Monday, May 08, 2006
Language IS Reliable
There is a more fundamental problem than the unreliability of language, though. When Bultmann and others claim language is unreliable, they are wrong. Daily experience proves them wrong. Certainly, we all have moments of miscommunication, but those moments shouldn’t lead us to the absurd conclusion that all language is unreliable.
There must be some other explanation for interpretation besides the unreliability of language.
We might claim that interpretation is a way of helping people apply the text to their daily lives. A good preacher retells parables in modern settings and even creates new parables to illustrate abstract concepts of the Bible. He places the truths of the Bible in the cultural context of our daily experience. Perhaps the role of a theologian is simply this modernization of the Bible’s metaphoric language.
Of course, modernizing the Bible’s language through demytholigization is exactly Bultmann’s proposal. Any attempt to label some Biblical statement as a product of first century myth or culture inevitably leads to the process of deciding which statements are universally true and which were only true for first century culture.
Bultmann might argue that Mr. Butt’s interpretations of the Bible modernize Biblical language in exactly this way. Mr. Butt writes about the Trinity as excellence, service, and unity. He discusses the psychological truths of the Bible. He uses Freudian language to discuss the relationships of people in the Bible. Bultmann would then conclude the truth of Mr. Butt’s abstraction rather than the stories which led him to that abstraction. Bultmann dismisses the mystery of the Biblical narrative, for example. He seems to dismiss the mystery of the Trinity itself.
Mr. Butt, though, discusses the cognitive-narrative dance. Reason and abstraction are important, but so are the stories. The experiences and decisions of our daily life are important, but so are the abstract truths which justify those decisions and illuminate those experiences. Mr. Butt also holds up the mysterious and simultaneous truth of the Trinity: “God is three” and “God is one.” He is not afraid to have faith in God rather than his own ability to explain God’s word fully.
Discussing Mr. Butt’s analysis of the Bible provides a good contrast to Bultmann’s analysis, but we are still left with the question of interpretation. How can we claim the Bible is true when no one agrees what the Bible means? What use is a true text if no one agrees what truth it offers? Ultimately, if no one agrees what is true about the Bible, how can Christians presume to spread the word? What part of the word do they spread?
HillCountryWriter Category: Church stuff
Technorati Tags: church Christianity religion God Jesus
"Ultimately, if no one agrees what is true about the Bible, how can Christians presume to spread the word?"
I don't even know what to do with that yet.
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