The problems with propositional views of language have been revealed by writers as diverse as Wittgenstein, Derrida, Lyotard, Ricouer, Lindbeck, Pickstock and the evangelical Kevin VanHoozer (whose book The Drama of Doctrine is a much appreciated step forward on this issue for evangelicals). Basically, what we have learned is that a hard propositional view towards Scripture turns the Bible into a dead textbook of inert information, it separates truth from the living of life, and does not resolve the question of interpretation i.e. given the truth of the text, where does authority lie for its interpretation? This is the evangelical quandary amidst these postmodern times when the worlds we live in and the languages we speak fully acknowledge the problems of propositionalism and/or positivism. I subscribe to referential truth (sentences refer to something external to them). I can buy even a correspondence theory of truth. But none of this solves the problems of hermeneutics and interpretation for evangelicals. And these notions of propositionalism create even more problems for how we are to preach.
I have said in the Great Giveaway, that us evangelicals have allowed our propositionalism to guide our preaching to the point where we allow our preaching to commodify the text into helpful information to be distributed lecture style (or on tapes and Mp3’s) to isolated selves who use it for their own means. In essence, we make the preaching of the Word another “goods and service” to be distributed thereby stripping the Word of its power because we can only be transformed by the Spirit when we are in submission to the Spirit and the Word, not consuming it for our own purposes. We must then go beyond seeing Scripture as a collection of truth propositions that need to be scientifically dissected, inductively sliced, and distributed to Cartesian (rational autonomous isolated in-control) minds sitting in the pews. We must proclaim the gospel out of Scripture describing the world as it is under the Lordship of Christ, redeemed and transformed by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We must then call for not intellectual digestion from our parishioners as listeners to sermons, but for confession, re-affirmation of truth, submission in prayer, obedience and commitment to what God is calling us to. All of this requires a community of the Spirit in ways I cannot explain here, but will certainly address in future posts.
My chapter on Expository Preaching in The Great Giveaway where I outline some of these ideas is entitled “The Myth of Expository Preaching: Why we must do more than wear scrolls on our foreheads.” I argue for an approach to preaching and Scripture that leaves Cartesianism behind and seeks to work out interpretation within a history, tradition and on going life of a community. In response to this chapter Paul Edwards asserts “My view thus far is that Fitch trades one fleeting culture for another, rather than pointing us to an eternal, unchangeable standard.” I can certainly see how Paul might feel that I am replacing modern modes of interpretation with ones based in postmodern analysis and I thank him for e-mailing me and entering into the conversation. My response is that I do not desire to declare allegience to either modernism or postmodernism as a cultural context. Instead I intend to articulate how we must go on in our preaching in light of what post or latter modern revealings about language and interpretation have clearly revealed to us. So I appreciate Paul Edward’s concerns but I prefer Darryl Dash’s response to the chapter. To those interested in this subject take a look at both.
I am open for comments but won’t be able to respond for two weeks as we leave for out of the country to adopt our child.
Until then, Blessed Advent and Joyous Christmas.