September 22, 2011

Scriptural Exhaustion or Inclusion

There are two primary ways to read Scripture. Both are “literal” in that they focus on the text itself, but they differ in how they attribute meaning to the text. The exhaustive view believes that a single correct reading excludes any other and exhausts the possibilities of meaning; the inclusive acknowledges that a given text may be capable of many meanings, including that discerned by the exhaustive school, but remaining open to meanings not yet discerned. The exhaustive view asserts clarity, often assumes perspecuity, and a univocal certainty. The inclusive accepts a degree of ambiguity, recognizes that texts convey meaning, that the meanings can be manifold, and the readings provisional.

The inclusive manner of reading is that of the rabbinic and the Patristic eras, of the Catholic tradition and (ironically) also of liberal protestantism; the exhaustive is represented in several strands of protestant conservatism. The inclusive manner allows the church to hold a number of interpretations, and part with those that science or reason eventually show to be untenable. The exhaustive, in the long run, often finds itself unable to navigate the waters of reality, having run aground, not on the text, but on the inflexibility and failure of their own interpretations to offer a credible word to a skeptical world.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

29 comments:

John Sims said...

I just love this piece, Tobias. My first thought was, "Yeah, like when you say 'I love you' to your wife of 40-years. It only admits of a single, true-at-all-times-and-in-all-circumstances interpretation, it is the one permanent and unchanging statement about out relationship." Bah! Also Phooey!

Thanks again!

bls said...

"The exhaustive, in the long run, often finds itself unable to navigate the waters of reality, having run aground, not on the text, but on the inflexibility and failure of their own interpretations to offer a credible word to a skeptical world."

And how. We are drowning in those waters at the moment....

JCF said...

"The inclusive manner of reading is that of the rabbinic and the Patristic eras, of the Catholic tradition and (ironically) also of liberal protestantism; the exhaustive is represented in several strands of protestant conservatism."

I wonder if contemporary Roman Catholicism isn't swinging more to the exhaustive?

Jesse said...

Thanks, Tobias. Qui bene distinguit, bene docet. Our commitment is to the text itself (or rather, the texts themselves), not to one particular interpretation. We read them through year after year -- even the bits we find mystifying or even offensive -- trusting that somehow these words are our story too.

Deacon Charlie Perrin said...

Each time I read a particular passage in scripture, I find that it has something either slightly, or completely different to say to me. If the text has only one meaning than why bother reading it more than once?

Additionally, I believe that Christians can only read the Hebrew scriptures through the lens of and under the light of Christ. So what we read in the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings are only instructive to us as far as they resonate with the Word made flesh.

As an example, "conservative" Protestant Christians will give much weight to "an eye for an eye" in the death penalty discussion, even though Jesus expicitly forbade such an interpretation.

The "Exhaustive" approach to scripture cannot but lead to one holding contradictory beliefs. For me such a path leads only to madness.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks for the comments. I have to say I share Deacon Charlie's experience. As I read the Scripture in the Daily Office, not a day passes that I'm not challenged or illuminated by some new "wrinkle" in the text.

I suppose another way to contrast the two views would be the difference between a digital recording of a piece of music, and a live performance. The "notes" are the same, but only the live performance can offer those new insights into the music. (Not a perfect analogy, because I know that listening to a favorite recording I always notice new things... but I hope you get the metaphor here!)

rick allen said...

I am not sure about either the accuracy or utility of these classifications.

On the "exhaustive" side, I am fairly sure that most conservative Protestants share the conviction that continued study of scripture reveals new wrinkles or aspects.

I happened, just a day or two ago, to be running through the radio dial, and I picked up on a broadcast by the late J. Vernon McGee, a classic old Baptist radio preacher. He was running through the text from the Torah about the Hebrew slave, wishing to remain with his master, who effects that desire through the piercing of the ear, and he was exegeting it as a picture of the redemptive work of Christ in the cruxifiction. It was pure Origen, and hardly fit into any "exhaustive" category as you have set it out. And I don't think that that's too far afield for a great deal of conservative evangelical biblical interpretation.

Conversely, your "inclusive" category suggests that the existence of multiple levels of meaning implies an openness to any interpretation, and I'm not sure that that's the case either.

If we look, for example, as Book XII of Augustine's Confessions, he runs through any number of exegeses of the first verse of Genesis, from literal to numerous neo-Platonic readings. He has his favorite, and he doesn't dismiss the others out of hand. But if you had proposed to Augustine Joseph Smith's reading of that same verse, from the King Follett Discourse ("In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it."), I think he would have drawn the line.

In other words, there may be numberous readings that come out of a text, but I don't know if I would call that an "inclusive" approach if any other number of readings would be excluded, as either directly contradicting one acceptable reading, or standing in direct contradiction to an established dogma, such as the unity of God.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Rick, I'd suggest that your contribution here is precisely an example of the utility of the distinctions.

Not having heard McGee's exegesis, but being familiar with that school of typological reading, I think it common for members of that school to tend to the "exhaustive" in saying that their typological reading is what the text "really" is about. This attitude, in particular towards the Hebrew Scriptures, is not at all unusual in fundamentalist circles.

Clearly there are degrees of inclusivity -- and there will naturally be interpretations that are more acceptable than others.

What I'm particularly seeking to address here is the exhaustive attitude that either seeks a sole "original intent" or a dogmatic typology -- both of which hold more or less to a single, or very small selection, of possible readings, and violently reject any other possible meaning. This was one of the things that also marked some of the heretical movements (a tradition kept alive in such things as Mormonism, as you note). Such sects tend to be very sure of their narrow range of readings. (To be fair to the Mormon reading of Genesis, it is not terribly far from the Targum which explains the plural in "Let us make Man" as God speaking with the heavenly beings, who apparently already share in the divine image. Such near-henotheism is not completely foreign to the religious culture that gave rise to what we know as Judaism.)

For the perspecuitists, this narrowness is an article of belief. I have, over the years, seen some rather fantastic readings of Scripture (mostly based on the KJV) that would hold little water within the wider Christian Tradition, but which are clung to with persistent loyalty by those who advance them as the "true meaning" of the particular text.

So, I think for these reasons the distinction is not only accurate, but very useful -- and I think you have offered additional reason to say so.

rick allen said...

"For the perspecuitists, this narrowness is an article of belief."

Seems to me that, for a passage to have any meaning at all, there must be some degree of narrowness.

Can a text even have a meaning if that meaning does not exclude its opposite?

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Ah, Rick, now you are waxing philosophical indeed!

I would say that yes, meaning, by definition, must have some limits. A thing that "means" everything effectively "means" nothing -- in communication theory we would say that is a definition of noise, as opposed to signal, for as its breadth approaches infinity its ability to be specific approaches nullity.

The issue of opposites, however, is not different. In fact, words often have diametrically opposed meanings -- the "intended" one only clarified by context. A classic example is the meaning of the sentence, "In that battle he fought with the French" -- depending on how you read "with." (Blackadder made a joke out of this in an early episode.) Another case in point is the meaning of the Anglo-Saxon blæc --- which is the source of our "black" even though it is related to the root for blank and blanch and bleach (having to do with no-color). In both cases the context is required to "collapse" the uncertainty into one of two meanings. The text itself is fully ambiguous, and can "have" or "convey" contradictory meanings.

My point is that texts can be (and often are) interpreted in contradictory and even opposite ways. The perspecuitists hold ther is a special quality to Scripture that preserves it from that possibility. What that really means, in the long run, is that they privilege one interpretation over any others by denying the others exist -- or attributing the other readings to perversity or sin.

The question I am raising is not about whether texts have multiple readings, but whether people think they do or ought to. Those who hold to a view of only one "correct interpretation" of Scripture put it in shackles and prevent it from fulfilling its role as "living and active." It is not really the "letter" that kills, but that attitude towards the letter.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Re-reading that comment, I am not at all sure what I meant by, "The issue of opposites, however, is not different." I think I may have meant that "the issue of opposites is different." In short, a text can have a meaning that includes its opposite, or rather, a text can have multiple and opposed meanings.

Fr. J said...

Rick Allen points out well the error of this strange bifurcation - or should I say, one of several possible errors that can be read from your remarks if we read them inclusively ;-)

You paint "protestant conservatism" with a very broad brush. I'm not entirely sure who all you would include in that list. Confessional Lutherans? Calvinists? Classical Anglicans? Or do you mean political conservatives? Or something else entirely?

Of course Scripture can have multiple layers of meaning. Very few Christians, conservative or otherwise, would deny that. Scripture has inexhaustible meaning and seventy times seven levels. But saying that does not deny the perspecuity of Scripture, any more than saying I'm a priest, a husband, and a father would make me mysterious and unclear. What would make me unclear is if I was both a priest and an aardvark, or more to the point, if I was both a husband and single at the same time. The issue is not the number of meanings. The issue is whether or not they contradict each other. The Bible says that God is both loving and just. The Bible does not say that God is both loving and not loving.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Fr. J., you astound me! You accuse me of "error" yet offer nothing to show for it. WHat have I said that is demonstrably false?

By "protestant conservatism" I mean primarily the relatively modern fundamentalist movement (though as I note above this was also a mark of some early heretics). Some of them are rather narrow sectarians, a few of whom (such as the Phelps family) will happily assert that God is both perfect love and perfect hate -- and that the Scripture clearly says so.

But as to you: Do you really believe in the perspecuity of Scripture in all things? Obviously there is wide consensus on core doctrines of salvation -- but is that because Scripture is clear or because the church is clear about what it believes? Scripture says precious little about the Trinity or the mystery of the Incarnation, for instance, yet these are core to the credenda, evolving out of considerable debate and discussion over centuries -- precisely because the Scripture was not clear on these matters. Ultimately it becomes a case of the weight of agreement, more than the alleged clarity of Scripture, that forms the church's teaching.

But it is plain from Scripture itself, is it not, that there are dark passages therein. Even Peter acknowledged that some of Paul's writings were less than limpidly clear! Do you really hold that Scripture contains no ambiguities, or passages that contradict other passages, or passages that are capable of contradictory interpretations? (Even the Cranmerians, in spite of their love of Scriptural unity, found it necessary to privilege the incest code over the Levirate law in order to find a way to salve Henry's conscience about his divorce!) I won't go into a list here, but one significant interpretative tangle involves the genitive of Pistis Christou: is it our faith IN Christ that saves, or the faith OF Christ that saves. A not insignificant point, I think, rather central to some of the splits in Christendom, and one that some see as contradictory.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Fr. J., I was also attempting humor and mock astonishment... so be of good cheer.

It is apparent to me that in spite of your claim of error and your "disagreement" with what I originally wrote, you are, like Rick, really demonstrating my point that there are basically two approaches to Scripture -- and that you fall into the inclusive camp along with the bulk of main-line Christians.

Part of the problem appears to be that you think by "liberal protestantism" I mean "liberal" or progressive Episcopalians. I am actually referring to the liberal protestantism that emerged in the 19th century, marked by higher criticism -- and of which you form a part, even though you may be "conservative" in terms of TEC.

Phelps is a TULIP-believing Calvinist. He's also got particular issues, and an over-active "outreach ministry" but his theology is part of what I'm calling protestant conservativsm. I also include those who insist on a young earth, oppose evolution as contrary to God's Word, or insist upon the historical reality of Adam and Eve and the accounts of Genesis 1-5. That represents a considerable portion of the US churchgoing population, mostly outside the mainstream, but vocal in influential, and it is of them I speak.

In short, "It's not about you"! So neither you nor Rick need feel defensive!

As to the rest, I think you are misunderstanding me. When I speak of the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, I do not mean the mere mention of such things in John or Matthew, but the actual doctrines of Catholic theology concerning hyopstases and ousia, and the union of divine and human natures in one person. These are not mentioned in Scripture -- in fact, as you well know, one of the main objections to "homoousios" at Nicaea was that it is not a Scriptural word.

I gave examples of passages that contradict other passages -- and no I did not mean in mere details (if they are mere -- the exhaustivists refuse to acknowledge any contradictions at all and develop very ingenious ways to dismiss them!) such as the differences between the accounts of the creation or crucifixion. And as to salvation, I would think the meaning of "pistis Christou" touches on that fairly centrally -- though I am happy with a both/and reading that preserves the contradiction, but recognizes is as as much of a mystery as the Incarnation itself.

My point is that I see in the multiple meanings of Scripture an openness to grace. The hard-line young-earth believers are giving Christianity a bad name as they cling to Scriptural inerrancy and clarity (of their interpretation). THeir political influence is at present rather of concern to me -- and this was the origin of my post -- not the debates in the Anglican Communion (though I will say that some in the Global South seem more like Southern Baptists than modern Anglicans!)

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

For some reason, Fr. J.'s comment, to which I was responding above, disappeared. Here it is in full:


Fr. J., you astound me! You accuse me of "error" yet offer nothing to show for it. WHat have I said that is demonstrably false?

I was trying to make a joke, apparently unsuccessfully. Cheer up, Tobias.

By "protestant conservatism" I mean primarily the relatively modern fundamentalist movement (though as I note above this was also a mark of some early heretics). Some of them are rather narrow sectarians, a few of whom (such as the Phelps family) will happily assert that God is both perfect love and perfect hate -- and that the Scripture clearly says so.

Still not entirely clear. When you say "fundamentalist" do you mean people who self-identify as such or the early 20th century movement that went by that name? Why call something like the Phelps cult "conservatism" since it is, if anything, unique? Moreover, where do actual conservative Protestants fit in your schema? In the same spot as liberal Protestants? If so, what is the difference between them?

But as to you: Do you really believe in the perspecuity of Scripture in all things?

In all things that relate to salvation, sure. And in most things more than liberals tend to want to allow.

Obviously there is wide consensus on core doctrines of salvation -- but is that because Scripture is clear or because the church is clear about what it believes?

I see no reason why it cannot be both. The Church's teaching comes from the Scripture, after all.

Scripture says precious little about the Trinity or the mystery of the Incarnation, for instance...

Really? How about John 1 or Matthew 28? Yes, it took many years for the Church to learn how to talk about this properly, and to refute heretics who taught something contrary, but the Scripture is where these teachings originate. If that were not the case, then the Da Vinci Code conspiracy theorists would have every right to their claim that Christian orthodoxy essentially began at Nicaea.

Do you really hold that Scripture contains no ambiguities, or passages that contradict other passages, or passages that are capable of contradictory interpretations?

Three different questions. Let's take them one at a time.

No, I do not hold that Scripture contains no ambiguities. There are difficult passages of Scripture that are hard to understand. But those passages, taken in the light of the whole of Scripture, ultimately lead us to Christ as well, if we know how to read them. I don't think you can just open Scripture and read it without formation, without a guiding principle, or without the Holy Spirit.

When you say "passages that contradict other passages" it depends on what you mean. In Matthew 4:3, the devil tempts Jesus to turn "these stones" into bread. In the same story in Luke 4:3, the devil tempts Him to turn "this stone" into bread. Logically, this is a contradiction. Either there were multiple stones or just one. Neither reading, however, changes the meaning of the passage. There is a contradiction there, but it is essentially meaningless. There are other passages that are more challenging, but I submit that the Scriptures do not contradict themselves when it comes to their primary function, relaying the Gospel.

And yes, of course, there are "passages that are capable of contradictory interpretations," Or, perhaps more aptly, people are capable of coming up with contradictory interpretations of the same passages. That does not mean that the Bible itself is contradictory. When Jesus says "This is my Body," a person can either believe that it is His Body or come up with some other explanation that radically redefines the words. That does not mean that the words themselves are contradictory, merely that sinful human beings have a hard time accepting them.

Brother David said...

That does not mean that the words themselves are contradictory, merely that sinful human beings have a hard time accepting them.

And that it was sinful human beings who came up with the words in the first place. In fact there is nothing in scripture that sinful human beings have not touched and had effect upon; the original author(s), numberless subsequent redactors, those who we can "thank" for the accepted canon(s), those who are hidden behind the curtain and make the decisions regarding the current version of what constitutes the text and even those who would be our translators from the "original" languages to the tongues of modern human societies. Every one of them brought a purpose to their task, an agenda, which has played havoc with the intent and meaning, sometimes turning the original on its head.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thank you, Bro. David. An important point on the "urtext" itself!

rick allen said...

It still seems to me that, at most, you have articulated two extremes, one, of extreme rigidity, which no one, fundamentalist, catholic, protestant, or liberal would embrace, the other, of such infinite flexibility that the revealed text becomes hardly able to bear any message at all (and I believe Brother David's extreme suspicion gets one to the same place).

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Rick, I honestly can't help how things "seem" to you, but it is clear to me you have misunderstood what I've written.

First, you may find it hard to believe, but there are people out there who hold to the "extreme" view that any given text of Scripture has one and only one possible valid meaning (all other readings are erroneous or due to human fallibility). (I agree that is an extreme position -- but I know it exists because I've encountered it.) Everyone else is in the "inclusive" category, and yes, it is a range from moderately to very open to alternate interpretation. Some would limit univocality to those texts essential to salvation, but recognize there are multiple possible interpretations to other texts -- so I'd call them perhaps "moderate exhaustivists" (of course begging the question that what is clear is essential to salvation because what is essential to salvation is clear!) I know of no one who would say (at some opposite extreme) that a text might mean anything at all. (There are some modernists out there who might lean that way, but I don't think even the most extreme deconstructionist really means "anything" in an infinite sense.) In short, there is the number "1" and all the rest of the numbers, and most people fall in the area of greater than 1. That's what I mean.

You keep talking about "limitless flexibility" which I neither advocated nor considered. I even agreed with you upstream that there is a need for some limits if a text is to be understood at all.

I really don't see how what David said, which I take as a simple historical fact, leads to any alleged infinite flexibility. Apart from the Decalogue and the warning to Belshazzar, everything in Scripture comes to us explicitly by means of human hands, and even those are reported to us by that means, the latter requiring an interpreter right from the get go. How does that lead to "infinite interpretative flexibility" -- a concept no one I know of advances, and which I have specifically rejected?

Rick, you are boxing at shadows, it seems to me!

Erika Baker said...

Tobias,
I find this comment thread fascinating because it focuses more on what everyone thinks you're getting at and what they don't want you to get to, than on what you're actually saying.

It's almost as if the undercurrent runs: "I know you're trying to set up a case for justifying same sex relationships and the only way you can do that is by developing an inclusive reading of Scripture that we absolutely know Scripture doesn't allow. So we have to be on our guard and ensure that we don't allow you any theoretical inclusivity for anything, otherwise you'll turn around shouting "Gotcha!", when in fact, you haven't "got" anything at all because the texts you're not referring to but which we believe you are secretly referring to, cannot be read inclusively".

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Erika, I do sense the dynamic at work. I really wasn't even thinking so much about the sexuality debates when I wrote the initial post -- I was thinking, due to hearing about the GOP debates, more about the Creationists and others who are so insistent on a univocal reading of Genesis WRT life on this planet. I find it a bit concerning that a candidate for president in 2011 needs to be wary about endorsing evolutionary science for fear of losing the "base" of the party. And that there is such a base!

It does seem odd to me that folks who warmly embrace higher criticism on most subjects do revert to a kind of Fundamentalist stance towards Scripture when it comes to sexuality. I do think there is a degree of reactivity when they think that is the "agenda."

Fr. J said...

Brother David said:

And that it was sinful human beings who came up with the words in the first place.

This, it seems to me, is the cruz of the problem. Of course the Scriptures were written by human beings, in human language, carrying with them the need to understand human culture and society. But what your hermeneutic of suspicion is missing is a doctrine of inspiration. Are the Scriptures the product of human sinfulness? If so, how can we trust them at all? Or did God guide the writing of Scripture, not by grabbing the hand of each writer and forcing him to record every word (a la Mohammad), but by filling them with His Holy Spirit, ensuring that what would be expressed there would be His Word. You go on to talk about later people distorting "original meaning," but if everything has been human and sinful from the beginning, there is no original meaning to speak of, certainly none that is worth trying to recover. It's just my word against yours, my agenda against yours, and God becomes an expression of human need rather than the Author of the human soul.

Fr. J said...

Tobias and Erika,

Must everything always come back to sex? I certainly didn't assume that Tobias' post was about sexuality. I have tried to take it on face value. Of course, how we read Scripture has profound implications for how we understand everything, sexuality included. But one has to start with how we understand the Scriptures before ever getting to a conversation about sexuality. And the problem with our conversations in the Church today, about not just sexuality but a whole host of other things, is that we want to start with our conclusions and work backwards.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Fr. J., I'm not sure about how you distinguish "grabbing the hand of each writer and forcing him to record every word" from "filling them with His Holy Spirit, ensuring that what would be expressed there would be His Word" except as to the organ through which Divinity works. This is not a doctrine of inspiration I accept, nor is it the one described in the Catechism. Most importantly, you fail to mention the hermeneutical side of the equation, which also takes place under the guidance of the Holy Spirit -- or so the Catechism says. It is that aspect -- the two approaches to the reading of Scripture -- that is at issue here. The scripture is "authoritative" under the church's interpretation -- and yet the church can still err. So my "trust" of the Scripture is conditioned or tempered by the knowledge that people do get things wrong. I think the crucial doctrine of the faith, what Hooker calls "the Eternal Gospel" is something I hold to be true by means of faith, not by logical certainty.

In addition, I thank Erika raised sexuality because, as far as I can see, that is the only area in which otherwise well-informed contemporary Christians seem to fall into the pattern of quasi-fundmentalism I describe -- very often, as you say, starting with their position and working backwards to find support in readings of Scripture in ways they would not otherwise employ in such a dogmatic fashion.

In my own work I have always been careful to lay out the hermeneutic first. The irony is that some of my critics can simultaneously note that the hermeneutic is classically Anglican, and then strongly object to the conclusions reached by its application -- precisely because those conclusions do not match their preconceptions! In fact, the very thing Erika describes.

However, as I noted, it was not sexuality that prompted this post.

Brother David said...

Father J, your particular theology of inspiration is but one approach and is based on your vested interest that scripture fulfill a certain need that you have for it to fill. That need is what you believe scripture to be intrinsically. What you need scripture to be and what you believe that scripture is, also provides the prejudices, the expectations or the agenda that you bring to the task of interpreting scripture. It is all a bit circular. Perhaps it is best to not bring an agenda. However, I recognize that not having an agenda, is to have an agenda!

Erika Baker said...

Tobias,
thinking about the responses on this thread I would suggest that the lines between an inclusive and an exhaustive reading of Scripture are difficult to draw and people feel challenged because most people are inclusive regarding some texts and exhaustive regarding others.

There are people who read the sexuality texts as rigidly as possible while believing in evolution and taking Scripture's call to be financially responsible very seriously.
The far right is rigid on sex/sexuality and evolution but has only a very loose biblical comprehension of social responsibility.
Even within topics, the approach depends on personal preference and rigid pro-lifers don’t usually oppose the death penalty, nor are they generally pacifists.

If we think of the major topics: sex/sexuality, finance/poverty, evolution and the sanctity of life, it is quite possible for most of us to fall into both spectrums at the same time.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks Erika, although that is not precisely what I meant. I agree that almost all Christians and Jews regard their texts as being "clear" about some things. Even Hooker, notable for his hermeneutic of "reception" -- held that there are some things (regarding salvation) that the Scripture states "plainly." I think this attitude does cover the bulk of those I listed, including liberal protestnants and classical and modern catholics. And there is clearly a spectrum from moderate to wide flexibility.

But I think there are real exhaustivists out there. They get around the problem of the texts they might find difficult not so much by interpretation as by ignoring them.

Frankly, I don't think a terribly strong case can be made on the basis of Scripture against the death penalty. (Nor can a terribly strong Scriptural case be made against abortion!) I don't see these as actually related, though I know many do. But that's a topic for another time, and I'd rather not get derailed into it here.

Let me add that many on the far right have high standards of social responsibility (but don't believe in socialism or government intervention -- which is simply one way of doing it.)

So, again, I was not talking so much of the spectrum, but of the real exhaustivists out there -- who I admit are few in number, but who appear to me to be gaining in influence, or at least decibels, in the political arena.

Erika Baker said...

Tobias,
I find it hard to distinguish between people who are real exhaustives and people who ignore what they don't want to see.
People who simply ignore a theme nevertheless have 1 or 2 "absolute" verses to hand that will support their view.

For me, it comes down to what we want to see. It is possible to mine quotes for pretty much every single view on pretty much everything under the sun. We're not even being deceptive when we do it, we genuinely see our views reflected in Scripture.

The hardest part it to allow Scripture to challenge us and to encourage us to change.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Again, the real exhaustivists are those who say, "But if you say that one text can be understood as other than literally how I understand it, then you could do the same with any text. How can I trust anything if you can do that with some of it? Who draws the line?"

Ultimately it is about people who do not want to change or be challenged. They want to be assured in their certainty, which admits of no flexibility on anything -- for the reason above. If you interpret a passage differently from how they understand it, they will say your interpretation is wrong; or if you "mine a quote" against them they will similarly say you've misunderstood it. This is probably more about psychology than hermeneutics.

Perhaps I'm just more familiar with some of these folks that others of you here.