Hermeneutics And Metaphysics -- By: Thomas A. Howe

Journal: Christian Apologetics Journal
Volume: CAJ 03:2 (Fall 2004)
Article: Hermeneutics And Metaphysics
Author: Thomas A. Howe

Hermeneutics And Metaphysics

Thomas A. Howe


The prevailing view among theorists of hermeneutics is that no one comes to the text without a set of presuppositions. One author of a text on biblical interpretation asserts, “All understanding and interpretation proceed from a prior understanding or a system of making sense of reality.”1 Another prevailing view among hermeneutic theorists is that because of the apparent unavoidability of one’s presuppositions, objectivity is not possible. The rejection of the possibility of objectivity in interpretation is not confined to those theorists who fall outside the evangelical camp. The flight from objectivity is rampant among evangelical theorists also, evidenced by such characteristic assertions as, “There is no such thing as a pure reading, an objective interpretation,”2 or “Since neutral exegesis is impossible, no necessarily ‘true’ or final interpretation is possible.”3 The monumental influence of Martin Heidegger through the writings of Hans-Georg Gadamer has precipitated a near global defection among contemporary evangelical theorists from the traditional notion of grammatical-historical interpretation.

Not only has much of evangelicalism imbibed the self-referentially incoherent notion that there can be no objectivity in interpretation, but this defection is predicated upon at once a denial of metaphysics and an assumed metaphysic. As William Luijpen observed, “During the nineteenth century positivism managed to oppress authentic metaphysical thinking. Since then, however, man has again realized that the absolutizing of the positive sciences was based on a conviction which is rooted not in the sciences themselves but in a very bad kind of metaphysics.”4 The metaphysics denied was the traditional metaphysics of western scholastic philosophy, and the metaphysics assumed is the Heideggerian/Gadamerian phenomenological metaphysics of the meaning of Being.

Metaphysics As A Presupposition

Someone may challenge the notion that evangelical hermeneutic theory has imbibed the metaphysics of Heidegger. However, if anyone wishes to deny that hermeneutic theorists assume some metaphysical perspective, then he can but cursorily scan almost any text on biblical hermeneutics published since the 1960’s to discover such assertions as the following: “It is true that various types of preunderstanding functioning in a variety of ways are always present in the perception and interpretation of reality, then the question th...

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