Aristotle and Plato

Criticism 2: I&I Ignores Other Possible Solutions

Criticism 2: The thoughts expressed in I&I are merely one way of looking at the issues. There are other possible solutions.

Aristotle and PlatoThis is correct. It is also a rather unhelpful statement given that any attempt at meaningful communication suffers the same fate. Any attempt to address subjects like the Bible and the ANE, theological diversity, and the NT’s use of the OT, as I&I does, is by definition “a way” of looking at the issues. I have presented a hermeneutical and intellectual model for addressing these issues and have pitched it at a level at which non-specialists can access them.

The fact that, say, an incarnational approach is only “one way” does not constitute a criticism. It is simply a statement of fact. More importantly, it does not ipso facto, render a familiar position as more possible. It is a common logical error to think that one’s position is correct, and that all one has to do is cast some doubt (sufficient to the critic) on alternate models in order to maintain that preferred position. This fails to engage the arguments on the level required to adjudicate them on their own merit.

There are many “possible” solutions for articulating the many challenges presented to us in reading the Bible in our time and place. But offering alternate possibilities is not in and of itself an argument. It must be shown how that alternatives are more persuasive, how they do a better job of explaining the data. The better explanations will be models that account for as much of the data as possible persuasively as possible. (For more on this, see my article “Some Thoughts on Theological Exegesis of The Old Testament: Toward a Viable Model of Biblical Coherence and Relevance” [PDF download].)

If the issues are not addressed on this level, mutual understanding and progress will not be made. We will have simply a cacophony of opinions, deeply held for all sorts of personal, psychological, sociological reasons (fear of change, of losing control, of comfort in a given paradigm, whatever). If we want to move towards greater truth, we will need to set out reasons why any particular approach does a better job at handling data than other approaches.

One thing that a study of the history of interpretation has taught me is that hermeneutical finality is difficult to achieve, and is often a false comfort. To put it another way, virtually any interpretive act is “possible” given a certain set of presuppositions. Let me give a contemporary example. It is “possible” to say that Genesis 1 is a scientific statement if one presupposes that this is how a rational God would communicate. And so, yes, this is a “possible” interpretation. I feel, however, that it is extremely unpersuasive given what we understand of the ancient world in general, the character of Scripture (that God’s communication is condescension), etc.

Now, it goes without saying that even here I have briefly laid out my own assumptions about the Bible, which could be challenged. But, the former is not more correct simply because some people hold to it with vigor and force. Neither is my position the default correct view simply because I happen to be the one espousing it. Rather, both positions (and others) need to be argued, preferably in arenas where knowledgeable people, who have mastered other disciplines and are also seeking after truth, can critique each other.

If, however, simple disagreement is seen as sufficient cause for rendering other views as faulty, what we have is an exertion of power rather than a discussion.