Full Text for The Outside Limits of Lutheran Confessionalism in Contemporary Biblical Interpretation [Part 3 (1)] (Text)

The Outside Limits of Lutheran Confessionalism in Contemporary Biblical Interpretation PART I11 (1) HISTORY AND REVELATION "0 UR WHOLE PERSPECTlVE has been changeci; our iliinds ~vill llcver again be the same; we now know it to be asionlatic that nothing can he understood unlcss we Itnow sometliing of its history.- [It is:! the greatest spirittlal revolutioll which western ttlougllt has undergone." With these molnentous words G. E. MTright began a recent essay,31 and while there might be an elen~ent of hyperbole in them, one is inclined to suspect not too much of one. For better or for worse, everyone has been influenced by it to one degree or the other, even the lll0st conservative. The fides qunerens i~~tellectztm i~lcvitably pursues this linc of investigation far more intensely than was once the case, and, moreover, now it is the faithful who (up to a point!) ask questions which previously arose only in unbelief. There can be littld doubt that the new sensitivity to history has been one of the major catalysts in the entire modern theological fcrment. Thc question is no longer .~vhether we shall recognize it, but ho~cz, to what extent, with what outside limts, etc. Obviously, the discontin~~itv wit11 the past is not total, but in intensity and degree (especially in the explicity self-consciousness with which historical cluestions itre pursuetl), it sometimes sceins to approach it. Christian- ity (ancl Israel) llcs, but it applies in niany oihcr a;i.ns too. It is the prcsencc or dbsencc of the overall her~~zetzeutic.nl fra~neivork (Scripture interpreting itself) alongside our intensifiecl hjstorical ini~est~gations svhicil determines ~vhcther or not tJ~c latter arc simple csfensiorrs of the Reformation accent on the "grai~~~~~atic;~l SCI~SC" 01: sox~lcthing toto cnelo di.f2.'crcnt. Tllcrc .is no dciiying that acccnt on history means explaining the hztu~n~l. side or aspect of things, soixetimes merely- 71zor-e than tl~c Hiblt: ciocs, sonlet.iines .t;rrherc thc Bible speaks only of the divine causation. \Vithin lintits (i.~., where there is no clear indication of something strictly mirnc~~lous) the mere fact that tlie Bible docs not me~tiorz various hulnan factors cloes not necessarily im~ly that they did not cxtst. In genel-n7, the Bible is so inte~:estecl in theological matters that it gives short shift to the precise tlliil~gs that excite thc secular historian the most. Of coursc, thc degree varies, as n-i. llavc already noted, but it is tv.icleIy recognized today that tllere are ma~l>- types of historiography, even f1:oili a p~lr~ly sccular vic~vpoint. Alost of wh;it the Ijible omits or construes cliffel-ently fro111 tlie way a 1notlerli Ilistorian i?~.ighl: is ill tllc nature of a tecli:~ricality, which implies not any failure, but something minor ~vhich takes on meaning only ivhc:n one looks at the problem froin a difTel:el?t angle. ConstruccI that n7ay, it also inlylies that 111ore attention should riot be tlevoted to it than it deserves: the liberal lest he miss the "one thing ~lee(lful,'' the conservative lest he acid his own stumbling blocks to those ivhich are inhcrent in the Gospel. In most cases, one c'mt construc thesc various probltlns as "errors," but one need not, if one bears in nli~itl what the writer's intent was and does not apply alien criteria. Flcnce, it is all-important to stress that wc arc 1lot proceeding along any of the dichotomi~ing lines we have already scored. 111 a way, it is the thcsis of this paper that the u~zly thing (as concerns us Iiere) that has changed sincc Kcformation times is the modern consciousness of history-and even that is nothing esse~ztinlly net\- (is not that "heres):" by definition?), but merely a heigliteneci nccelzl on one aspect of the salne totality. If this is the case, ~ncre external d-1 r-> mrture in historical judgments from tradition cannot bc regarcled as the "caniel's nose" leading to all sorts of doctrinal observatjons. He will not speak of any "Ge~cJ~ichtc" divorced from "Historic," of "kerygma" divorcecl from facticity, of what is revealed or inspired from what is not, etc. Corresponding to thc two distinguishable sides of the one reality, however, we can sometiines note two basic different types of "lan- guage" or manners of spenlting which again, however, dare never be pitted against one another. For example, up to a point, historical state- ments like "Paul arguecl," "Israel interpreted," etc., need not cleny any revelation or inspiration, but simply explicate the I~uman or historical. circumstances of that revelation. $57~ may lnalte such disti~zctions, but dare never separate thexn, let alone act as thougll it inacle no differecce. We will be aware that certain documents ncccizl one more than the other, biblical ones often paying minilnal attention to the external, and modern ones neglecting the supernatural altogether, but every effort will be niacle to retain the "incarnational" unity of thc Bible itself (and it cannot nlcrely be talcen for granted!). We will be aware that our culture probably makes imperative a sharper distinction of the two sides or aspects of the revelation-history paraciox than was necessary (or possible) in earlier ages, but we can, if we will, turn the distinction to our advantage, not our detriment. (However, in principle it is doubtful if there aoain is anything ncw hcre; if there were, it probably really would be"l~eres~"!). It may be expressed as a distinction between sola Scripturn and ~zudn Scriptz,im. While we shall sacrifice notl~jng as concerns thc former, interpreting Scripture by Scripture, when it comes to the strictly historical and exegetical issues, we shall use any and all available aids in attempting to under- stant1 it-the only real difference fro111 earlier periocls probably being that we have far more of them. The minute changes that appenr to be callecl for on tlik "history sicie" cau.lzot, as some appear to fear, carry over into theological matters, because by definition, the latter is an aspect or "sidc" ~vhich can only be revealed and accepted in faith, n6 humail evidence can ever prove or disprove, validate or invaIidate it. \&Me, of course, it cannot be determined with ab.solz~te precision 'rvhcre the line between these two sides or aspects come(i.e., what is l(cl~~triilalJ' and what is not), the principle that .ivhate.i~er contravcncs a clcar scriptural or confessional teaching, will not, I tl~ink, leave too much room for human failure or mischief. If truth is really one, illld we lteep it one, greater accent on the 1iistoric:al will cnhancc and illumniate the theological, not subvert it, as well as vice versa. "I-Iistory" by itself may, indeed, lead us into the relati~'ism of "All in flux," hut as part of God's whole, it may place in bold relief thc n~agnitucle of His gracious condescension. So111e of this can perhaps be illustrated if we return to the topics of' "inspiration)) kinti "inerrancy" briefly. It should be plain that, at least as usecl l~crc, "inspiration" is theological language, describing through lluina~l arialogy what we unhesitatingly confess to be true, brlt norillally giving us no clear infornlation as to the precise psycho- logical or ~~henoi~~ei~ological accompaniments. It describes a that, but generally not a JIOII~. In most cases wherc we have a "God spoke to R/loses" or "The word of Yal~weh cai~ie to . . .," we really have only thc tlllleological affirmation that the utterance was ultimately Goci's as \\,ell as 111nn's word. In and of itself this could be taken to iml>ly that the exegetc could postulate virtually anything under the sun ahout the text and then cry "inspired" as a sort of deus ex nznchi~za to solve all l)rol)lei~~s (as solnetiilles appears to be the case), but if ~rsecl together with the other components of a confessional her- mcneutic, this will scarcely be the case. However, theories or hypo- theses about thc l?sychological circumstances (ecstasy, etc.) or other earthly inotivatiol:al factors certainly need not in any way conflict 1vitl1 tile theological confession of inspiration. Similarly when it colnes to the change that is always a part of history, certain plliloso~~hical n prioris about how history had to evolve have a11.i-ays plagued us here, but if we can exorcize them and l~roceed as inducti~~lv and empirically as possible, there is no denying that llistory does normally involve change of one sort or another. The Bible by no Incans conceals all of this, but it is possible that it often tele- scopes nrllen details tvould not scrve -its purposes. If these arc not coi~stru~cl 3s "errors," ns they certainly do not have to be, hypotheses about such cllangc are scarcely harmful-ancl may be great aids to historical understanding. 111 addition, the Bible is often concerned about: the ~hcologicnl unity (of Gotl's redemptive design), and later cloginatic elnpllases on the theological unity of the Scriptures uncler- scoreti that even more. If one forgets, howe\.er, that this is often theological or collfessioilal "langi~age," and simplistically reads it ns thougb. it weye merely the language of history, ollc easily arrives at an extcrilal uniformity that was probably not intended. Indcecl, the unity of God (I-Iis faithfulness, righteousness, etc.) is the ultimate guarantee ~f tllc unity of Scriptures, but the Bible n~altes plain that the former is no absolute unchangeableness either. Again, great care is in order that thi. difference is not construed as "errorJ' or that the difference in lang!~nges be an occasion for mischief, but, as such, it is thc sort of distmction which S~CJIIS incvitnble-and heJ.pfitl toclay. It is otle of the Illany cases where the theoretician (syste~natic.iaa) tlocs not al~vays seen1 mindful of t'he concrete problenls with which it is the exegete's chief calling to b~sy himself (not write articles like this!). Tt is also a case where onc can easily he anachronistic in assu~ning some fundanlental departure from tradition, where such 111try not be the case at all. The n~atter of theological. unity in historical diversity is esl7ecialIp critical in the matter of thc relation of the testaments (cf. belo~v), but appears at lllaily otiler po.ints as well. On thc surface, tradition can bc read as all hut assulning that change or clcvelopment in God's revelation would bc incompatible with God's n:l Lure, and somc modern interpretations as corltradicting that the- ology. Or the matter call be seen as primarily only :I matter of the different Fragestellztng posed by intense historical concern and the cliffercnt language enlploycd to explore that aspect of the matter. "Verbal inspiration" can be nlisunderstood to imply that truth could only be expressecl. in certain words, but only if one does not a1lo.t~ historical exegesis to con~plement the theological confession. Defelldcrs of orthodox unclerstai~dings of inspiration are usually at pains to stress that it was never really understood in a "mechanical," mantic sense as in paganism (and I think correctly so), but X believe it should be recognized that a non-~~lechanical ui~derstanding today will have to con~c to terms with historv in a way that was once not even an option. Certainly the Jlible itself' contains enough history that it canilot be argued that any biblical definition of these ter~ns neces- sarily precl~ades any sense of historicity ancl clevelopment, as is often claimed. Mtrch modern scholarship is disposed to assume many more hands-and generally anoilynlous ones ("schools," disciples, worship influences, etc. ) -involved in the final for111 of most biblical books than traclitioil assumed. Much of this reconstruction is hypothetical; some of it is hypercritical. (Sometimes it ~voulcl almost appear for llloclern scholarship that nowe of the biblical books had anything to do with their traditional authors). However, again, with careful qualifications and within outside limits, there is no n priori reason why such procedure should be considered inilnical to the Holy Spirit. The variety in expression and theological accent among the writers (however Inany there arc) by no means need be constr~ietl as any sort of contradiction or error, although, of course, there is no lack of liberal writers who do just that. Again, before tllc nlodern pcrioci, change tenclecl to bc equated with "error," but, within li~nits, it may be no such thing, but rather an unfolding, a fulfillment, an applica- tion to different circumstances, etc."' In all these matters, then, what callnot be stressed too much is that it is the extri~~sic* valz~e jzldg- uzents, taking precedence over absolute biblical authority, ~vhich are l~er~iicious, not the historical investigations as suc11. 'rhe former easily sneak in together with the latter, to be sure, but tl~cy need not--ancl "nbusus lzon tollit Z~SZLVZ ." This problem of nlaintaining a historical stucly of Scripture as a conzpleme7zt to its theoIogica1 meaning, rather tllan in competition with it, can be paralleled, of course, in Inany other areas of the churcih's life in the nloclern world. I select only two. One is thc issue of the relation between psychology and theology, and especially of the role of psychology in the holy 11linistry. Heaven only 1tnon.s to what an extent in many cases (also in Lutheranism), psychology-plus sociology and other secular concerns-have all but eclipsecl the tradi- tional accei~t on CVord and Sacrament. At the san~e time, 1 thinlt no one mill deny that psychology may be an excellent sen7arzt of a ministry of the Gospel, as long as it is cIear ~vhat is cart and what horse. Another parallel is provided by the acaclemic discipline of "history of religions" (preferred today over thc older "comparative I-eligion"). 'There is Jittle clenying that few approaches have heen so often "negative" in appoach as this one, with its tenclency to assunle (and hence to "prove") that: biblical faith is really ill every respect only :tnotlier "religion" ainong nlany, (and therc arc 111any inc'licatiorls that, after the interlude of neo-orthodoxy, academe is fast returning to the donlinancc of some such approach.) Howevei:, at thc hands of- belie~iizg scholars in this field (one ~vould probably think es~?eciallp of Eliade), it becomes clear that one can not only del~~onstrate the intrinsic ~i~licluencss of the biblical type of "religion," but also that t-l~e invcstiga~ions into the "phenomenology" of various types of re- sponscs which a11 religions make as they address thcnlselves to 1.11an's ultimate problems helps one understand better the forms of onc's oivn religion. (Of course, 17elie17ing its uniqueness and really confessing it we still attribute to the Holy Spirit!) Tllc upshot of all this is that there really is no sucl.1 aniinal as "th.e historical-critical method," and I think we will only gct no\vllere fast as long as that is the Fragestellzr~~g (at most we shall only reap ii~creased polarization). This 118s been emphasized nlany times, of course, but the impossible generalization persists-so llluch so that it is often hard not to suspect ulterior nlotives in thc persistence, and fro111 both left and right. On the "right" the generalization makes it l~ossible to hold up some of the inost radical representatives as typical in order to proscribe virtually every approach anc1 conclusion that is not of an absolute "hleibc~z heillz Alte~z" sort. 011 the "left" the general- ization lnaltes it easy to defend a nearly total Inissezfuire attitude in the name of complete academic "freedom," etc., as though there (( couldn't possibly be anything negative" or "destructive" in critical study. If the f'ornler group often shows itself zlnablc to cliscriminate, the latter tlcclares itself ZIIZ.ZV~~~~ILE, to. ff the former is "prehistorical" (cf. above) in ~tnc!ersta~tcling, the latter loves to resort to double-talk such as: "M'c'\,e n11vcr):s used the historical-critic:~l method; noiv we're just usiilg it to a greatcr cxtent." (The 11ut.h in tlie statenlent, of course, is that filere has always been solrze historical interest in exegesis, espccinlly since the Reformation; howevcr, anyonc who claims that, since tllc Enligl~tenment, thew is not a question of kind as nicl! as of degree plainly is 1101: felling "t11e whole truth 2nd nothing but the truth.") E\-cli fro111 rill acailcmic stanilpoint (apart from ally confessional or theological col?ccnls), one call scarcely generalize about file method. 1 would c.i7e~ seriously sublllit that 710 one is 1:eally for "the" historical-critical method, but only Ilis version of it (altl~ough, of course, with Voltaire, the "right" of otflei-s to express their \.ie~vpoint will usually be stcutl>~ tliefendccl). It is only in that ljarenthetical sensc that I thil~J< it possible to accept the cominon assertion, particu- larly al11oag ecumenical cnthusias ts, t-hat "nowadays all biblical scboIars of all confessions use the historical-critical nlethocls"; the hidclen agenda thcre is often revealed by the corollary plea for non- doctrinal, ccurnenicnl pluralism on the basis of the alleged "many theologies" in the Bible itself (cf. above). In the late nineteenth century under thc influence of a few towering scholars (like TVelI- hausen) with similar philosophic backgrounds, a degree of "critical orthocloxy" did tle\fcIop. Soinc of the conclusions of that period still survivc (in widely varying degrees), soxnctimcs apparently for lack of convincino alternati~fcs (and, of coursc, return to traditional view- ]>oints is 21 but onthinkable!), but enougl~ so that many illediating atteml>is, which accuse conservatives of attacking a battlefielct from nrllich the cl~en~y has, allegedly, fled, illust be qualified very carefully. Thc mo~~nc? of debris from once "assured results" on ~vhich "all critical scholurs now agree" is high, jndced, but many of the older critical methods anti vjews still seem to have at least nine lives. Sollle of the variety represents simply the "hypothesis and verification" yro- ceilurc of any tiuc scicnce, but at least as much betrays the swirl of co~~lpeting itleologies and axiologics. Tlzc general picture, probably toclay nlorc so than ever, is that of about the widest corlceivahle varicty of often ~l~utually con traclictory viewpoints and trends. One nzzlst always choose from alllong a babel of claims; the o~zly cluestion is on what basis. h4any options are theologically neutral, but these cannot be hermetically scaled off from the basic ones ~vliich are theol.ogica1. As with otlicr tenns, perhaps it would be better to abandon the espressiorz, "the historical-critical method." But with what shall we replace it? Shall ive syealc sim1)ly of "historical" study of Scripture? This docs have in its favor (as "historical-critical" may not) the acceiltuation of the continuity wit11 the past, where there has always been some sense of the "historical." Hoivever, as wc have seen, the problem is inherent in the definition of "history" itself; the danger is very illuch at hand (as we see especially today in the case mlth which earlier Heilsgeschichte emphases l~ave drifted into process patterns) that a secular notion of history (especially tlic: history of religions) becon~cs tlle interpreter of ideas, irlclilding tliose of the Bible, ratl~er than the other -tr.ay around; Bible lilx confessions, become only a "mol-nent" in an infinite process, as history is usecl to relativize more than to unilerstantl. George Ladd h;ls recently sug- oeste(1 "historical-theolofiic;~l,""' bt~t that too will recluire carful clefini- ". tion. Up to a point jt is oftcn helpful to distinguish "historical cr:itic.ismn ancl "literary criticism." The former simply pursues more rigorously than most tradition the cjuestion of a writing's llistorical context, and, if it: is not vitiated by sollle kind of secularism, conserva- tives Ilavc generally fou~~d. it ni~~ch the niore congenial of thc tn-0. "Literary criticism," in contrast, simply al~alyzing the test in one way or another, i11ay he a quite neutral and even beneficial csercisc (cf. 1)elow on "for111 criticis&"), bnt, in l~ri~ctice, it has nearly always tended to 11c exter~.iiely siiel3tical of ;L text's facticitv, partly because of its own tradition of proceeding subjectively ivithoitt external historical controls. No cloubt, there are other proposals, but the issue is not really ter~ninological as long as we say 1v11at nle m.ean r-lncl mean what we say. For my own part, I am disposed to argile for 1-etaining the tcrin, but of indicatin~ n-lien ;~nd to wliat extent it is compatible with a scriptul-al and confessional hernieneutic ant1 ~vl~en it exccecls those peril net el:^, as we are attempting in this paper. Usually \v!l~17 conservatives illveigli against "the histor.ica1- critic~tl nlethocl" as incvitnbly "negativc," "clestructi\!c," etc., what thcy ?lave in ~ninc'l is thc naturalism or anti-supernaturalisnl (histor- icisln, positiilism, scietitism, imnlancntalisnI) ivhich is oftcn present : thc insistence that history (inclucli~ig that of the Bible) is solely the story of' man, and that its events nus st be explainable solely by an tcccden t I1 istoric:.nl causes and comprehensible hy analogy -tvi th other l~istorical cxpericnces; hence, the almost autolnatic rej~ctioi~ or 11 ' clempt1.1olog:isratioil" of n~iraclcs, etc. 1\/11en, where, 211~1 to the extent that the charcre is true, I agree eml3hatically that we have no alterna- ? tivc but ~ond~ti~ll;l! agreement. I do not ha\-c the slig?itcst doubt that it often is ts~i~, I)i!t, as alreadl: asg~~cd, onc II~US~ distinguish between t-hat ~vliich is .iiftril2isic;tlly incolnpatihle and that .trrhic11 reflects siny~.l\;: a one-sitlctl acccllt. C:onservati~~cs are, in general however, ernph:~tic;~lly cosrcct in tlieil- fears that any total, unqualifiecl esl3ousal of "t31e 17istol-ical-cl-itical method" \rill indeed have overwl~elmingly "negativc" consequences. In many instances, at least initially and where a ilistinct oon- fessional coi~scio~lsness still remajns, I all? co~lvinced that the yroble~ll is nlorc often of the one-sided type. Confessional interests (and often tlicologi,ical interests in general) suffer nlorc from defazrlt: than design. Col~fcssional theology is not so llluch denied as ignored. So much time and effort ar:e clevoted to the acadenlic sports of literary sleuthing it~cl second-guessing the writers that, even if ilolle of that is objcction- able as such, tllere simll3lv isn't sufficient time for ~vhat s'tio~ild-receive prioritj. So much acc11't is put on historical circuiustancc that the relativistic ir~zprrscion is cnsily left, even if not intended, that me have in t11c Bible only rllode1.s or csanil~lcs of ho11 a "religious" ~II~II reacts to his ~,~.oblel~~s---:tn(l of course .i.ire ha\ e utterly different ones today! It is not tllc church that ca],ls the shots, but thc: seculaf ~'tl1i~crsitj~- and if there is theoJogicnl interest thcrc nt all; it certainly will ,lot be of confessiona~ stripe, course, in tlic university ~011tcxt thcre will haire to be near-y esclLlsi~e concentration on ILOX-theological matters, eitllcr in order to maintain neutrality or because the "fornlal. 17rincjp]e" is non-Scriptilra], so nluch. SO that the coi~scr~~a tivc scliolar js easily accllsecl of of those ;ire;is beca~isc OC his theological conccms. The neophyte of conservative background mill not find it easy to nlaintaiil his balance. if the student, tcacher, or school \r;nllts to "get ahend" 2nd win the plaudits of his peers, he must play the game as the rules hare i?ecn laid do~vn. If tllc !,oung docs lot ]rave deep confessionai resources anil detcl*minlitioll of his olvn .rvhen he returns fronl the uni~rersity to ch~rrcl-> service, only the non-coufessiollal (or anti-confessional) interests i~nd skills developecl there ~vill be enlpIoyed. (TVith thc clcinise of "k)iblical theology," this problcxll is likeiy to be far greater jil tlie co~ning genera- tion than it was in the past, ;ind the church will have to tie.i-elop conlpensatory devices.) If the dream of thc past that thc conft:ssionnl student could study only philology and ignore theology has pro.r:cd somewhat nai.c:c, the solution is certainly not to 1ea1:c the i~npressio-l~. that hc nlay now eclectically pick i~p ~vhatever ncn- theology-or abandon all of it-as Ile tvishes! Soon such a p!uralistic situation develops that confessionalisnl, at best, can represent only one l~osition among niany (prol~ably scori~ccl as "111edie.i~nl" ox thc like), ;~nd a gentleman's agreement never basically to challenge anvonc's theo- logical yosition (or lack of it) becomes the only viable siriicti~i:e. In some respects, the problem is not a totally new one; prolxibl~. all of us had exegetical teachers who were great linguists or llistorinns, but who apparently had no theological anteilllac ~vhatsoc.c.c~.. Of course, the concern expressecl here must not bc confused 11-it11 the need for specialization, also in certain non-theological areas, ancl also in our seminaries to a certaifl extent, but such specialization must be clearly subsidiary to the central confessional concerns. (Soinetimes the default on thc latter does o~ierlap with what the Ger~xans so color- fully describe as "FnchidiotieJ'!) To a fair extent I think the situation of simple clefault is more characteristic of Old than of New Testament studies, at least in America. In the fornler area, under the influence of TT'. I?, Albright a11d of archaeological pursuits in general, the use of litcrar)i criticisnl with its general tendency toward sltepticism, and espccinlly the Lise of philosophical aprioris to interpret and reconstruct histor). Ilnl;c been strongly fro.vvnec1 upon, and conservative scholars lI,a1re corre- spondingly beell strongly attracted to this tvpe of stLl+. 13ccnLlse New Testament, however, deals lllore directly Iritll tllc elld of history or of eschatological history under the Spirit, it ll;is nef7cl: beell L?S accessibl~ to the kinds of cxtcrnal hallclIlolds and colltroIs Iv]lich archaeology can bring to bear, and hence Ilas beell far marc vLLlllerablc to the vagaries of pure literary criticisIll, and to rile illandates of philosophical (especially existel~tialist) pr~sul~l~osi~iolls. (Sor Ilave the re~allt New Testament schools, especially in Germany, s~lonll nluch disposition to US^. what external correctives are available, espc- cially froin Qulnranl) hl the Old 'l'csta~ncnt, 1iou~c1-el:, it has been much more a problem of theology and hernie~.lctlt-ics all I~ut bcitlg ec~lipsecl by Oricratnl stutlics : languaoes, archai.ology, historical :IIIC~ n. cultural reconstruction, ctc. Such stutfics xrc rarely, if cyrc.r, ns int1:in- isically nntl immcdjately "desttuctir:~" as the illtrusion of alien pl~jlosoj~hies or the spinning out of gratt~itous 1itcral:y s~i~pticisnls, hut if that is (11'1 the st~iclcllt ICC~~YCS, he call sci~rcely bc fnnltecl for concluding that the Old Testament is of no real professio1131 conccrn to liim. Am~~hlctyo~~ics, suzcraiiity tre~~tics, co\;cil~nitt larr~sl~jts, ctc., arc not ciirectly l~rcachable! I rncnti~n cirrxerlt hf-j>othcses .tov-ard ~vhjcli T myself am quitc favor;ll~lv disposed, and :tbortt which the student, in any el-cni, nlrrst at lea& be literate, I~ut t't-~c: -point is that ~vitho~lt an c:splicir: tZ~eologicrr1 I~crmeneutic as well, such information is ~lscless to the ~xlstor. If he hcars 011.l~- of thc cstci:ltal, secular ~notlcls, an;ilogics, ancl typol.ogics, and Iittlc, if ,~l?.ytl~ing, .in fhe saine connection of the "al~slog!~ of /iriilr," of hibiiciil t.!poloay, ctc., lic will scarcely grasp hob\- all this ridds up to Goii's 'FYorci for Ili. 111. I11 t~acli- f-ional terms, lizere accent on tlic historical aspects of the f3ible will. ile\.-er >-icld ii~ore tllan a "fides Izistor*ic[l." Ti1 morc nlot'lcrn ~C~DIS, all that 1.c~ hox~ is the st~~il>~ of an ancient i-eligiou, in gc'nctic connection \\.i[h ouj:s ant1 imyo~:~allt "bacligrounct," of cou csr, but little .!norc. AS IY~ stress ~cpcatedlv, tllc "religious" ;~cccnt. 11~1)' ~:o~zti'iJ~z~i?e to the traili- tio~lnlly tl~cological if thcir unity .is ~na.intair:ed, but tfic connection will Ilave to bc n.orIicd out csplicitiy and constantly. Othenvisc, the Bii~lc l~ccomcs only ail ol~jcct of acadenlic interest, entircly n!.itliout the t~stlitionni "nlystique" of nwc anil xcrcrelicc before Goii's holy rvord s\-l~icll in a colifcssionnl context clarc ner.cr even heconic sccontfary. i-lt most, the st~ttlent of this "rcligioi-m of Israel" may n~oralistically go b;tcl; llinlsclf to sce what is "1-clcr?ant," what great iticas ant" ideals IIC inny still consider valict, ml-irihe c\:c.11 what "Christological an;dogies" I~c can discerc, but all this is a far ci-y from a th.eologica1 hcl:rnc'llctltics7 conccl-11 ~rith the Holy Spil-it ~.c:ho br:in.gs 1,a.r.r. and Gospel to ille, with "~~~:o~~l~cc~~-f~~lfill~llci~t," ctc. 111 fact, in many "theological" seminaries today it is lvcll nigh incredible to obscrirt: to what an e~tent the str~clc~its arc scarcely even able to tllink 01: co~ilnlu~~icntc in s~ic'tl tlicologica'i categories any longer! If only thc secul;~r aspect of C:odls ~e\~c:lation is consi- device which may help unlock .its ~I:C~S~I~CS. .j 11;1vc 110 c10i1l)t: tilat SLI(:J~. a (.!ortfe~siofinl use of ll!st.or.iiii! i,ziticis~n ~ii'll alir ~):s be rcIati\iely "collscrvatii,c" as aciidelnc (rencraliy n:c:isci.cs SLIC~I tl~ir~gs, but it s110~1(1 also t;ili~ cxc ? lest t~.a~IiticrniiI c.!rcgcsis be 6hnmpionctl (jf not dogi~~atjsed) merely bccauscl of .its patina. 'i;\;!hcn rcsto~cd to .its 111-opcr contest, illany conclusiol~s \\.ill aplw.il1: acecptable (or at least pel:n1issible) \vllicll could otllcrn4sc ilc\,cr I)c PL~L~~JZN~C~)~ ~io.llt: ill ;I 11ion~1) of Si~nilays. il ? zt-it~:d>, 3116 elnt11re.aictleit confcssionallsin .might then ilisyla>l the sanlc sophjsticntion l11 cl:aluatilig he "left" as it has long displn>;ecl towari{ linlerican fundarnentalislll on tllc "riglit." 011c migllt c~ cri quote, "Echold, I nialic a11 things ne~r-," at least ,I11 unclcrst;~nclitig and usc of \-ocabu1;iry." "1-fistoricnl" 1~111, of coursc, 1ia1.c to rc;cci~:e its nuclear definition fro111 Scripture, not from an?; 11:uman 11llilosol~hy~ 1.10s .ivilI it be clcrluded by c'icfault. "Ckiticnl" 1r.il.l not i111pi.i. an) I~asic itxiological ai-icnlpt to "criticize" Scripture, but rnthcr the s&jhisticatcd 11sc b>, thc !~~~mblc believer of all faci11tic:s in ;ttt~~nptilig to state as prcciscty as possible ~c'hat G(;iI did.-- nit does--rc\ical tlxre. Sini- 1) i( ilarl\;, i.crnls Hike "genuincncss, antllenticity," ctc., \\.ill not 1x2 ~nistindcrstood us an)( sort OF tlleological judgments, b~it as purely literal-): inr.cstiptions of tr.a(fitionn1 \,ielrspoints 01-1 the autllorsliip, (late, gcnerai contcst, etc.., ot' a docun~ent or its parts--ngain, not in order to uniferm.ine or i:elativizc its absol~ite autllorit!;. in any rvay, but simply to attempt to 1~7rderstn1ld better. Various historical and literary h~;lx)thcses njill not bc clisn~isscd mcl-ely becausc the!. arc hj.pot.hcticaI as long as they do not prcl.cl?cl to bc Inorc and do not tl-cspnss up011 t'lic theological tlolnnin. If this liinc? of secure, relaxed (bat by no means indifferent! j atmospl-~cre can 1:c established, it nlay still bc that wc are livi~>g .in one of those periods ~r~here .tvc shall have to pern~it (if not enoouragc?) so~~e~vhnt grcnter flexibility ancf experimentation than IV~S 011~:~ the caw. The vast cu1trrr;lJ. cha~~pes of our time dare not affect the Gospel itself, OT course, t~ct-, ass111111119 that 110 reductionisin is ins~olrcd, the problem of "tl:anslat.ion" and con~lnunication of the biblical substr~nce is more acutc than crer. Furthermore, and more to the point of this paper, it is often aln~ost as true of some aspects of biblical scholarship (especially of archaeology ancl its finds, rvl-ren theological liberalism does 17.ot con~plicate matters) as of science in general that ran: data coiltinues to acc~~mulate faster than scholars car1 comc to terms with it. Conservative scholars should bc participating in this kind of research at least as much as others and should Ile open to thc hypo- tl~eses of others (.if not vitiated by false theology). In fact, there can be little doubt that such a colzscrtutivc syec- trzlr~z already does exist, albeit a far narrower one than that lumped together under the "liberal" label. Such a l7oint is made, not in order to exploit and maxim-ize it, hut to encourage recognition of what is not only inevitable in this worltl ("until we ltnow as we are known"), but also, up to iz point, desirable as a sign of life 2nd no-stagnation. I think this principle would apply about cq~lallr to what is csplicitly confessional as rvell as to the broader "cvGelicn1" context (the major differences, as concerns us here probably involving chiliasm and/or ciispensationalism). I thinlt it cieinonstrable that in general, a sharper dichotonly of "critical" and "evangelical" has been urged in America than by European connterparts, due, no doubt, to various cultural factors. I think it is a quite open secret that the Lutheran frec churches of Europe, especially Germany, have tended to be somewhat no re relaxed on so~ne isagogical and exegetical issues than many conservative American Lutherans. The same relationship would probably hold true between most British ancl Ainerican "evangelicals" (with the bull< of the solid literature certainly stemming from the former). Any reader of Christianity Today will be aware of the extent to which this is true even within America, also when no theological differences arc discernible. In this connection, attention should be called to the recent Old Testament introductioll of R. I<. Harrison" a British scholar now at the University of Toronto. I-Iarrison will hardly be labeled "liberal," and is widely regarded as the heir apparent of the late and redoubtable Ec1.cvard J. Young. However, while he proceeds fro111 what will generally bc regarded as "evangelical" prenl- ises, he does evince considerably greater acceptance of some non- traditional positions that his influei~tial predecessor. Of course, in spite of colllnlon premises, not all will agree with all of his conclu- sions, nor do I, but he well illustrates the point of a lxrmissible (r spectrunl" ancl as a lilzely portent of a future which appear congenial to me, I shall rcfer to him frequently in the consideration of indivict- ual probIems below. FOOTNOTES 31. "13il)lical. Arcl~acology Today," in D. IN. Frccdman and J. C. Greenfield (Eds.), Nc~v Ui~cctions i77 Biblical Archaeology (1969), p. 149. Cf. illso Aalen jn The Syl-ingficldei., nrt, cit., p; 218f.: "This question is the ncrv clcnicllt in modcrn, scientific l3il)Iical research comparcd with thc carlicr cl~ochs of church history. For us the cluestion js today unavoidable: What has really happenecl? Is it not lncrcly a matter of thc individual data of the cotirsc of history. The researcher inquires also, and especially for thc co~~ncction, which links thc i~lclividual cvents together, thc con- tin~~un~, to \vhich tliu single historical itcnl belongs.-" As concerns G. E. Wright, lio\vcver, it sccms to mc that his more recent theological reflec- tions (csp. in Thc 0111 'Tcsta71zc1zt And Thcolog>', Harper, 1969) cxeinpIify the shaiiow side of the cmphasis on "history" almost as much as his carlicr \vorlts (God Who Acts, Etc.) indicated its positivc potential-i.e., thc cstcnt to which earlier f4cilsgeschichtc emphases have now generally :~llied themselves with "process" ideas, which are infinitely less com- patiblc with any real biblical or confessional theology. 31a. I notc: that I-Ierman Sasse also uses this expression on p. 85 of his essay "Lutlzcr crnd the Word of God," pp. 47-97, in Heino Icadai (Ed.), Accents 171 J.zrthcrls Theology (Concordia, 1967). The entire essay makes superb "collateral" reading to this article. On the same page, the followillg quotation sccms in ordcr: "The historian should refrain from trying tc find in Luthcr a precursor of a historical-critical thcology, for today's dogmatician is not aIlowecl to go back into the time when even great excgetcs were not yct awarc of the historical problems of the Bible. Today's task of Lutheran thcology is to find a solution that is in harmon) with thc Scriptures and the Confessions of the church." 32. Lct it 1)c ~lndcrscorecl that, in my judgment, thc term can scarcely bc championed at all, not only bccause of its intrinsic ambiguity but becausc- of its alnlost ineradicable connotation in thc popular mind of simp16 untruth. I-Iowevcr, at least for reasons of simple literacy, one must be aware of other lllore technical meanings which can be understood neutral- 1 . I-Icrc I think son~~ conservatives must bc faultcti for stopping their cars t i' lc sccontl the tcr~ri appears, and rcfusii~g to tliscrilninate between varying dciuitions and presuppositions. rlt l)cst, the tern1 denotes bclicf in sonlc ovc!rarcl~ing, supernatural orclcr which controls and gives nlcaning to cvcnts. Thus, by this piirely desc~:ji)ti\,c definition tl~cre are inally myths (theologies), none of \\~hich c:ln bc provcd or ctisprovcd "scicn- tificalIy." Thc qucstion is whcthcr or 11ot use con.fcss the biblical anc1. Christi:il~ "myth" or another one. Of coutsc, in many positivistic circles the tcrm al~v:~ys has pcjorativc: coal~ot;~tions l~rccisely bccausc it call~lot bc established "scientifically," hut, if so, one simply sces again the clasll of cornl~cting "myths." Put othcr\visc, thc term js of a piece with the c~ifirc modern tcnciency to banish xeligion to thc purely "subjective," inncr ivor1.d of "interpretation," etc. Like man). othex moclcrn terms, it is really intelligible only in the ivake of Ilantian philosol~l~y, according to u~bicl~ rcal rc.i,c.liition or access to transccildcnt objcctirity is imposdl)le, and all we can do is st~~dy the "mythicnl" struct~ires inhcrcnt in thc 1111man illiilrl Ijy r\.l~ich it apprchcncts and organizes its espci-icnccs. Thrrs, 1 think it is clcar that any co7zfescior1uZ thcologii~l: ninst, in cffcct, !)c pre- Ib~ntian. Hc must, if you will, l~nt Hurnpty Dtunpty togcthcr again-or not put asuncic~: what Gocl hns joined togcthcr. Ho~r.~.c-cr, up to a point he can go along with thc 'fiantian suhjcctivist, but also going snucll furthcr in confessing thnt the Christian "myth" is no strtrct~irc of the human mind, but God's very truth, allxit unclcr the 'illla~l<~" of lin~~lan, antliroponlorghic intel1igi'bil.itics. Of course, the vcry fact that one i~lust rcpcatcdly makc such csplanations onIy rtnclei:scores thc uns11itabjlit.y of the tern] for gcncral use. 33. Thcrc have been qriite a numhrr of gencrnlly helpful studics of tlicsc topics rcccntly from cspcciallv 13oman C;ltholic quarters. On thc topic of inerrancy, hc!pfnl up to a point, 1 thinl;, is N. Lohfink, "Uber clic Trrtum- slosiglteit u~ztl die Jiinhcit d~r Sellrift," Stiii7nzc.r~ dcr Zcit, Vol. CLXXIV (1 964)) pp. 16 1-8 1. On the lliattcr of inspiration, Tohn 3'Iclienzie1s, "Thc Social Chnractcr of Inspiration," C13Q XXIV (l962), pp. 11 5-24 is at Icr3st (and as al~oays) vcxy pror:ccnti~:c. Morc gc~~cri~lly helpful, probably is: 1). Stanley, "The Conccpt of Bi1,lical I'nspirntioll," pp. 9-28 in C. L. Snlm (Ed,), Stztdics in Snlvntiolz History (Prcnticc-Hall, 1964). Most stimnlntjng is also thc TT'O~IC of Jrisncs Burtchaell (1101~ pro\;ost of Notrcx 3);1mc Univcrsitj~), Clztlrolic Tlzcoi-ies of T3ih7iccrl 7~i7..s1)ir(lfio~~. Sivce l 8 10 (Cambridge, 1969). Jlrttrrtis i~zzrtrnzdis thc history it tracts is qnitc casilg triul~sposed into a I,uthcl-an contest. For its heuristic ai-td catalytic values alone 1 tl~inlc it is to bc hig11Iy rccomincnclcd, altho~~gh, in my judgment, Burtchacll's own critique in thc final chaptcr brings the boolc to a rathcr uilfortunate anticlimax. Onc might be tcrnpted to obsrr~.c that Catholics, in contrast to most of mainline Protestantism, arc at lcast still talllirrg a'bout thc problem-- or wcrc until recently. How long it will continuc cven therc is another q~~cstion. Cf. B. Vawter's revie.trr of Burtch;lcll, CBQ, XXII:4 (10/70), pp. 601-603: "A fricncl of thc reviewer 1-cccntly suggested to him that writing a boolc on biblical inspiration thcse days strongly resembles over- hauling the Edscl. Inspiration is, for all practical purposes, a dead theological catcgory in l'rotestnnt circles, a cul-ios~.t~~z of the old orthotloxy. Whatever effort is being expelldcd therc to understand bettrr the ways of God's communication with m;ln is liltcly to be cast in the tcrrns of thc ncw hermeacutic, to filltl how, as I\ cornplctcly human ~vork---the Ril~lc ilcvertheless mediates a tvord that is clil-inc. (htholic theol.ogians stilI 1na1rcsc!n[c:ti. 1 no st. astonislijng n~isconc:c:ption has long tlominntcc! thc moclcrn mint1 on tlic sr~hjcci: of St. :PJU~. It is to this cfkt: t.ll;lf. ~CSIIS J)YO;IC~C~ 2 Iiindly ;ljlt] 5itllplc rcli~ion (fou~~tl ill the Gospcls) rtlltf thilt St. Pal11 aftcr\\y:i~tls c,nl.,,ul,rc~tl it: illto ;I c~:tici ;III('! complicatctl rcligion (foutlci in thc 'Ep:istlcs). :[-his ib ~.cnlly cl~lirc uutcna!>Ic. :\I1 thc inost tcr~-.if'!~.ing tcsts come from the 1170utl.l OF 011~ 1..0~:!: ;111 thc tcsts 011 \\,hich \\.c c;i11 lmsc stich 11-arrant as \\;c II;I\-~ for hoping t!l;it all 111c.11, \\;ill 1)c si~\cd co~i~c from St. L'a~h. lf it: colrId I)c j)~.o\;c.tl fhnt Si-. l'aul iltcrcd lh(~ tcnching of h.is hIastcl: in RII!. )yay, hc ;llt-cl.cti it j1-i cs;~c.tly tile opposite \\.:I). to tllnt \\.hich is 1~op~il;lrly s~~pl)oscti . . . I.11~ o~.diiia~y p(~l>i.llar col~ccl?tion lias put: c\.cr);thi~.~g ulxitlc clo~\.n. Sol js thc c;~ttsc: fa:!- to sccl;. Tn the carlicr histor!. of' c\;cr)l rct)c~lli:)n thcl-c is ;I stagc: ;!I \\-1licl1 you (30 11c:l: !c.t ;~tt;~cl; 1.11t. l '?'hc ?(ii~g is ;ill right. It js his ;\linj..;tc~:s T\.JI(I :IYC 11.ro11g. '171cy ~njsrc.~~~-csc~~t- lliln and I I is I -ic l'lli sure, aIc goocl pi;lns jf onl!. tl~c Ministers \\TII~~(I Ict t:hcin tnk! ~Sl'cct. .\nd thc first x.ict.oi-y coi1sists j11 l~c*l:c,;~(li:~g ;I feiv 34jn.istc~:s: only i~t a Inlcr stagc do you go on ;~nti beheat1 the: f