Writing about emotional intelligence and the fundamentalist interpretation of sola scriptura, author Richard Beck asserts that the mark of a fundamentalist is the lack of awareness of their own hermeneutic.
Beck identifies several statements that demonstrate this; he cites “this is the clear teaching of Scripture” as a perfect example of someone failing to identify their own cognitive process at work, implying that the phrase should be verboten.
From his blog post:
I once quipped at a conference that a fundamentalist is a person who thinks he doesn’t have a hermeneutic.
I don’t want to rehash that point as it’s a point that has been made many, many times. We all have a hermeneutic. We are all interpreting the text to some degree. We are all privileging–deferring to–certain values, doctrines, creedal commitments, traditions, or biblical texts. Something somewhere is trumping something else. In a document as multivocal as the Old and New Testament this is unavoidable.
So we all have a hermeneutic. The only question is whether you are consciously vs. unconsciously using a hermeneutic. Fundamentalists are interpreting the text unconsciously. Fundamentalists are interpreting the text right and left, they are just unaware that they are doing so. This lack of awareness is what produces the sorts of statements described above.
What do you think of his points? The comments section is hosting a lively discussion about his post, with some readers contending that he isn’t demonstrating enough humility or emotional intelligence in his critique, and others contending that “this is the clear teaching of Scripture” is a perfectly acceptable phrase to use after study and deliberation.
Do you think “This is the clear teaching of Scripture” is a useful phrase? If you’re using it, is it really clear to the person you’re speaking to, or is it only clear to you? What would you propose someone say instead? How do you seek to teach and share the word of God?