G. K. Beale on the Error of Postmodern Hermeneutics

In my semester at the Swiss L’Abri I became concerned that the staff’s commitment to respecting other’s beliefs bordered on a subjective post-modernism and led to a denial of the perspicuity of Scripture. Time and again in lectures and discussion did the topic of Biblical interpretation come up, but only after some prodding in personal conversations with the director of L’Abri was I able to get a critique of post-modernism and defense of Bible. Though L’Abri holds, as per it’s statement of faith, to the doctrine of inerrancy (and perspicuity) of Scripture, their language in practice is a far cry from those like G. K. Beale, professor of hermeneutics at the conservative reformed Westminster Theological Seminary.

In his essay “New Testament Hermeneutics” in Seeing Christ in All of Scripture, Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary, Beale critiques postmodernism’s view of biblical interpretation outright, explaining the perspicuity of Scripture, and giving one confidence in it’s message. I wish this same confidence in the Scriptures would be portrayed by L’Abri.

Beale writes:

The perspicuity of Scripture also contrasts the so-called postmodern evangelical view that one’s presuppositions result in a distortion of the original meaning of a text so that interpreters can only come away with interpretative conclusions that reflect their own theological predispositions. A presupposition is like a lens of a pair of glasses. If the lens is green, then everything you see is green; if blue, then everything you see is blue. For example, Democrats are accused of reading into the Constitution too much social engineering and government control because that is their lens, while Republicans are accused of reading in too much capitalism and personal responsibility. Both are accused by the other of distorting the true meaning of the Constitution.

Rather than the postmodern view that denies readers the ability to access objective meaning in Scriptures, a good biblical-theological assumption is that all interpreters have presuppositions and that some presuppositions distort the originally intended meanings of ancient texts, while other presuppositions actually guide one into the truth of text. Keeping with the above illustration, there are some theological colored lenses that cause one to see the true theological color of Scripture. The presuppositions of the biblical writers themselves as expressed in Scripture have the power through the Spirit to regrind the presuppositional lenses of those who read Scripture to lead them into the truth. (cf. John 8:32 with John 14:6, 17; 15:26; 16:13; see also 1 John 5:20).