Friday, February 29, 2008

Hermeneutics Quiz

Prompted by a post from Jason Clark, I took The Hermeneutics Quiz which Scot McKnight drafted for Leadership Magazine. I scored 85 out of 100 which makes me a "progressive."

Here's what Scot writes about progressives:

"The progressive is not always progressive. Those who score 66 or more can be seen as leaning toward the progressive side, but the difference between at 66 and 92 is dramatic. Still, the progressive tends to see the Bible as historically shaped and culturally conditioned, and yet most still consider it the Word of God for today. Following a progressive hermeneutic, for the Word to speak in our day, one must interpret what the Bible said in its day and discern its pattern for revelation in order to apply it to our world. The strength, as with the moderate but even more so, is the challenge to examine what the Bible said in its day, and this means the progressives tend to be historians. But the problems for the progressives are predictable: Will the Bible's so-called "plain meaning" be given its due and authoritative force to challenge our world? Or will the Bible be swallowed by a quest to find modern analogies that sometimes minimize what the text clearly says?"

By scoring 85 I guess I'm at the end of progressive-ness which is reluctant to articulate the status of the Bible as "the Word of God for today" without a recognition of contextualisation, interpretation, and undecidability, and I'm certainly uncomfortable with McKnight's question: "Will the Bible's so-called 'plain meaning' be given its due and authoritative force to challenge our world?" While I think that there is a flavour of love, justice, hope, hospitality and forgiveness running through both the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, there is also a lot of stuff that, in the words of the hermeneutics quiz, I wish "weren't in the Bible" and their presence makes me wary of any talk of what McKnight rightly qualifies as the "so-called 'plain meaning'" of the Bible which might legitmately argue for the literal interpretation of certain 'texts of terror.'

But the quiz also got me thinking about Gordon Lynch's study of progressive spirituality, about which I've blogged before, and found particularly formative in my thinking of the emerging church as a milieu. I wondered to what extent McKnight's use of "progressive" mirrored Lynch's use of it as a classification in the sociology of religion and spirituality.

Gordon Lynch’s criteria for inclusion in the progressive milieu are as follows:
  • 1. “sympathetic to core values of liberal democracy (for example, tolerance, autonomy, diversity)
  • 2. “have green or left-wing political attitudes (for example, are concerned with environmentalism, social justice, civil rights)
  • OR 3. “hold liberal or radical theological views (for example, are willing to revise religious tradition in the light of contemporary knowledge, are sympathetic to feminist critiques of organized religion, and/or believe that there is a truth inherent in all religious traditions).” (Lynch 2007:98).

His criteria for inclusion in progressive spirituality are:

  • 1. “a belief in the immanent divine unity which nurtures and sustains the unfolding cosmos;
  • 2. the sacralization of nature;
  • 3. the sacralization of the self;
  • 4. and a belief tha these spiritual truths can be discerned within and beyond different religious traditions.” (Lynch, 2007:98).

I'm unconvinced that those whom this quiz classify as "progressive" would fit into many of these criteria.

Hopefully debate over at Jason Clark's blog will help me think through the relationship between McKnight's "progressives" and Lynch's "progressives". I personally feel that those that ranked as "progressives" with, say over 80 out of 100 (I don't know the precise breakdown of mark boundaries the quiz uses here but McKnight acknowledges that "the difference between 66 and 92 is dramatic"), are probably comfortable in the emerging church conversation, which I see as part of Lynch's progressive milieu. However, I don't think those people are necessarily comfortable meeting the criteria for Lynch's progressive spirituality. I've asked Scot to comment more on his choice of language.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Guest Blogger at Jason Clark

My post frequency has suffered this month as I've been locked in my room completing a 3,000 word submission on "A/theistic Orthodoxy" for the Society for Continental Philosophy and Theology conference on Postmodernism, Truth and Religious Pluralism, after giving a paper on "Truth and Weak Theology" in my department's seminar series.

Anyway, I'm a guest blogger at Jason Clark's blog next Monday (March 3rd) and so I've also been panicking about that. As (my few) regular readers will know, I've been struggling to find a suitable "blogging style" that doesn't read like I just chopped some bits out of something I gave to my supervisor yesterday. So I'm practing on someone else's blog! We'll see how I do!