Friday, July 29, 2005

Critical Realism and the New Testament

Ever since I read Wright’s NTPG and Ben F. Meyer’s Critical Realism and the New Testament, I’ve been convinced that critical realism (henceforth CR) is the way to go hermeneutically for NT scholars who wish to take seriously the postmodern criticism of historical study but still wish to engage in serious and concerted historical study of Christian origins without opting for deconstruction or reader-orientated approaches. The problem, as I see it now, is that many authors have cited Wright and Meyer whenever the issue was raised and assumed that by referencing them in a footnote one has solved all the problems and this supposedly gives exegetes a license to carry on study as virtual-naïve realists. Although I affirm CR in principle, my point is that CR should not be perceived as some kind of hermeneutical Messiah that has saved us completely from the postmodern criticism of modernist hermeneutics. I think more work needs to be done in applying CR to NT hermeneutics in order to gain clearer insight as to how CR makes historical events, textual meaning and authorial intentions accessible; whilst at the same time affirming that CR has its own inherent shortcomings and still remains contestable at several points.

Note, Meyer’s book Critical Realism and the New Testament has recently been republished by Wipf & Stock.


Tim said...

Yes, and Wright himself notes in NTPG that the CR project is so far only a first step forward out of the quagmire of postmodern epistemology, with the really serious work still yet ahead of us. (BTW - I found your blog via mr myers')

Thomas said...

I appreciatte your comments on critical realism. I am working on an MA in Theology and have been looking into CR. I found it fascinating to go behind Wright and Meyer to Bernard Lonergan's epistemology (and cognitional theory).

The key epistemological insights for me are that "knowing is not like seeing" - the presupposition held both by naive realists and phenomenalists- as well as the distinction between the world mediated by meaning, and the much smaller world of immediacy.

More than a closed system, CR is for me a dynamic model for engagement with the text- it does not guarantee a certain result (as does much current NT methodology) rather is an appropriately humble model which recognizes our limitedness while not shying away from the task.

Tom (