Technicians and Intuitions

“Surf weasel Leithart’s out there getting barreled
and Carson doesn’t find it ‘convincing’?”

Some more on the Bandwidth of the Bible:

Don Carson has written a chapter in “Theological Commentary: Evangelical Perspectives.” It’s called, Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Yes, But… (see Carson’s Evaluation of Theological Interpretation of Scripture. There is a link to the chapter in PDF.)

Very briefly, his assessment is that the revival of biblical theology is a good thing, but anything in this revival that is new is bad. Whatever his assumptions, the bottom line is that no new ground of any consequence has been broken.

[This post has been refined and included in Sweet Counsel: Essays to Brighten the Eyes.]

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3 Responses to “Technicians and Intuitions”

  • Pastor David Deutsch Says:

    Superb post Mike. I was frustrated greatly by Carson’s essay and am glad you offered a helpful and faithful criticism. Keep up the good work.

  • MarkO Says:

    Carson may not cover every hermeneutical base with equal power, but he does demonstrate the necessity of being anchored to the meaning within the text verse imposing layers over the text. To say it another way – reading the Bible as a Book of Ten Thousand Chaisms seems like playing middle C repeatedly and calling it a song.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Hi Mark – thanks for commenting!

    To illustrate my point more clearly, it’s Carson who thinks keeping to the melody alone is playing it safe. The Bible is actually a book built on an octave. Academia gets concerned when someone like Leithart sees individual notes strung together in chords and can appreciate chords as units rather than just collections of notes.

    The structure isn’t imposed. Sure, we don’t always get it right. But in what I’ve read, evangelical academia gets enormous parts of the Bible totally wrong (the prophets, the Olivet discourse, Revelation) because they don’t recognise repeated themes.

    We do need to be “anchored,” but we don’t need to wear blinkers. Very often, they get the “meaning within the text” completely wrong because they totally ignore basic literary conventions. Here’s a middle C in Deuteronomy, and here’s one in Revelation! Wow! But that’s not music. The Bible writers have a “rhythmic” textual sensibility that is lost on academia.

    Sometimes starting with the text is exactly the wrong place to start. What is the SHAPE of the text is very often the place to start. The early chapters of Ezekiel follow the Creation week as God pulls the Temple to pieces. But it’s not stated in the text. We are supposed to “hear” the resemblance and notice that God is deconstructing instead of constructing. That’s a channel of communication used by both ancients and moderns but for some reason rejected by Bible commentators.

    And the guys going off-road into typological errors are ignoring the same rules. Neither side in this debate seems to know where the guidelines are. The Spirit only whistles one tune, with many variations, and Creation is gathered and arranged into Covenant shapes that find their source in the Trinity. Neither side seems to know the tune.

    Here’s what I wrote to an online friend who had a similar objection:

    “I think you’ve misunderstood me. I’m saying Carson is wrong, and most of the guys he’s berating must often get it wrong. But Carson doesn’t have the instinct to know when they get it right.

    I agree totally with what Carson is saying about much stuff that is new. My point is that the artist is in charge. When we come up with stuff that is new, it is stuff we’ve seen IN THE TEXT. Anything novel or “weird” I say comes from a comparison of two or more texts that follow the same structure. I call it cross-eyed exegesis. It’s no different than comparing a theme in a symphony from a later reprise and noting the both the similarities and differences. What has changed, and why? What is the composer saying to us through the theme initially and then through the differences later on? Carson thinks the New Testament has its “assorted grids,” but he neglects the process, the flow. What has changed, and why? That is what Jim is so good at.

    When we preach, we smash up society’s norms, and our audience, and make something new out of them. We don’t smash up the Bible. We show how the Bible history does that to itself and to us. So I would probably be beating many of the same people on the head as Carson does. I hate “drive-by” typology, such as what the Catholic guys use to justify their heresies. Those are the guys who are smashing up the text and making something unintended of it. We are all prone to this, but we improve as we gain a “biblical intuition.”

    But then Carson is frustrating because he says that these guys are so bad at surfing that surfing is wrong. He has no “death-and-resurrection” instinct, and no sense of symbols.

    What I’m saying is this: if we are going somewhere new, it’s because the text is taking us there. I’ve heard Jim say weird stuff and then seen it play out in other texts, which vindicates him. I say weird stuff because I’ve seen enough of it to know I can justify it as an expression of God’s process, it’s vindicated by repetition and parallels.

    The danger is in going somewhere new outside the innate guidelines of the artist.

    I hope that makes it clear. Guys like Carson shouldn’t still be reading the surfing manual. They teach the surfing manual back to front, then pump out men who can play perfect scales, but they don’t understand the sea; they don’t hear the music. The shape of the Bible hasn’t become second nature to them.”