Holy Spirit, History, Hermeneutics And Theology: Toward An Evangelical/Catholic Consensus -- By: Ted M. Dorman

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 41:3 (Sep 1998)
Article: Holy Spirit, History, Hermeneutics And Theology: Toward An Evangelical/Catholic Consensus
Author: Ted M. Dorman


Holy Spirit, History, Hermeneutics And Theology:
Toward An Evangelical/Catholic Consensus

Ted M. Dorman*

* Ted Dorman is associate professor of religion at Taylor University, 500 West Reade Avenue, Upland, IN 46989–1001.

This essay seeks to explore what role the Holy Spirit plays in the work of hermeneutics and theology and how understanding the work of the Spirit may produce more fruitful results in the ongoing dialogue between evangelicals and Roman Catholics.1 I shall begin by arguing that the Holy Spirit, while not providing a hot line to heaven that conveys additional data to the interpreter of Scripture, nevertheless has an indispensable role in the Church’s endeavor to understand who God is and what he requires of us. I shall then briefly explore the relationship between exegesis, Biblical theology, historical theology and dogmatics and how I believe the Spirit relates to each area of inquiry. I shall conclude with two case studies, one dealing with doctrine and the other with ethics.

I. Holy Spirit, Meaning, And Significance

In a recent article2 Clark Pinnock defines the relationship between exegesis and the work of the Holy Spirit in a manner similar to that set forth in an earlier essay by Daniel P. Fuller.3 Both Fuller and Pinnock believe that the role of the Spirit in Biblical interpretation is not to impart new information to the reader beyond the grammatical-historical data but to change the heart of the reader so that he or she might become more willing to accept the gospel message revealed in Scripture.4

Standing behind Fuller’s and Pinnock’s rejection of the notion that the Holy Spirit imparts new information to the reader is the distinction between “meaning” and “significance” articulated by E. D. Hirsch5 and common within

the writings of evangelical Biblical scholars.6 This distinction defines meaning as the message the original author intended to convey and significance as how that meaning is relevant to other people and situations. Pinnock therefore states that “the significance of texts changes—but not their meaning.”7 Yet shortly after this remark he adds that “the meaning [of a text] can be enlarged upon reflection.… The text can come to be seen to allow a larger interpretation than was strictly intended.”

It w...

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