Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Responding to the "Historical-Critical" Method

George Whitfield on How We Read Scripture

It does indeed sometimes happen, that God, to magnify his free grace in Christ Jesus, is found of them that sought him not; a notorious sinner is forcibly worked upon by a public sermon, and plucked as a firebrand out of the fire. But this is not God's ordinary way of acting; No, for the generality, he only visits those with the power of his word, who humbly wait to know what he would have them to do; and sends unqualified hearers not only empty, but hardened away…Take heed, therefore, ye careless, curious professors, if any such be here present, how you hear…But still take heed how you hear: for upon your improving the grace you have, more shall be given, and you shall have abundance. "

C.S. Lewis on Historical Criticism

All this sort of criticism attempts to reconstruct the genesis of the texts it studies; what vanished documents each author used, when and where he wrote, with what purposes, under what influences - the whole Sitz im Leben of the text. This is done with immense erudition and great ingenuity. And at first sight it is very convincing... Reviewers, both friendly and hostile, will dash you off such histories with great confidence; will tell you what public events had directed the author's mind to this or that, what other authors had influenced him, what his overall intention was, what sort of audience he principally addressed, why - and when - he did everything... The reconstruction of the history of a text, when the text is ancient, sounds very convincing. But one is after all sailing by dead reckoning; the results cannot be checked by fact... The superiority in judgment and diligence which you are going to attribute to the Biblical critics will have to be almost superhuman... (Fern-Seed and Elephants).

C.S. Lewis on Systems of Thought

Freudianism and Marxism are as much systems of thought as Christian theology. [...] The Freudian and the Marxian are in the same boat with all the rest of us, and cannot criticize us from outside. They have sawn off the branch they were sitting on. If, on the other hand, they say the taint need not invalidate their thinking, then neither need it invalidate ours. In which case they have saved their own  branch, but also saved ours along with it  (From Lewis' Essay, Bulverism).

 C.S. Lewis on Skepticism

Can we carry through to the end the view that human thought is merely human: that it is simply a zoological fact about homo sapiens that he thinks in a certain way;: that it in no way reflects (though no doubt it results from) non-human or universal reality? The moment we ask the question, we receive a check. We are at this very point asking whether a certain view of human thought is true. And the view in question is just the view that human thought is not true, not a reflection of reality. And this view is itself a thought. In other words, we are asking 'Is the thought that no thoughts are true, itself true?' If we answer ‘Yes,’ we contradict ourselves. For if all thoughts are untrue, then this thought is untrue. There is therefore no question of total skepticism about human thought (From C.S. Lewis' Futilitate).

Eta Linnemann on the Historical Critical Method

... the historical-critical method is not just the foundation for the exegetical disciplines. It also decides what the systematician can say and whether one accepts his claims. It determines procedure in Christian education, homiletics, and ethics. It may that those who are most affected by it are not acutely conscious of it... Research is conducted... as if there were no God... The undeclared yet working basic principle of Old Testament and New Testament science is: what the text states can, by no means, be true. The exegetes task is to discover and solve “difficulties” in the text of the Bible. The better the interpreter, the more ingenious this will be... (in such a system) Since students cannot possibly attain the same range of command of the “results of research” which the professor has mastered through years of study, they become insecure and lapse into dependence on whatever the professor says. Rather than asking... the Holy Spirit to open up God’s word to them, they grab a commentary... Overwhelmed by the “expertise” of theologians, the student... loses all confidence of being able to personally understand God’s Word. Another loss, typically, is the joy the Christian once had in the Bible... It is pernicious to handle scripture, as some do, with the assumption that what it plainly says should be laid aside in favor of some novel theory... (Eta Linnemann, Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology, 84-87).

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