Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Great Quotation and a Half-Hearted Book Review

Consider this great quotation from a less-than-great book:
A great variety of scriptural texts say very many different things indirectly, directly, cumulatively, and in different genres precisely in order to do with their various locutions only thing illocutionarily: to confront all people with the reality of the living Jesus Christ. Why? So that they will understand God’s love and forgiveness, repent of their sin, and live in the truth. 
Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible
Smith's book is basically against biblicism, which he defines as a very narrow, literalistic, straight-jacket approach to the Bible that ends up bordering on a straw-man definition but that he nonetheless insists characterizes the way the vast majority of American (evangelical) Christians approach the Scripture. The book argues against this "biblicism" primarily because of pervasive interpretive pluralism, or the fact that "American evangelicals" arrive at a bewildering variety of conclusions.

If you want a more thorough, helpful review, check out Kevin DeYoung's. It covers the main points, though if I had the discipline to write the review I have in my head, the focus would be on the nature of language and and application of linguistic theories to bibliology--in order to show how Smith's book totally misses. But DeYoung targets well the main problem with the book, which is simply that Smith first attacks a biblicism that is nearly non-existent and then offers alternatives that, um, pretty much everyone already accepted a long time ago and that are actually part of true biblicism, if you care to use that term.

Anyway, what I do like about the book is Smith's decent explanation of those alternatives, even if there is nothing new in what he writes. His recommendation for a Christocentric hermeneutic is very well written and downright inspiring to any believer in the person and cross of Jesus Christ.

In addition, I like his discussion of the need to apply linguistic theories to hermeneutics. The quotation above comes from a discussion of speech-act theory and how it could benefit our approach to Scripture. Think about locution, illocution, and perlocution next time you read any part of the Bible. I am reading and re-reading Jeremiah this year and am going to try it out.

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