Review of La Nueva Hermenéutica en Perspectiva by J. Andrew Kirk

  1. Nombre y apellido del alumno Bert Amsing
  2. Fecha May 18, 2016
  3. Título del texto leído J. Andrew Kirk

La Nueva Hermenéutica en Perspectiva

  1. ¿De qué trata el artículo o capítulo leído?
  2. Andrew Kirk, in his chapter on “La Nueva Hermenéutica en Perspectiva,” in the book, Introducción General al Mito y la Hermenéutica, gives us a concise but penetrating analysis of the new “existential” hermeneutic. He also provides a strong critique of its presuppositions and philosophical underpinnings on its own merits while maintaining a position as an Evangelical scholar.
  3. ¿Cuál es la idea central del autor?

Kirk contends that the new hermeneutic (especially as espoused by Fuchs) is fundamentally flawed by its own presuppositions.  Without necessarily appealing to any theological/doctrinal position about the Word of God, he shows that the approach, in and of itself, is flawed.  He goes on to state that the traditional classical approach still maintains validity in the face of the defeat of the new hermeneutic by its own hand.

  1. ¿De qué nos quiere convencer?

He wants to convince us that the new hermeneutic is flawed and does not contribute to the exegetical/hermeneutical task for theologians/preachers of the Word of God.

  1. ¿Cuáles son los puntos fuertes y los puntos débiles del texto?

This chapter is part of a series of papers in the book by Cullen et al called Introducción General al Mito y la Hermenéutica.  In that context, there is a fundamentally different interpretation and explanation of the new hermeneutic.  Cullen talks of the new “scientific/literary” hermeneutic whereas Kirk talks of the new “existential” hermeneutic.  Both are denominated as the “new” hermeneutic (Padilla also uses the same terminology to refer to a new starting point in “praxis”).  So which is it?  It appears to have started as an “existential” hermeneutic but has grown into a “scientific/literary” hermeneutic but there is no clarity on the relationship between the two.
In general, I appreciated both the analysis of the new “existential” hermeneutic as well as the evaluation Kirk gave based on its own presuppositions.  That is an interesting piece of work that requires more attention and deeper study.  The question that still lies before us is whether his evaluation of the new “existential” hermeneutic also is applicable to the new “scientific” hermeneutic approach and, if so, to what extent and in what ways.  Food for thought.
Particularly interesting was his statement that “El golpe de muerte para la posición de Bultmann está en el hecho de que la fe de los discípulos no era del tipo que él imagina.  Es decir, para ellos, como Pablo apunta claramente en las evidencias de la resurrección, la fe alejada de un fundamento histórico abierto a la verificación, no es fe, es incredulidad, y muy pronto se convertirá en puro misticismo (p.47).”  The search for a stronger foundation than “a faith without historical basis” by the disciples of Bultmann were also doomed to failure.  Even the attempt to base everything on the actual words of Jesus would not go far enough as Kirk’s evaluation shows.  The historical person and work of Christ is the indispensable foundation of a biblical faith as proclaimed by the text itself.
He goes on to say, “En último análisis la exégesis de la nueva hermenéutica es infalible porque nadie tiene con qué disputarla (p.54).”  We already see this in the church where everybody’s opinion about the text of Scripture is equal to everyone else’s opinion because it matters more that we express ourselves and grapple with our own issues of life/existence than that we listen carefully to the Word of God first to find the answers that we need.  It all becomes more of an “autodiálogo que nadie jamás podrá penetrar (p.54).”  Enough said.
Although I appreciate Kirk’s evaluation based on the intrinsic fallacies of the new “existential” hermeneutic itself, he also demonstrates an affinity for Scottish realism and a theological/doctrinal approach to the Scriptures as the inerrant and inspired Word of God.  Obviously, I would agree but the interesting thing is to see how far one can go on the “human” side based (as per Cullen) on the assumptions of the new “scientific/literary” hermeneutic itself (i.e. such as the “specificity” of the text and the respect it demands in providing the basic approach to listening/understanding its message). More can and should be done here by Evangelical scholars (if not done already).
Still there is, as Kirk points out, a difference between understanding the text and determining its value as it speaks to us.  He says, “Es imprescindible que tengamos en claro dos cosas distintas.  En primer lugar, esta la interpretación del sentido original del texto.  En esto no diferenciamos, en cuanto a metodología, entre las Sagradas Escrituras y los otros escritos clásicos.  En segundo lugar, está el valor que damos al texto en su aplicación a nuestra situación.  Confundir las dos cosas en nombre de una exegesis existencial significa relativizar toda la tarea exegética (p.48).”  Yes, and no, in my opinion.
On the one hand, there is a distinction between the two but there is also a continuity between the two.  The text (the message) itself is a “kerygma” (without the demythologizing of Bultmann) based on historical acts and original spoken words by God interpreted by God himself by means of human language and communicated through contemporary man to others through their life and words.  The text itself tells us what value to place on what aspect of the message, not our present situation or even our contemporary felt need (at least not at first).  Both the sense or original meaning of the text and its value and application to our lives (original and contemporary through an analogy of being over time), are two aspects of the same process of hermeneutics and homiletics.  I would want to be careful to distinguish the two but not separate them.  There is a necessary “divine” element to both that expresses itself in our “human” process of hermeneutical discovery.
I would also, in a similar vein, take issue with Kirk’s blanket statement that “En esto no diferenciamos, en cuanto a metodología, entre las Sagradas Escrituras y los otros escritos clásicos (p. 48).”  Like Cullen et al, his agreement with general hermeneutics as applicable to biblical hermeneutics is too sweeping and inclusive.  There is no way to sidestep the Biblical statements about the need for the Holy Spirit in the process of interpreting and applying the Word of God or the Biblical statements about the noetic effects of sin that have to be taken into account and overcome through loving “imperative” obedience as the necessary context for understanding the evangelistic-missional purpose of God, the moral/ethical character of Christ and the relational/ontological reality that empowers our efforts to please him above all.
At the very least, these theological/doctrinal aspects which arise naturally from the Scriptures when we come in humility before them in acknowledgement of their supernatural nature (beyond nature in origin but through nature in method guided and protected by the hand of God in its transmission) need to be acknowledged and discussed in more detail within Evangelical circles.  Otherwise we are only fighting a defensive battle and leaving the initiative to other various philosophies and approaches to lead the way.
Perhaps in the act of clearly delineating our own approach and stating the foundational presuppositions and process of a biblical hermeneutic, we will automatically put it out of reach of those who are not interested in what God has to say and instead, would rather impose their questions and needs on the self-revelation of God rather than allow him to interpret us and let the text of Scripture proclaim his solution to our need (which invariably will satisfy all human longings, needs and questions in the process).  This approach will also uncover the perennial bias against the supernatural that exists at the foundation of all approaches to hermeneutics that is not a priori rooted in the experience of and obedience to the indicative-imperative resurrection life that God calls us to as a pre-requisite for understanding his Word.

  1. ¿Qué aspectos no entendí? ¿ó sobre qué aspectos todavía tengo preguntas?

I am still unclear of the relationship between Kirk´s concept of the new hermeneutic and that of Cullen et al with respect to existentialism as over an against a scientific approach (which includes aspects of the existential hermeneutic within it).
I also need to do more work on understanding the existential approach to hermeneutics so as to better evaluate what aspects it may have that would serve to clarify our Evangelical position.  Furthermore, there is a sense in which God, by his grace, allows man to come to him with their questions and needs as a first approach and through the church, as we meet those needs and build a relationship with the person, we can witness to the reality of the peace and joy that comes from the indicative-imperative resurrection life within us.
To that end, there is an apologetic-evangelistic context for understanding the existential questions of our contemporary society and provide answers (verbally and existentially through our life ministry).  That is an interesting point of departure not for hermeneutics itself (defined as the interpretation of what God is saying through his word) but for homiletics and even application but always within a solid biblical understanding of God’s answers to modern man.

  1. ¿Cómo se puede aplicar el contenido a la tarea hermenéutica?

This article was more of an evaluation of the new existential hermeneutic and as such was more instructive in what not to do rather than in what to do.  In addition, it provided a much needed rational support to maintaining a classical approach to hermeneutics (although informed by and enhanced by advances in historical and linguistic advances).