The Relevance Of Cultural Conditioning For Social Ethics -- By: M. Daniel Carroll R

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 29:3 (Sep 1986)
Article: The Relevance Of Cultural Conditioning For Social Ethics
Author: M. Daniel Carroll R


The Relevance Of Cultural Conditioning
For Social Ethics

M. Daniel Carroll R.*

The world lives in crisis, a crisis of enormous dimensions and of startling diversity. Carl Henry recently has described this malaise in North America poetically and poignantly:

Appalling social vices thrust us ever nearer a national doomsday. Only a pseu-dotheologian would ignore the emptiness that sweeps much of American life today and the deep social problems and injustices that scar our land. Many persons pursue but bursting bubbles of “vanity,” as the writer of Ecclesiastes put it. For multitudes human existence empties into meaninglessness.1

Different descriptions, of course, would be used for other parts of the globe. The Church has been challenged constantly through the centuries by sociopolitical tensions and has produced a variety of ecclesiastical models and theological constructs that have tried to incarnate the Christian witness. Each of these efforts has posited its own Biblical basis and followed a particular her-meneutic. Therein lies the crux of the challenge to the modern Church: What should be the proper hermeneutical guidelines for determining sound, Biblical social ethics?

Evangelicals, as they try to grapple with the world and the crushing pressure of its problems, must try to present Biblical answers grounded in the content of the Word and built on a careful and comprehensive theological method. The amount of evangelical literature addressing social issues has been exploding, but little has focused on the multiple dilemmas in hermeneutics.2

One area that merits careful attention and that this article will seek to explore is the impact of certain “pre-understandings”3 on any attempt to articulate a sound Biblical ethic. Each interpreter (often unconsciously) brings a set of socio-culturally conditioned ideas and perceptions to the Biblical text that can influence in varying degrees his social ethics and also affect his interaction with other perspectives.

*M. Daniel Carroll R. is professor of Old Testament at E1 Seminario Teologico Centroamericano in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

This article cannot hope to present all the necessary theory, guidelines and procedures to solve the many problems posed by socio-cultural conditioning. Our goal is more modest: to briefly explore this hermeneutical reality and sensitize to its challenges those involved in formulating social ethics. Hopefully this paper will stimulate dialogue and honest reflection within ...

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