Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mr. (Rev. Dr. Prof.) Grant Osborne's "Hermeneutical Spiral:" Intro, Ch. 1

Osborne, Grant. The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1991.

Hermeneutics is the science and art of interpretation. The scientific part involves varied rules. The artistic part comes by continuous practice. Too often, according to Mr. Osborne, the element of illumination is, a priori, diminished; this latter point is no minor one. We will see how he develops this.

Mr. Osborne offers an interesting paragraph on the “textual spiral:”

• Hermeneutics/Exegesis involves the 3rd person issues (he/she/they): what does this text say or what do “these” people or persons objectively say? Or, it’s about “them” and their authorial intention. Or, it’s about what the text says, the author says, etc.

• Hermeneutics/Exegesis involves 1st person issues: what is the personal application in light of the above? What about me? What does it say to me?

• Hermeneutics/Exegesis involves 2nd person issues: what does this say to others, e.g. teaching or homiletics? What does it say to you? What does it say to the congregation, the plural “yous?”

• “Existentialistic hermeneutics” focuses on the 1st/2nd person issues, missing the 3rd person issues. Mr. Osborne doesn’t mention it, but this would involve mainline liberals and, most notably, Rudolph Bultmann, that is, peeling away the “husk” to get the “kernel” of “authentic existence.” We'll bypass Bultmannianism, a sophisticated form of demythologizing the text. But, we'll note another camp--narcissistic self-referencers--would be Joel Osteen, TBNers, and other hustlers without 3rd person issues: the text, context, etc.

• If one ignores the 3rd person issues, “controls” are lost in the sea of subjectivity

• If one ignores the 1st person issues, there is no personal challenge and no call to repentance or change in light of the text

• If one ignores the 2nd person issues, there is no teaching or preaching

• Move from the 3rd to the 2nd but without the 1st, “hypocrisy”

• The spiral involves the text, to context, to the congregation and beyond

 Mr. Osborne holds to a “carefully nuanced view of inerrancy.” He offers a chart:

• Level I = text = implicit authority

• Level II = interpretation = derived authority

• Level III= contextualization = applied authority

• We would have changed Levels II and III to say, “Derived, dependent, and approximated authority.” To wit, sermons, confessions, liturgies and human speech possess authority “insofar” as they reflect Level I, the implicit, the foundational, the non-negotiable, the canonical and the sovereign authority. Perhaps more will emerge as we review Mr. Osborne.

Mr. Osborne speaks of unity and diversity. There is a diversity of contexts, geographies, times, personalities, histories, figures of speech, emphases and the like in the Bible. Systematics deals with the unity after the other disciplines have offered their inputs.

He offers 10 stages of approach which are salutary:

1. Chart the Biblical book

 2. Diagram the passage

 3. Grammar study—noun, verbs, clauses (temporal, concessive, causal, conditional, result, purpose, means, manner, instrumental, etc.)

 4. Semantic study

 5. Syntactical study more largely

 6. Background studies—authorship, date, purpose, archaeology, themes, purposes

 7. Biblical studies, or, correlations to other Books

 8. Historical Theology, e.g. the History of Interpretation/History of Exegesis

 9. Systematic theology

 10. Homiletical Theology

 11. We would add, repeat 1-10 many times over many years

Grammars, lexicons, dictionaries, word studies, atlases, background studies, encyclopedias, periodical articles, commentaries, Biblical Theologies (we would add e.g. G. Vos, Witsius, Hengstenberg, etc.), Systematicians, Church Histories, Homiletic Works. As a non-Prayer Book Churchman and an American evangelical, Mr. Osborne failed to note historical hymns, liturgies and Confessions, rich sources of interpretative insights. But, perhaps he has suggested that under Historical Theology. He should have mentioned hymns, liturgies and Confession-catechisms. He's an American evangelical and it shows at this point. But, the recommended structure above—even without the three missing elements—keeps the interpretative narcissistics, Costals, Charismoes, TBNers, mainliners (“existentialists”), Tractarians (“Gothic Romanticists”) and others at bay. Mr. Osborne provides checks on the wifty sea of chaotic subjectivity. This is why we openly scoff the likes of uneducated, untrained, enthusing, non-deliberative and non-scholarly chaps like C.J. Mahaney, TBN, Joel Osteen and other half-wits. Proverbs 12.1: “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” But, we’ll address anti-intellectualism elsewhere. It is not to be tolerated.

But back on topic, this appears to be a very interesting volume.

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