I have recently finished reading Four Views on Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology edited by Gary Meadors. The book features 4 points of view on hermeneutics (how to interpret and apply the Bible). The title comes from the popular book by I. Howard Marshall by the same title. Each contributor briefly describes his hermeneutic and then uses some case studies to display how we should use the Bible in making decisions. The question of the book is “how do we arrive at a Christian ethic using the Bible?” or “How do we make decisions using the Bible for issues mentioned and not mentioned in Scripture?”
Let me summarize the views of the 4 authors very briefly:
- Walter Kaiser’s model is called the “Principlizing Model.” Kaiser strives to extract timeless principles from the text of the Bible to inform Christian decision making today. He believes that Scripture is sufficient for making all decisions in life through embedded principles.
- Daniel Doriani’s “Redemptive Historical Model” involves exegesis, synthesis of all biblical data relating to a topic, and then application to our context. He believes, like Kaiser, in the sufficiency and clarity of Scripture in making contemporary decision, so there is no need to go “beyond the Bible.” He also emphasizes the narratives as very important for decision making, more so than the “Principlizing Model.”
- Kevin Vanhoozer’s “Drama of Redemption model” emphasizes the overall story of redemption as revealed in the Bible. He calls the Bible the church’s “holy script” that she is to act out. Christians are to “perform” the life described in Scripture in their present day. As far as going “beyond the Bible,” Vanhoozer believes that we are to “improvise” when the “Script” does not explicitly teach about a certain issue. Thus, there is room for different “performances” of the Script. Vanhoozer believes in good exegesis but done with the big picture of redemption in mind.
- Finally, there is William Webb’s “Redemptive-Movement Model.” Webb sees that God is moving us toward an ultimate ethic that is seen in the development of ethics in Scripture. This ultimate ethic is not necessarily finalized in Scripture. He uses the development of issues like slavery and corporal punishment to display his belief in ethical movement.
The book is highly recommended to those who want to explore hermeneutics and to see the different takes on the task. Hermeneutics is in itself a human endeavor so there is no perfect hermeneutic and no perfect interpreter, but all interpret the Bible and it should be done with great thought and faithfulness. There is no perfect interpreter, but there is a perfect God who faithfully guides His children through their faithfulness to the Scriptures and through the guidance of His Holy Spirit to live a life pleasing to the Lord.