Friday 24 February 2012

D.A. Carson on the Theological Interpretation of Scripture

D.A. Carson, ‘Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Yes, But...’, in R. Michael Allen (ed.), Theological Commentary: Evangelical Perspectives (London: T&T Clark International, 2011), 187-207.

This essay by D.A. Carson (published as the final chapter of what I consider to be a lovely showcase collection of essays by evangelical scholars) has been made available as a pdf (linked to from here). Carson is more circumscribed than others in the volume about the potential benefits of the renewed interest in so-called theological readings of Scripture, seen even in his opening sentence:

‘Theological Interpretation of Scripture (TIS) is partly disparate movement, partly a call to reformation in biblical interpretation, partly a disorganized array of methodological commitments in hermeneutics, partly a serious enterprise and partly (I suspect) a fad’ (187).

Instead of putting together a list of positive points (‘yes’) and a list of negative points (‘but’) about theological interpretation, Carson considers that the ‘yes’ and ‘but’ components are ‘closely intertwined’, and so opts for ‘a sic et non for each entry’ (188), looking in turn at six propositions:

‘Proposition One: TIS is an attempt to transcend the barren exegeses generated by historical-critical methods, and especially those readings of Scripture that are “historical” in the sense that they are frankly anti-supernatural interpretations determined by post-Enlightenment assumptions about the nature of history’ (188).

‘Proposition Two: More broadly, TIS aims to bring biblical studies and theology closer together’ (192).

‘Proposition Three: TIS accords greater credibility to pre-critical exegesis – patristic, medieval, reformational – than to contemporary exegesis, and especially to patristic readings’ (196).

‘Proposition Four: TIS aims to be God-centered as opposed to human-centered (including human-hermeneutical-rules-centered)’ (202).

‘Proposition Five: TIS commonly insists we ought to read Scripture through Trinitarian lenses’ (204).

‘Proposition Six: TIS tends to see Scripture less as a set of propositions disclosing God than as the story of God and his saving plan of redemption’ (205).

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