Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Interpretation and Common Revelation

So, I’m in the shower, contemplating the book that I’m reading: Someplace To Be Flying by Charles de Lint. At several points in the book, various characters discuss the power of stories and storytelling. The philosophy that is being suggested is firmly in the postmodernist camp, which says that stories are a way that human beings impose meaning on the random chaos of events. This leads to thoughts of my blog, and how I said that I would have to explain my thoughts on art and interpretation. (This is not going to be that entry, by the way.) However, I realized that I had a good reason for being interested in hermeneutics. After all, as a Christian, I am part of a community that is dedicated to the ongoing interpretation of a particular text: the Bible. We’re people of the Book, right? Of course, there’s a particular authority vested in the Bible, which is why a proper hermeneutic is important when studying the Bible. After all, you have to obey the Bible, while that same sort of authority isn’t vested in (say) this blog entry. This is because the Bible is revelatory, while this blog entry isn’t. Or is it? After all, doesn’t all Creation proclaim the glory of God? Isn’t this proclamation truly revelatory? Doesn’t this revelation have (within its scope) the same authority and perspicuity as special revelation? And isn’t this blog entry part of the created order? Therefore, isn’t this blog entry a part of common revelation? As such, how does this affect how I interpret this blog, or any other “common” text that I may read? Or am I just reading too much into all of this? I don’t know, but I wonder if this is a useful lead to consider.

8 Comments:

Blogger | agreene | said...

Wow, I didn't know your laptop was waterproof.

4/06/2005 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger Seth Ben-Ezra said...

Isn't technology amazing? :-P

4/06/2005 09:23:00 AM  
Anonymous DLR said...

Man, you were up late!

4/06/2005 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger james3v1 said...

Where do you get the idea the general revelation has perspicuity? I think you're reading too much into it. So Braveheart has the same authority and perspicuity as the Scriptures?

4/06/2005 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger Seth Ben-Ezra said...

I'm getting that from Van Til, who notes somewhere (I can dig it out) that, within its sphere, general revelation has the same characteristics (e.g. perspicuity) as special revelation. There is a narrower message, mind you, but that message is sufficiently clear.

4/06/2005 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger james3v1 said...

"within its scope"

That scope, though, is very narro. Revelation, by definition is God revealing *Himself*.

General revelation's scope only goes so far as to reveal that there is a God and that His attributes are beyond our understanding. I am not sure how much more we need to dwell on general revelation beyond being convinced of our need to turn to special revelation.

I read the writings of others (including you, my friend) to see what they reveal about themselves in a "special" way. What I can glean about God from the sin-marred writings of others is limited.

The limits of GR make it, well, "limited."

4/06/2005 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Seth Ben-Ezra said...

I think that perhaps we're not quite connecting here. And, while it would be more efficient to have a face-to-face chat about it, at least here the discussion will be recorded so that I can come back through and look at it at some point. :-)

The question that I'm working on is this: how does one understand, interpret, and interact with the created works of others? Tolkien spoke of the concept of "applicability" in contrast to "allegory". So, he roundly denied that Lord of the Rings was an allegory, with each character being symbolic of something else. However, I think that you would agree that various characters in LOTR demonstrate various Christian virtues and even model Christ to us. So, when I draw out an example from LOTR, am I finding something that is already there? Or am I creating something new with the raw material that is there. The Ring is *not* a symbol of sin. However, I've used it as an example of the power and corruption of sin on numerous occasions. What is going on here? Am I merely identifying something that the author created, or am I creating something myself, using the author's work as raw material?

Take this another step. What if I use a work's applicability to demonstrate connections that were never intended by the author? Take the Matrix films, for example. They are not formed with a Christian worldview in mind. However, the entirety of the first film can be used as an analogy of Christian conversion and warfare. Am I violating the author's original intent by doing this? Probably. Is it valid, though? I think so. But why? How can I draw true meaning out of that which is false?

One possible answer is that the work is not ultimately false. Instead, if I found truth within the work, it is because I am discerning God's revelation of Himself in His created order. Now, this possibility does not rule out the need for the renewing of the mind by the Spirit or the "spectacles of Scripture". However, it could help to explain certain phenomena that I've observed.

4/06/2005 02:50:00 PM  
Anonymous John D said...

I agree that you may draw observations and even "instruction" re: God's order of His creation through unintended readings of a work of literature...

The question of whether you are violating the text by doing so is a very important one... Practically speaking, I would teach any of those lessons from a context which clearly declares, "I do not believe this is our author's intent, but yet we see how God's revelation can be reflected in all of His creatures..."

4/07/2005 10:56:00 AM  

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