Principles, Permanence, And Future Divine Judgment: A Case Study In Theological Method -- By: Millard J. Erickson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 28:3 (Sep 1985)
Article: Principles, Permanence, And Future Divine Judgment: A Case Study In Theological Method
Author: Millard J. Erickson

Principles, Permanence, And Future Divine Judgment:
A Case Study In Theological Method

Millard J. Erickson*

Numerous expressions have in recent years called attention to the increased complexity of the hermeneutical task. “The two horizons,”1 “what it meant and what it means,”2 “meaning and significance,”3 and “translators and transformers”4 are some indication of how formidable is the task of the Biblical and theological interpreter. Much of the difficulty is wrapped up in the fact that we live nearly 1900 years removed from the latest Biblical documents and even further from some others. We live in a world and address persons that are in some ways quite different from persons of Biblical times. For evangelicals this poses a dilemma. On the one hand we are orthodox, wishing to preserve the deposit of truth given once for all to and through the prophets and the apostles. On the other hand we are evangelistic, desiring to bring other persons to this saving faith in Jesus Christ. In order to do this it is important to communicate that gospel in the clearest, most intelligible and most appealing fashion possible.

If on the one hand we concentrate on the most exact possible repetition of the Biblical message, we run the risk that it will not make sense and thus will not be accepted. If on the other hand we emphasize the contemporary situation of the hearers, we incur the possibility of people accepting the message but of its being the wrong message and therefore ineffectual. To make the message both authoritatively Biblical and contemporarily relevant is a difficult but important task. It is this task that especially concerns us here.

There are two areas where evangelicals have traditionally endeavored to do the work of contemporizing. One is in the area of proclamation, broadly speaking. Most preachers do not merely compile Biblical texts into a sermon made up of quotations. They seek to do interpretation, paraphrasing, drawing illustrations from contemporary experience, and sometimes making quite pointed application to the situations of their hearers. Preachers who can do this effectively are very much in demand.

*Millard Erickson is academic dean and professor of theology at Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The other area is ethics. Here evangelicals have attempted to deal with complex modern problems by drawing upon Biblical teachings. Yet many of those problems were not found or even anticipated in Biblical ti...

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