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Interpreting Hermeneutics

April 4, 2008

There is a “Hermeneutics Quiz” at Leadership put together by Scot McKnight (Jesus Creed). While the quiz is designed to make explicit one’s (often implicit) hermeneutical strategies, I found myself wondering if it succeeded in this task.

Scott designed the quiz and ran it with a sampling of twenty “pastors, professors, and former students.” Based on this sample (small, to be sure) he came up a the following rubric:

< 52 Conservative
52-65 Moderate
66-100 Progressive

I took the quiz and scored an 88, which makes me squarely in the “progressive” camp of hermeneutics — no surprise here, really. I find it hard to believe there is no such thing as a “plain meaning” of any text. Everything is culturally conditioned, both Scripture and our interpretation of it. As such, understanding the community that Scripture was addressed to and the community that is interpreting it is crucial.

However, it occurred to me that this entire quiz falls apart if you come from a confessional background. For example, question 13 states:

The context for reading the Bible is: 1. The individual’s sole responsibility. 2. I fall somewhere between No. 1 and No. 3. 3. The individual in conversation and respect for Church traditions. 4. I fall somewhere between No. 3 and No. 5. 5. The confessional statement of one’s community of faith.

Is it “progressive” or “traditional” to go with answer 5? How different would a postmodernist and a conservative Catholic answer this question? I wonder how some of my Eastern Orthodox friends would score on the post (yes, I’m trolling). Would having a second metric indicating how important a question was to them be able to indicate more accurately someone’s hermeneutical paradigm?

As is often the case with these sorts of quizzes, I think that the metrics show more about the kind of person who wrote it, than those who took it.

(HT: Tyler Williams)

  1. Erik permalink
    April 4, 2008 1:19 pm

    68, but not entirely comfortably. A lot of “none of the aboves”.

    (My motivation in taking the quiz was also to have an excuse to drop you a fun little bit of information. I was at a lenten potluck at my parish on wednesday, and it turns out one of the parishioners I was talking with, grew up in Ugarit ( well 6miles down the road) thought you should know.)

  2. April 4, 2008 4:09 pm

    58 – moderate. And it was the confessional instances which made me hedge some answers. Like, the bible in the Church has to be read with respect to Church Tradition – even if you’re going to go against it in light of different evidence.

  3. "name withheld" permalink
    April 4, 2008 11:31 pm

    Damn. I’m out of luck with any evangelical schools. 98 and I felt like the most “liberal” ones were still too conservative. The only thing that was conservative about me what that I thought historical context helps elucidate the meaning of ancient texts.

  4. April 5, 2008 1:11 pm

    I had a number of answers that could have been both 1 & 5 but not 3, so I feel your angst.

    Bad postmodern, orthodox baptist! I expected at least a 70 out of you. You need to read more Heidegger!

    “Name Withheld”,
    Since I know who you are and where you went to school, I find your score amazingly humorous.

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