpreter wanted it to mean. I suggested that older exegesis was correct in its view of multiple meanings, at least of . . .

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