She’s Baa-ack

Juliet’s archive problem seems to have cleared up (blogger blogger) and that puts me back on the spot to respond to her (just as I was telling David in email that maybe we should wind this thread down). I’ll try to strike a happy medium between boring the non-hermeneutics fans out there (on one hand) and short-changing Juliet (on the other).

So: Juliet observes, partway into her blog, that “One of the issues that has snagged my thinking about the differential option, however, is the imaginative configuration that places the concept of meaning outside of the text rather than somehow corresponding to the unique dance that occurs between the text and reader. Far from a criticism, it is a stuck point in my own reflections on how reading occurs.” I’m not quite sure how to read that last sentence—I could have asked her this afternoon, but at that point I didn’t know her archives were operational again, and besides, her intention in composing that sentence is part of the question we’re investigating. In her first sentence, though, she rightly catches the differential-hermeneutic insistence that “meaning” resides not inside the text, as a vein of gold in a rock stratum, but in the interaction between reader and text in a particular situation (I’m adding the specific setting to Juliet’s “text and reader”).

I’m not surprised when she reports that a classroom of politically-attuned readers resisted Steve Fowl’s point that ideology does not reside in the text. I’ve been raked over the coals in professional meetings by colleagues who found that suggestion theoretically ridiculous and politically retrograde. (I suppose I don’t think I was coal-raked, as I had sound rebuttals to all the objections I faced; in fact, I had explicit counter-examples for every ominous interpretive threat that my interlocutors posed.) The no-ideologies argument affronts readers who want not only to point out ways that a text can persuasively be interpreted in ways that oppress, limit, or threaten particular constituencies of readers—they want also to say that hte problems they point to are intrinsic to the text. In a similar way, though an opposite orientation, other readers want to claim that “traditional” values and theological teachings are intrinsic to the biblical text.

Augustine really does help with these matters. He believes without question that God can appropriately claim authorship of the Bible, and that the Bible reveals God’s identity and plan. At the same time, Augustine the semiotician and rhetor recognizes that the Bible will inevitably engender different interpretations, that indeed the fullness of God’s providential will requires a plenitude of legitimate interpretations. So long as these various interpretations build up the love of God and of neighbor, and cohere with other pertinent texts, the interpreters have rightly understood Scripture.

I’ve probably said more than enough on this topic for now. My gang of critical interrogators has helped me see where readers are likely to doubt my claims, and to see where I should make the positive side of my position clearer and more explicit. Thanks to everyone who chipped in, and here I want to note Joe Duemer too (though I haven’t really followed up his observations on language games, imagination, fancy, and why AKMA is right and Pat Robertson wrong, though I do appreciate his confidence on the last-mentioned topic). If I go on any longer, though, these insightful critics may instigate a further round of discussion, and that would transgress against the patience of long-suffering visitors. So tomorrow I’ll try not to talk about hermeneutics at all. I’ve been itching to open up on trust and especially on how trust fares online.

Thanks for your attention, and I’ll keep y’all in prayer, and I ask your prayers also.

DRMA:“Ça Plane Pour Moi,” Plastic Bertrand; “Honeysuckle Rose,” Fats Waller; “Say Man,” Bo Diddley; “Rough Side of the Mountain,” the Rev. F. C. Barnes and Janice Brown; “Nobody’s Fault But My Own,” Beck; “Number Nine Dream,” John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band; “Day After Day,” Badfinger; “Joyful Girl,” Ani DiFranco; “Touch Me Lord Jeus,” Angelic Gospel Singers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *