Josh j Smith

Gospel ???
October 14, 2006, 7:44 pm
Filed under: theology

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What are the Gospels? What are the Gospels to a certain group of people? Finally, what are the Gospels to the average (most likely Western) postmodern thinker? The questions continue to linger, but that does not stop the conversation. Therefore, the following will explore how postmodern people view the Gospels, interpret the Gospels, and what biases and presuppositions they/we bring to the Gospels when we interact with them as text.

For a typical postmodern the Gospels, as text, could be everything from history, to revelation, to absolute truth and moral instruction. However, even though they possess these virtuous qualities, the Gospels are nothing more than a religious tool that compliments the spiritual compartment of one’s life depending on which religion he/she prescribes to. “Fragmentation is, in fact, characteristic of our whole society, God is disengaged from society, at least in its public aspect, work from home, Church from society, the extended family from the nuclear by the mobility the modern economic order requires and, perhaps, by the divorce which modern life so often produces” (Wells, 2005, p, 78). For the average postmodern, religion/spirituality is a mere bullet point to life that does not involve itself in the narratives of government, academics, job, relationships, leisure, or health. Therefore, assuming that a particular postmodern person ascribes to Christianity or Catholicism the Gospels only have relevance within that religious context and nowhere else.

As far as the written message in the Gospels it is, as said before, history, revelation, absolute truth, and moral instruction, but only within a particular context because it was originated from a particular context. This means that the recorded life of Jesus by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is merely their perspective of the events they witnessed. Therefore, it is only absolute truth to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and to all who believe it. In the same way, the Gospels are revelation, but a local revelation that is not universal to all. Thus, what is revealed from the text is subject to the reader, and that revelation has no bearing on others. Even further, since it is understood that it was revelation that the Gospel writers recorded this inspired history, the Gospels, as text, do not have to be revelation to the reader.

From this the postmodern individual forms a hermeneutic. Her conscious or unconscious lens through which she interprets the Scriptures is understood through this fragmented worldview that “rejects totalizing ‘stories’ and beliefs, insisting that our focus can only be local and perhaps only individual” (Wells, 2005, p, 81). Therefore, could this mean that there is no hermeneutic that can be characterized postmodern? It is possible. The result of our beliefs being localized has to mean that the way one interprets Scripture is strictly her own, or localized to a small group (race, location, social class, etc.). There can be no unifying hermeneutic for postmodern thinkers.

The implications of this could be drastic or freeing depending on the presuppositions and biases that evolve before one approaches the Gospel text. The non-existent hermeneutic is not good because it allows for any interpretation to be the right one. This is not something new; people have been doing this for a long time. As soon as the Scriptures were written in common vernacular, and printed for all to have, it not only freed the message to be spread, but it freed the message to change. As the culture shift becomes more prevalent, this practice of reading the Gospels becomes more prevalent and popular. The negative result of this is decentralization. Is it possible that the message could become too fragmented to impact?

However, there is an upside to the non-existent hermeneutic. The decentralization could be a blessing like the God confusing the languages at the tower of Babel. A centralized hermeneutic does not necessarily mean a centralized message, but a restricted message. Imagine if one group or person devised a hermeneutic accepted by all. Man would not be able to control the power of this. With a decentralized hermeneutic it allows for different cultures and perspective to utilize their biases and presuppositions that, collectively, could bring a greater understanding of the Gospels. For the postmodern, this is central. Thus, the presuppositions and biases, for the postmodern, would seek to be non-existent because they are aware of their localized perspective. As a result, when a postmodern encounter the Gospels is this sense, it will be a new adventure every time. However, this is a very optimistic view that assumes a postmodern is aware of and would seek to disengage or criticize her own biases. Since all is not redeemed yet, the biases, which postmodern people bring to the reading of Gospels, are the attempts to prove wrong the biases for which another person has interpreted the text.

Still the questions of the Gospels linger in the abyss as to what the Gospels actually are to the postmodern person, how they interpret them, and what are the actual biases and presuppositions they bring when they interact with them. But, it is a mystery that still keeps us seeking, which is a good thing. Thus, the questioning should never stop lest we stop seeking.

Feel free to comment!

Further reading that discuss different perspectives on interpreting Scripture:

Return to Babel: Global Perspectives on the Bible



2 Comments so far
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i miss you dude we have to talk sometime



Comment by Josh

that was my mom’s cell sorry lol


Comment by Josh

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