Monday, May 18, 2009

Stephen Fowl on Theological Interpretation

Over at Christian Theology on the Bible, Chris Spinks is posting a series of quotes from Stephen Fowl's forthcoming book on Theological Interpretation of Scripture in the Cascade Companions series. In the first installment, Fowl writes:

For the most part, the various interpretive practices common in the pre-modern period arise from Christian theological convictions. Scripture was seen as God’s gift to the church. Scripture was the central, but not the only, vehicle by which Christians were able to live and worship faithfully before the triune God. It is also the case that faithful living, thinking, and worshipping shaped the ways in which Christians interpreted Scripture. At its best, the diversity and richness of the patterns of reading Scripture in the pre-modern period are governed and directed by Scripture’s role in shaping and being shaped by Christian worship and practice. Ultimately, Scriptural interpretation, worship, and Christian faith and life were all ordered and directed towards helping Christians achieve their proper end in God.

It is important to understand that the difference between modern and pre-modern biblical interpretation is not due to the fact that we are smart and sophisticated while they are ignorant and naïve. Instead, modern biblical study is most clearly distinguished from pre-modern interpretation because of the priority granted to historical concerns over theological ones. Ultimately, if Christians are to interpret Scripture theologically, the first step will involve granting priority to theological concerns. This, however, is to anticipate my conclusion.

On theological interpretation, see also the excellent series of posts by Michael Gorman.

I think theological interpretation is a great thing, and I honestly intend to employ some of it in a forthcoming NT Theology that I'm about to start writing (Lord willing, in a year from now). My only whinge is that more people seem to be talking about theological interpretation than actually doing it!!

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