Sunday, November 08, 2015

The New Catholic Hermeneutical Method

Greg Krehbiel, "The cultural fallout when 'God is love' becomes a hermeneutical method" (Crowhill Weblog, November 3, 2015), distinguishes a right and a wrong way of interpreting the words of Jesus. For example, when we hear Jesus say "It is I. Be not afraid," how are we to interpret this?
The good way is to see that God is most perfectly revealed in Christ, so that whenever you are tempted to think of God as vengeful or petty or whatever, you compare that with how God is revealed in Christ.

The bad way is to do pretty much the same thing, but rather than comparing and harmonizing the two visions, you allow one to rule.

For example, you take a passage like “It is I. Be not afraid.” and you reason that anything that makes you afraid doesn’t represent the spirit of Christ and therefore must not be from God. You then do the same thing with love and forgiveness and comfort and anything else you can find in the person of Jesus, and you conclude that any theological proposition that makes you feel unloved, unforgiven, discomforted, etc., is ipso facto wrong.

This clearly becomes an idol. “My cherry-picking interpretation of what Jesus is like becomes the lens through which I interpret everything about God.”

... it seems to me this is precisely what’s going on in wide sweeeps of the church. People conclude that if something makes them feel bad, that thing is not from God, so never mind.

The curious thing is that this same attitude extends into the secular world. Anything that makes the secularist uncomfortable is not from God ... uh, wait, there’s no God, so it’s just not right and is rejected with the same religious fervor.

The bottom line is that the [assumed operating] rule for all morality [now] is what makes me happy / comfortable / loved / feeling good about myself.
The same principle was evident in the common interpretation of Romans 8:31-39 I used to frequently hear from evangelical pastors. There was a reason I heard this text frequently. People liked hearing it. It's comforting:
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
What one rarely if ever heard, however, was that there is something that can separate us from the love of Christ -- something not mentioned in St. Paul's litany of things that cannot separate us from the love of Christ -- something, namely, that generally goes by the little three-letter word: sin. Somehow, it was easy to miss that tiny little exception while listening to those wonderful, uplifting evangelical sermons. Assuredly, God loves us even while we are sinners, but by our sins we effectively separate ourselves from his love and grace.


Not That Guy said...

"This clearly becomes an idol."

For frequent examples of this phenomenon, follow Fr. Martin on Twitter:

Pertinacious Papist said...

Marcel Ghost,

No kidding. [Paraphrasing:] "All right you haters out there, I'm just going to smother you with truckfulls of love and mercy." One can't help wonder what sort of "love" motivates that!