Rules of Affinity, Part 5: Clarifying the Purpose

BiblePosted courtesy of Dr Reluctant. Catch up on the series so far.

In my so-called “Rules of Affinity” I am seeking to accomplish one main task. That task is to uncover the degree of affinity between any statement of a doctrine or part doctrine, and the biblical references which are brought in to support it or defend it. All of us know that Christians with different theological outlooks claim that their views are biblical. But in reality just saying “I believe such-and-such because it’s biblical” does not mean that it actually is biblical. It may be. But, for example, if someone says, “Calvinism is biblical” and someone else says “Arminianism is biblical” it stands to reason that behind both statements is the opinion (either informed or uninformed) of the one making the claim. No one ought to assume that any statement is proven by assertion.

As I was reading my own theology and thinking through the question of why I differed from this or that theologian, I concluded, naturally enough, that the main reason for my disagreements was because I believed my position was more in line with the Bible. That didn’t mean it was, but that was why I demurred. The words “God has spoken” seem to me to be the most momentous three words in the English language. I therefore wanted to know if what I believed and taught actually closely reflected what “God has spoken,” and how compatible were my theological propositions with the texts I appealed to. I did this by assuming a suspicious attitude towards my Theology. Hence, the negative application of the method was uppermost in my mind when it was first roughly devised. The negative use also became apparent when I began asking myself why I couldn’t accept certain formulations of doctrine by some of the great men I read. Almost immediately it dawned on me that the chiefest doctrines of the Christian Faith: the doctrines all Christians would say must be believed at a minimum to be a Christian, involved very straightforward appeals to biblical passages (hence, the Positive Application of the rules).

I believe I first introduced this way of comparing statements of belief with Scripture early last year in a post on “Diagnosing the Dispensational Malaise (Pt.4).” There I said:

We can say things without having sufficient warrant from the texts we teach from (we can all do this!). I would not want to draw a line, to step over which would bring one into the fields of speculation , but there ought to be some self-awareness here. It ought not to be as common as it is to find believers insisting on theological tenets which, upon comparison with the texts they cite, attach themselves obliquely to those texts. This is where we can all help each other; where iron sharpens iron. Disagreements will remain, but mutual understanding will be promoted.

Let me say some words about the part of the quotation I have highlighted. Perhaps I should have said something like, “I would not wish to circumscribe other peoples’ formulations with my own, but we need to be able to find a means of locating and identifying speculation in its various degrees and manifestations.” So I went on to say,

we ought to have some sort of grid whereby we can categorize Direct from Indirect usage of the statements of Scripture, and get an idea of the degree of indirectness of our statements.

This is what I think the Rules of Affinity help us to do. But there are some things they cannot do.

What the rules don’t do

1. First, the rules do not replace nor attempt to usurp grammatical-historical exegesis:

I say this with an awareness of the fact that the various systems of theology mean different things by this term nowadays. It used to be that everyone agreed what the term “grammatico-historical hermeneutics” (hereafter G-H) meant. It meant seeking as much as possible to put oneself into the situation of the writer while paying special attention to his words in their lexical meanings and the larger context in which they are used. Thus, Milton Terry wrote:

In the systematic presentation, therefore, of any scriptural doctrine, we are always to make a discriminating use of sound hermeneutical principles. We must not study them in the light of modern systems of divinity, but should aim rather to place ourselves in the position of the sacred writers, and study to obtain the impression their words would naturally have made upon the minds of the first hearers… Still less should we allow ourselves to be influenced by any presumptions of what the Scriptures ought to teach. (Quoted in Robert L. Thomas, Evangelical Hermeneutics: The New Versus the Old, 55)

To add a later comment, Robert Thomas himself, when writing about the gospels, observes:

Grammatical-historical hermeneutics do not assume an esoteric message requiring special keys to unlock meaning. Rather, they follow the usual laws of language that advocate that the Gospels mean what they say, without any special coding—such as midrashic or haggadic style or any other type of literary signals—necessary to unlock meaning. (Ibid., 291)

As Thomas demonstrates in his book, today G-H hermeneutics is often taken to include application or the analogy of faith, or theology, or even ones understanding of the whole canon. But listen to another voice:

In the last analysis, our theology finds its solid foundation only in the grammatical sense of Scripture. Theological knowledge will be faulty in proportion to its deviation from the plain meaning of the Bible. (Louis Berkhof, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, 74)

It has been objected that ones hermeneutical assumptions stand apart from the Rules of Affinity, therefore allowing them to be skewed by those presuppositions. In reply I may say that the “Rules” will only display the amount of rationalizing that went into the hermeneutics, and the outcome of their application would not be affected as it related to text and proposition, which is what the “Rules” measure. I appreciate that Berkhof, for example, held many interpretations which would succumb to the lower categories of the Rules of Affinity, but that is not because of what he stated above. Rather, it is because of his firm belief in the theological interpretation of Scripture (as in chapter 7 of his manual). The Rules of Affinity do not judge the propriety of a theological interpretation. They do, however, uncover it!

2. The rules do not judge the “rightness” of any proposition:

Any viewpoint which is self-limiting in its openness to methods of hermeneutics other than the G-H approach defined above cannot venture beyond the C3 formulation on the Grid. “Classic” Dispensationalism is the obvious example of this. But what about those views which avail themselves more readily of theological assumptions or ANE parallels and such? Quite often these viewpoints require more detailed explanation and deduction than can be derived simply from the text of Scripture under consideration. One thinks of the “Framework” and “Analogical” interpretations of Genesis 1, or the “Universe as Temple” teaching now in vogue. Older doctrines like particular redemption or infant baptism or “the Christian Sabbath” come to mind.

Under the Rules of Affinity these sorts of ideas do not find support from C1, C2 or C3 categories on the Grid. Their “affinity” with the texts used to support them is considerably weaker than, say, the affinity between the proposition, “Christ is our penal substitute” and the wording of 1 Peter 3:18:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit

Although this is so, many will still wish to assert that these C4 and C5 doctrines are biblical. Whether that be so or not, all the Rules measure is the “distance” between text and proposition ; a distance which will need to be made up by inference. For this reason it is best to restrict the “Rules” to individual doctrines rather than systems – although there will be a transfer of influence from the lesser to the greater. But it needs to be said that claiming “I believe this because it’s biblical” when that claim cannot be supported via C1-C3 propositions becomes a less compelling statement to many. The rules make us more aware of what we are doing.

3. The rules do not adjudicate on matters of “genre”

While everyone admits that there are different genres in Scripture, some theologies have made themselves heavily reliant on a certain understanding of particular genres. Perhaps the most prominent one is “Apocalyptic,” which is leaned upon by some eschatological outlooks even though no scholar’s definition of the genre has received full approval. What is meant by “Apocalyptic,” and how to identify if and where it is in use is a matter of no little contention in biblical scholarship. Likewise, the use and abuse of typology and its specifics are constantly debated back and forth.

That a genre is employed can be admitted into the Rules. But when ones understanding of a genre begins to separate the actual words of a Bible passage from any proposed theological outcome the Rules will disclose the separation (viz. degree of affinity).

To pick an obvious example, consider two interpretative views of the following text:

And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 5 from the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, 6 from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, 7 from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, 8 from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed. 9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; (Rev. 7:4-9)

First a comment by a dispensational premillennialistist:

[C]hapter 7 contains two incidents: the sealing of the 144,000 of the tribes of Israel; a great multitude of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues. (J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ, 127)

Now a comment by an amillennialist:

The difference between the 144,000 “Israelites” and the countless multiethnic multitude is not in the ethnic composition of the two groups but in their location. The sealed and numbered army of Israel shows the faithful church on earth, shielded from apostasy and from God’s wrath by our union with the Lamb (bearing his name, sealed by his Spirit). (Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, 134)

In the treatment of these verses by the two men Smith notices the lack of uniformity in the 29 lists of Israel’s tribes in Scripture, and posits reasons for the exclusion of Dan and Ephraim in this list. He also does not venture from the text by calling Israel an army. In the second comment the tribes of Israel in the passage are identified as the church which is also the innumerable multitude John saw “after these things.” Johnson spends pages explaining why the 144,000 is a symbolic number of “the tribes of Israel” who are in turn symbolic of the Church he sees in verse 9f. He needs to bring in a lot other passages and inferences to arrive at his destination, whereas Smith takes the text as it stands and tries to find illustrations of it elsewhere.

The Rules do not say that either approach is right or wrong. But they do show that the second interpretation is more inferential than the first. Johnson needs to explain why the tribes do not represent Israel but do represent the Church, and why the number 144,000 is symbolic of a multitude which cannot be numbered. Every need for explanation introduces another inference which makes the wording of the text less direct in relation to the meaning which is being proposed. This pushes out the “distance” between text and interpretation.

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Caleb S's picture

While my past interaction on this topic has been somewhat on a platform of critique, I would like to mention something positive.

 

I do often use the "rules of affinity" to critique what I believe to be erroneous theologies.  I do appreciate this series in that it has made more explicit the issue of distance between a theological statement that a person may say about Scripture and the Scripture itself.  One particular area that I have often used this on is the philosophical assumption that some bring to their exegesis (most often without knowing it).  This is the assumption of libertarian freedom.  Not only is the concept logically and philosophically absurd, but it also contradicts a great host of Scripture.  Often, it assumed that the "imago Dei" (Image of God) supports this doctrine.  God made man in His image; it is often assumed, and one element of this image consists of libertarian freedom.  Thus, a very problematic anthropology is inserted into the Bible.  However, when considering the text itself to discern the meaning of what it means to "image" God and be made according to His "likeness", then something quite different is seen.  The text from Genesis 1:26-27 speaks more to man being created in a sense that images and is like God via unity in the midst of plurality, and the image/likeness is also seen in the fact of man's dominion over creation as a subordinate, "like God," ruling over the newly made creation.

 

Now, certainly, one could read into man's dominion as including libertarian freedom, but the text nowhere makes this assertion.  Nor does man's ability to rule necessitate libertarian freedom since there are other optins with regard to the nature of man's decision making.  What is clear though, is that the text is not focusing upon the nature of libertarian freedom here.  The context would actually diminish the possibility of this view being even a potential.  Chapter one's focus is upon the "God" who is creating.  He is the main character.  Now, certainly, the creation of man is depicted as the high point of His creation, but libertarian freedom adds an element to the text that is just not there.

 

(In case one is wondering, libertarian freedom is essentially the uncaused ability to do otherwise.)

 

What is even more disturbing is that fact that a focus upon chapter three demonstrates that a key element of the fall is the assumption of "autonomy".  And it is all to often that people take this fallen assumption into the text of Genesis one and actually read a "fallen" assumption of man into the text of Genesis 1:26-27.  In my view of the issue, "libertarian freedom," is significantly removed (5-6 rating) from the actual text of Genesis 1:26-27.

Caleb S's picture

I was cut short on that last comment.  The point is that I do appreciate the rules of affinity, since they have helped me to see an aberrant theology (like Open Theism and others that hold to a similar presupposition) as being "distant" from the actual meaning of the text.

The key issue expressed in these two posts is "libertarian freedom".  Is this philosophical view of man's will found in the text of Genesis 1:26-27 as some like to assume?

I would propose that such a view of man's will is either a 5 rating, or it could be a 6 where it is not only far removed from the meaning of the text, but it also is argued against by the text itself.  And it is in direct conflict with reason and many other theological issues.

Paul Henebury's picture

Caleb,

 

I do not think you can dismiss all libertarian views this way.  The work of Kane and others has been very helpful in defining a moderate form which has good theological credentials.  Francis Scaeffer was a mild libertarian remember.

 

Paul

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Caleb S's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:

Caleb,

 

I do not think you can dismiss all libertarian views this way.  The work of Kane and others has been very helpful in defining a moderate form which has good theological credentials.  Francis Scaeffer was a mild libertarian remember.

 

Paul

Schaeffer may have been, and R. K. McGregor Wright critiques him in "No Place For Sovereignty: What's Wrong With Free Will Theism".

As for the work of Kane, I have never heard of him.  Writing Kane into the book entry at Amazon did not help either; I would like to know the fuller name and book title if possible, since this topic is a bit of a hoby of mine.  I have yet to read anyone present a coherent view of libertarian freedom; I personally stick to an Edwardsian view of the will.

While I may not be able to dismiss everything, I can at least dismiss it from these verses in Genesis 1.  And that was my narrow focus.

Charlie's picture

(Caleb, I believe the reference is to Robert Kane, who has written a number of works, most of which have "free will" in the title. He is not a theologian.)

 

I wanted to wait for the series to finish before I posted any thoughts. I think it has at least gone long enough for me to put out some ideas.

I am not taken with this idea, because I do not think that measuring affinity between the wording of a particular text and any theological propositions that refer to that text is useful or even relevant. At most, it tells us only something that it patently obvious: that a particular theologian does or does not replicate the wording of a text.

Consider, for instance, your comparison of the two commentators on Rev. 7. You call them two "interpretive views." An interpretation is by definition the explanation of the meaning of something. This is done precisely by drawing inferences or parallels between one thing and other things. It is setting a focal point within a larger horizon of significance. So, an interpretation of the American War for Independence will show, perhaps, how certain social, intellectual, or political realities factored in to the event of the war. Or, it might show how the memory of the war influenced the life and mentality of later generations.

In any case, that first comment is not in any way an interpretation: it is simply the words rephrased and summarized. The person who reads that comment has no greater understanding of the significance of the text than he did after he read the text by itself. It is rather an un-interpretation. 

The notion of distance used here also has some problems. Literary texts that are acknowledged to have a unity are interpreted cumulatively. That is, page 85 is not interpreted by itself, but as the page after the previous 84 pages. A remark that the reader of page 85 alone might find totally innocuous, may in fact to the cumulative reader appear fraught with irony or malice. So, the seemly inferential reading of Johnson may in fact be entirely natural given the text up to this point. Whether it is or isn't is beside the point. The point is that a snapshot comparison cannot do justice to the cumulative nature of literature, and I do not see your rules of affinity functioning as anything other than snapshot comparisons.

A second problem related to distance is ambiguity concerning the cause of the distance. Consider, for instance, a high school student reading a page of Shakespeare. A professor asks a high school student to read a conversation between two characters. The student does so and then proceeds to give an explanation of it. The professor then proceeds to point out to the student the allusions, innuendos, idioms, and foreshadows that, in their entirety, give the scene quite a different light than that which the student read. Certainly, to the student, these interpretive remarks seem complex, inferential, possibly even imaginitive and fanciful. They seem "distant" from the wording of the text. Yet, the student's interpretation is really the one that is "distant" from the text. The student's distance from the language and customs of the time, the genre, and the literary tradition up to that point renders invisibile what would have been quite plain to one of Shakespeare's playgoers. There is an irony here. The professor's interpretation seems overly complex and fanciful, compared to the student's "plain" reading, precisely because it is seeking to overcome historical and cultural distance. The moral is that a greater percieved affinity between the wording of a text and an explanation of it can be due to a lack of interpretation. 

A final problem I have concerns the nature of theological claims. Most theological claims are not based directly and independently on individual passages, but cumulatively upon the readings of several passages. In a cumulative argument, no piece of evidence needs to bear the weight of the whole, so an examination of individual texts is bound to be misleading. Your rules of affinity seem to be concerned only with a one-to-one correspondence between a text and a claim, so I find them less than useful. 

Finally, you claim that the rules of affinity are pre-hermeneutical, but they are not. As Michael Polanyi and Thomas Khun pointed out regarding science, even the selection of data and method entails previous commitments on the part of the researcher that led him to believe that those methods would be useful and those data points significant. I think that the use of these rules of affinity betray an insufficiently literary and historical approach to the text, and an insufficiently systematic approach to theological construction.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Paul Henebury's picture

Thanks for favoring me with your opinions.  I shall be responding to them soon.  I shall be doing so on the assumption that you have actually read the posts.  For example, you have read the first paragraph of the present article and the Positive Applications?

 

Paul H.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Paul Henebury's picture

Charlie, let me respond to your issues.

1. You begin,

Quote:
I am not taken with this idea, because I do not think that measuring affinity between the wording of a particular text and any theological propositions that refer to that text is useful or even relevant. At most, it tells us only something that it patently obvious: that a particular theologian does or does not replicate the wording of a text.

So if a theologian says that he believes that justification is by faith he is not telling us anything relevant, but, presumably, if one says justification is by standing on one’s head he is?  Must one depart from the Bible’s own wording so as to state that which is "useful" and "relevant"?

2.

Quote:
Consider, for instance, your comparison of the two commentators on Rev. 7. You call them two "interpretive views." An interpretation is by definition the explanation of the meaning of something.

The word “interpretation” is used by biblical scholars in several different ways; one of which is “an understanding of the intention of the author.”  So, in Jn. 21:20-23 we read:

Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His breast at the supper, and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?" 21 Peter therefore seeing him said to Jesus, "Lord, and what about this man?" 22 Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!" 23 This saying therefore went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?"

According to your ideas of interpretation, only the false story of verse 23a would be an interpretation.  What then was the correct interpretation?  Perhaps verse 23b fits the bill?  You would say “No, all v.23b is doing is “replicating the wording of the text,” which is neither useful nor relevant.”  But to most people verse 23b is pointing to the meaning and is very useful and extremely relevant.

As far as Rev. 7 goes, may I issue you a challenge?  What do you think a “literal” interpretation of those verses would look like?  What if the meaning of the words is present in the words as plainly understood (as above)?  What if the text means what it says?  

If someone tells me to “shut the door” I should think, having interpreted the meaning correctly, to do just that.  When Jesus, in Lk. 10:26, asked the lawyer, “What is written in the law?  What is your reading (anaginoskeis) of it?,” and was given a replication (possibly) of Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18, He seemed to be satisfied with that as an understanding and thus an interpretation.  He said, “You have answered rightly, do this and you will live.” (Lk. 10:28).  The meaning was on the very surface of the words.  If it wasn’t, how could the lawyer “do” them?  And how could he "do" them unless he held the right interpretation?

3. Communication involves a speaker and an interpreter: a text and an interpretation.  The interpretation may then be phrased in a proposition.  If you say, “My name is Charlie,” the correct interpretation of your words is to call you Charlie, not Horace or Sam.  Interpretation is present anywhere comprehension is present.  But you claim,    

Quote:
This [i.e. interpretation] is done precisely by drawing inferences or parallels between one thing and other things.
  In some cases it is, and in others it isn’t.  If J.B. Smith thinks a correct interpretation of Rev. 7:4-8 includes the fact that the 144,000 “from every tribe of the sons of Israel” is that the 144,000 are indeed “from every tribe of the sons of Israel” what would be a good way to communicate it?  Surely you can see that to deny his view the status of an interpretation (while permitting Johnson’s view that the 144,000 is not 144,000 and that the tribes of the sons of Israel” is the Church) would be to rule out a priori any prima facie interpretations?  What then happens when we come to the Gospel?  Setting aside the American War of Independence and Shakespeare and instead focusing on the Bible, I want you to explain this from the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q33:What is Justification?

A:Justification is an act of Gods free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins1, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight2, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us3, and received by faith alone4.
1. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. (Ephesians 1:7, KJV).
2. For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2Corinthians 5:21, KJV).
3. As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (Romans 5:19, KJV).
4. Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ. (Galatians 2:16, KJV).

What would qualify as an interpretation of it?  There is very close affinity between the wording of the Question and the texts used to support it.  I would say that was a good thing and both useful and relevant.  If, however, the wrong texts were employed, the Rules of Affinity would show it up.  As I read your argument it appears that only if something quite different was stated as justification would we have an interpretation?  Granting such a thesis, can’t you see that the only things that would qualify as “interpretations” would likely be false statements of justification?  But the statement “we are justified by faith,” even if it restates Rom. 5:1, is surely jst as much a candidate as an interpretation of Scripture’s teaching (if it is comprehended) as “we are justified by standing on our heads.”  Just because the second statement does not resemble any text of Scripture and the first statement almost reproduces it does not mean only the second can be considered an interpretation while the first is merely a “replication.”   

 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Paul Henebury's picture

4. This brings me to the Positive Application of the “Rules.”  In that post I said: “All the doctrines listed below can be established via C1 or C2 formulations, with some C3s supporting.  Even if, due to a blind spot, I may be inferring more than is there in the text, I can be corrected with these same rules.  None of the major biblical doctrines are established with C4′s or C5′s!...The propositions... are examples of what might be predicated of each doctrine in an evangelical Statement of Faith.”

You have decided to join the conversation at the last with,

Quote:
“Your rules of affinity seem to be concerned only with a one-to-one correspondence between a text and a claim, so I find them less than useful.” [which is a mis-interpretation!].
  Why you didn’t chime in at the second post, when surely your alarm bells were ringing is hard to understand.  Your prompt action might have halted the proceedings there and then.  Of course, if you could prove that the major doctrines of Christianity do not bear a close affinity to the texts they appeal to you might have a case.        

5.

Quote:
...A remark that the reader of page 85 alone might find totally innocuous, may in fact to the cumulative reader appear fraught with irony or malice. So, the seemly inferential reading of Johnson [if you think I misrepresented him by all means demonstrate it] may in fact be entirely natural given the text up to this point. Whether it is or isn't is beside the point. The point is that a snapshot comparison cannot do justice to the cumulative nature of literature, and I do not see your rules of affinity functioning as anything other than snapshot comparisons.

I see, so the problem is that the RoA give only “snapshots” and ignore the matter of cumulative argumentation? (I’m not sure if I have interpreted you or just rephrased and summarized you).  So when someone makes a theological claim and appeals to a Scripture to back it up should we just let it slide until we get a cumulative argument? 

The example of the two interpreters comes at the very close of the fifth article!  And what was it used for?  Look: “The rules do not adjudicate on matters of “genre.”  And, “The Rules do not say that either approach is right or wrong.  But they do show that the second interpretation is more inferential than the first.”

Having made this quite clear, I don’t really get your line of thinking here.  I suspect you just like Johnson’s interpretation more than Smith’s “un-interpretation,” and you want to protect what you like.  Naturally these were just snippets of fuller cumulative treatments, but remember my express point.      

6.

Quote:
A final problem I have concerns the nature of theological claims. Most theological claims are not based directly and independently on individual passages
  Whoever said they were?  They may be, but most - see my many examples in these posts - are based on what you call cumulative “readings of several passages.” 

Quote:
In a cumulative argument, no piece of evidence needs to bear the weight of the whole, so an examination of individual texts is bound to be misleading. Your rules of affinity seem to be concerned only with a one-to-one correspondence between a text and a claim, so I find them less than useful.

Perhaps you find them useless because your desired theological convictions come a-cropper on them?  Perhaps not?  In which case I don’t know what your objection really is; but as I have said many times, what I am trying to do is compare a theological statement (you allow that such an animal exists I’m sure) with the biblical passages it purports to be founded on.  I have given more than enough evidence of it.  You have given none to the contrary.   

7.

Quote:
Finally, you claim that the rules of affinity are pre-hermeneutical
  I do?  Several times in the posts and comments I state that the rules measure proposition and text (I’m not sure I say text and interpretation until the final post, but in any case, “interpretation” equates to “proposition” or “assertion” if you are reading in context).  In a comment I wrote:

Quote:
If the conclusions of a chosen hermeneutics can be fed through the RoA then although there is some inevitable overlap (both are dealing with texts!), the two cannot and should not be equated.

Therefore I did not claim “that the rules of affinity are pre-hermeneutical” as you put it.  Actually, they may be utilized at different stages of the ongoing interpretative process, and after it has finished.

8.

Quote:
As Michael Polanyi and Thomas Khun (sic) pointed out regarding science…
  Presumably you wish to use these non-theologians to support a point?  That is what I did when I just quickly mentioned Kane’s work to Caleb.  You thought you needed to tell him that Kane was “not a theologian.”  It is okay to use non-theologians sometimes then?

Every assertion purporting to base itself upon biblical texts is an interpretation of those texts.  I hope your next comment will provide biblical support for any opinions about the RoA.

 

God bless you and yours,

 

Paul H.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Caleb S's picture

I have taken the following quotes to point out the ad-hominem elements in the response.  By ad-hominem I mean that you argue against the person rather than to the issue; thus you impune motives and make possible yet unwarranted projections upon your critic.  The following is from post #9.

"I suspect you just like Johnson’s interpretation more than Smith’s “un-interpretation,” and you want to protect what you like."

The above is unneeded, as it is no longer dealing with the issue to state your suspicions about your critic's reasons for criticism.

"Perhaps you find them useless because your desired theological convictions come a-cropper on them?  Perhaps not?"

Again, this is unneeded speculation as to a person's motives.

 

The reason for mentioning this is that this seems to be all to common for your style of argumentation.  Now granted, I am thankful that this takes place rarely, but when it does it is highly annoying, and it is not at all a charitable reading.  I personally did not like this comment in your response to me in part #4 (post 12).

"I perceive another motive, which is to allow in doctrinal formulations with less than clear correspondence to their "base-texts" or proof-texts. I may be wrong, but from your previous comments about the theological covenants I sense that's it."

Now, I am thankful that you often add the words "perhaps" and "I may be wrong", but such questioning of motives really gets annoying.  It is also unecessary.  What my "motive" is, is often stated right in the text.  Your comments, at times, conflict with the points that I raise against them; therefore, I feel the need to comment.  Is this too hard to follow?  In other words, and in your own terms, your speculations are not supported by a close affinity to the text that we write.

This is my plea to argue "to the issues" rather than "to the person".

Paul Henebury's picture

Caleb,

I understand and somewhat sympathize with your frustration with me, but you must try to understand my frustration.  I am trying to get Charlie (as I was trying to get you) to deal with the Rules of Affinity by arguing with them instead of around them: by arguing with Scripture instead of with other "authorities" like Shakespeare.  IF yours or Charlie's (or my) theological prediclections are in part or whole responsible for the criticisms then this is a justified use of ad hominem (there is such a thing when one suspects that a person's assumptions are relevant to his argument but are being hidden).

I like things out in the open.  Why would Charlie hone in on my last point and run with it the way he did (while ignoring my point)?  I was explaining what the "Rules" did not do remember! 

I am not being uncharitable.  I have not called Charlie's argument "less than useful" (i.e. useless) or the RoA neither useful or even relevant like Charlie has.  BTW, I don't take offence at it, but I do feel frustrated with the way he argues - with no reference to Scripture, so I'm trying to get him to interact through Scripture with demonstrations of where the RoA fail.  I did the same thing with you.

If you are annoyed I'm sorry for it.  Let me ask you, was I right?  Do you hold to Covenant Theology?

 

God bless,

 

Paul H.     

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Caleb S's picture

In post #11 & 12 in the response section (part 4 of the series), I received the following challenge at the end of post #11.

"What you need to do is to prove your notions by examples using the Rules of Affinity..."

I had the challenge reiterated at the end of post #12.

"Caleb, what you need to do is cease talking around the "rules" and demonstrate your objections with the rules. I don't want to carry on a one-sided discussion where you can keep asserting things without demonstrating how the RoA are impacted. I had more to say, but this is surely enough for now."

Now, in posts #2 & #3 I went after how "libertarian freedom" cannot be said to be in the text.  I received the following response.

"I do not think you can dismiss all libertarian views this way.  The work of Kane and others has been very helpful in defining a moderate form which has good theological credentials.  Francis Scaeffer was a mild libertarian remember."

Now, this kind of response does absolutely nothing to connect libertarian freedom to the text of Genesis 1.  That was the point at issue.  I have given an example, and I was given a response that did nothing to connect libertarian freedom to the meaning of the text in Genesis 1.  It is "interesting" that you think that Kane is helpful in defining a moderate form with good theological credentials, but that does not state how his view actually can be connected to the authorially intended meaning of the text.  Here is a case in point; I'm providing you an actual example of the rules of affinity just like you wanted.  I did make some exegetical comments about Genesis one, and I found libertarian freedom lacking.  The appeal to Francis Schaeffer is nothing more that an appeal to a popular name in apologetics.  It does not state where, or with what words, Schaeffer is supposed to have said such a thing.  Now, I can quote to you R. K. McGregor Write's criticism of Schaeffer, as he and Pinnock studied under Schaeffer.  But then, even if Schaeffer's comments were given, they would still need to be shown how his view connected to the text in Genesis 1, which is the actual point at issue.  Even if Kane makes a good case for a moderate libertarian freedom, one would still need to state how his view actually can be connected to the authorially intended meaning of the text, which is the actual point at issue.  In other words, red herrings asside, let's get back on track!

Now, according to Walls and Dongell in "Why I Am Not A Calvinist" (p. 103), Pinnock in "Most Moved Mover" (p. 41), Sanders in "The God Who Risks" (p. 221), Frame in "The Doctrine of God" (p. 138), and Feinberg in "No One Like Him" (p. 628) our definition of libertarian freedom should be essentially the uncaused ability of an individual to choose between alternatives.  I do not see that in the text of Genesis 1, especially in the Image of God.  And I also see it as a non-sequitar (not following as a conclusion from God's essence), since God does not possess libertarian freedom.  Every time we say that God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18), we are asserting a necessary connection between God's character (in this case "truth") and what He wills.  Such a thing cannot be done with libertarian freedom in place.  Every "Author of Sin" argument against Calvinism presupposes that God does not have libertarian freedom.  Thus, a brief theological analysis of God's nature creates a non-sequitar of assuming that libertarian freedom can come from being created in His image.  And a more narrow, contextual analysis of Genesis 1, shows that libertarian freedom is not found in the meaning of the author.  It would have to be read into the dominion element of the image.  So, now it up to someone else to show how his view (libertarian freedom) actually can be connected to the authorially intended meaning of the text of Genesis 1.

This is only a very very very very brief start at showing the massive disconnect on my part, but it is just enough to get the ball rolling, and it gives us an actual hard and fast example to deal with, just like you wanted.

Caleb S's picture

I'm responding to the final question of post #11.  "Do you hold to Covenant Theology?"

 

My particular position on this is essentially agnosticism.  I cannot say that I actually hold to Covenant Theology, nor can I say that I am opposed to it.  I do find sympathy for Covenant Theology, not because I hold to it, but because I see virtually no end of Dispensationally minded people misreading it through their own lense rather than understanding Covenant Theology on its own terms.

I am also often opposed to "literal" interpetation, or the "plain" meaning of Scripture on the grounds that it is often a misleading half-truth that has more in line with Common Sense Realism that seems to ignore the role of presuppositions and cultural biases in interpetation for the modern reader.  I have too often read people saying that they are taking the "plain," "literal," or "obvious" meaning of the text only to be utterly oblivious to the reality of how their presuppositions and cultural biases have erroneously formed their interpretations.  They have absolutely no concept of the issues of "distanciation" and understanding the linguistic and cultural norms of an ancient culture, and how this affects how an author is going to communicate a message to an audience.  The "plain" meaning of the text is to present a half-truth that seems to hopelessly cause a person to only determine meaning through the quagmire of their own unconsciously held modern context.

Now, I can grant that the more nuanced definitions of "literal" hermeneutics "say" that they incorporate the grammatic historical method, but then I see this repudiated when I read people virtually taking the text in an a-historical manner asserting the "obvious" meaning of the text, unwilling to actually be corrected through any amount of exegesis, contextualizing, historical detail, presuppositional analysis, etc.

I hope that this adequately answers why I respond the way that I do, and I hope that it adequately answers the question.  I still need to study Covenant Theology in more detail before I can cease suspending judgment on the matter.  My own inadequate study from Covenant Theology's own works leads me to agnosticism on the issue.

Paul Henebury's picture

Caleb,

 

I'm sorry, but I didn't realize what you were doing with that "libertarian freedom" post.  That is why I just acknowledged it and went on about moderate versions of it.  I shall get back to it when I can.

 

Your brother,

 

Paul

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Paul Henebury's picture

Caleb,

The RoA require a proposition or theological statement and any supporting biblical texts, as per the examples I have given.  I do not see any clear proposition for or against libertarian freewill linked to supporting texts in your first comment above.  I don't want to put words in your mouth but perhaps this is what you have in mind?

Proposition: "Since man is created in God's image and God has libertarian freewill, man must also have the same kind of freewill."

Base Text: Gen. 1:26-27

 

Well, clearly there is no basis in the wording of the base text which gets us to libertarianism in any form.  The text does confirm our creation in God's image, but that is the secondary point in the assertion.  One would be inferring that:

1. God has libertarian freewill

2. That being in God's image necessitates having such freewill.

3. That man's dominion implies it.

This is three steps removed from the text. Hence, this would be a C5.

 

However, this does not do away with libertarian freewill.  The RoA cannot do that.  All they can do is measure texts against assertions.  Perhaps other texts and more refined proposals might re-establish the doctrine, though I think the best arguments on either side would be in the form of inferences to the best explanation and therefore C3's. 

 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

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