November 10, 2003

Bible Study Deconstructionism

Category: Bible,Hermeneutics :: Permalink

Recently, I’ve been reading N. T. Wright’s The New Testament and the People of God, in preparation for preaching a series of sermons on Mark’s Gospel starting sometime early next year. I’ve waded into Wright’s work from the shallow end, starting with the books of sermons and meditations and progressing gradually to the heavier works.

In this volume, Wright make a point which might be obvious but which hadn’t actually occurred to me before. Many of the people attending conservative evangelical churches would be strongly opposed to deconstructionism, viewing its approach as a form of deadly relativism. And yet these same people often bypass careful exegesis in favour of “what this passage means to me” or “what this passage means for me,” which might be different from “what it means to/for you”: a form of radical deconstruction-like relativism!

Wright writes:

Most Bible-readers of a conservative stamp will look askance at deconstructionism. But its proposed model is in fact too close for comfort to many models implicitly adopted within (broadly speaking) the pietist tradition. The church has actually institutionalized and systematized ways of reading the Bible which are strangely similar to some strands of postmodernism. In particular, the church has lived with the gospels virtually all its life, and familiarity has bred a variety of more or less contemptible hermeneutical models. Even sometimes within those circles that claim to take the Bible most seriously — often, in fact, these above all — there is a woeful refusal to do precisely that, particularly with the gospels. The modes of reading and interpretation that have been followed are, in fact, functions of the models of inspiration and authority of scripture that have been held, explicitly or (more often) implicitly within various circles, and which have often made nonsense of any attempt to read the Bible historically. The devout predecessor of deconstructionism is that reading of the text which insists that what the Bible says to me, now, is the be-all and end-all of its meaning; a reading which does not want to know about the intention of the evangelist, the life of the early church, or even about what Jesus was actually like. There are some strange bedfellows in the world of literary epistemology (p. 60; cf. pp. 54, 66).

Posted by John Barach @ 6:48 pm | Discuss (0)

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