Thursday, October 14, 2010

theological interpretation

Joel Green, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in California, wrote an article back in 2004 that I just discovered this afternoon.  It's called "Practicing the Gospel in a Post-Critical World: The Promise of Theological Exegesis" (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 47 no 3 S 2004, p 387-397).  Since I'm in the biblical studies orbit, the terms "theological exegesis" or "theological interpretation" are not new to me, but I found Green's explanation of it very helpful and I thought you might, too.

Green says that the main hurdle to overcome in understanding the Bible is not the historical distance between me and the text (i.e. the 2000-year gap), but the theological distance between belief and unbelief.  Because the Scriptures are written for the benefit of the people of God, in order to truly understand them we must be part of the believing community.

This is huge!  Do you have any idea how many schools offer a doctorate in biblical studies but ask students to leave their faith at home?  There is a sense in most university settings that faith clouds our ability to read the Bible objectively.  To be scholarly, faith must be put aside.  This has been a sobering part of the search for PhD programs, but an important issue to think through.  I agree that faith is a biased perspective from which to read the Bible, but un-faith is no less biased!  And those who bar faith from the classroom end up with skewed interpretations of the Bible because the Bible was intended for the faith community!  So ... three cheers for schools where faith is integral to the learning process and professors who are brave enough to say it publically!


  1. Even better -- I suspect that Joel Green was a professor at Asbury Seminary when he penned those words! :)

  2. Yes, he was. And I should clarify what he is not saying. Green does not suggest that simply believing guarantees the right interpretation. Lots of groups sincerely believe in God but arrive at mutually exclusive theological conclusions about the Bible. But Green's point is still a good one: for us to properly understand Scripture we must position ourselves to receive it by faith.