Postmodern hermeneutic

The New Hermeneutic
(how postmoderns receive the Bible/Gospel)

How is your summer going? Bonnie is putting new flooring to the test with her third art camp of the summer.   Nine little girls are drawing, painting, and playing as I write.

As my book winds its way through the process of peer review and editing, I have been working on further applying my dissertation. One of the most important questions I have been wrestling with is what do we mean when we say post-christian? And to get practical, how do we live in and communicate to an increasingly post-christian society? As an example, on the other side I briefly develop how a post-christian hears a sermon or a Bible passage.

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“How do we live in and communicate to an increasingly post-christian society?”
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I use this well known saying of Jesus to illustrate:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine, and does them, will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, for it was founded on rock. And every one who hears these words of mine, and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Mat 7:24).

We can assume that anyone under the age of thirty to forty hearing or reading a sermon, for example this text, is doing so more with their eyes than their ears. In addition this simple formula generally describes their assumptions:

APOCRYPHAL STORY + ALLEGORY + MORALISM

(This may be tempered to some degree if they come from a churched home or have received some biblical teaching)

Assumptions:
1. Apocryphal (adj. a story or statement of doubtful authenticity, although widely circulated as true) The story is assumed to be apocryphal, or in any case, the facts are unimportant.

2. Allegorical (adj. interpreting a story or poem to reveal a hidden meaning, typically moral or political) They assume that one is to allegorize any story or saying: what is the true meaning or lesson behind the story? God/Fate is inevitable, something bad happens to everyone. Only the fittest survive.

3. Application/moralism (n. a moral lesson meant to impose or enforce a rule or method, such as WWJD) They assume that once one has found the hidden moral lesson, they are to apply it as best they can.

These are steps typically taken to apply the moral lesson:
4. How can I integrate or accommodate this story to my experience, knowledge or reasoning? Is there a similar story of someone who built foolishly like Hollywood houses in mudslides or who did not learn; what can I learn from others’ misfortune?

5. What can I or should I do (about my current crisis)? Where is my escape or way out? I should/must . . . .

6. What do I yearn for? What is Ideal? I yearn to have a good life, as painless as possible, to have as much as possible, a pure relationship with God, to be sinless, to have a perfect Christian life.

7. What is the given here? What is the determinism or oppression against which I am struggling to be free? My parents, upbringing, the old rule-based Christian life, other’s expectations.

Questions for the reader: Does following this line of reasoning: story + allegory + moralism = hearing and doing Jesus’ sayings? How much am I influenced by postmodern thinking? How can I communicate the gospel to a person with these assumptions?

If you find it helpful, please let us know, ask questions, give your own examples, and so on.

Dan & Bonnie

About dbporter

Dan Porter, living in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Married to Bonnie, an artist. We have three grown sons, all married to wonderful women, and in turn have eight children.
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