05 March 2009

Bible interpretation dodge #3 — the PoMo Shuffle (NEXT! #6)

by Dan Phillips

Challenge: That isn't what that verse says to me.

Response A: Oh. What would it say if you and I were dead?

Response B: Oh. What did it say to God?

(Proverbs 21:22)

Dan Phillips's signature


69 comments:

DJP said...

1. Full disclosure: the first response was quoted to me decades ago as from John MacArthur. Apocryphal? Don't know.

2. Both responses are meant to take us to the same place. How to follow up?

CD-Host said...

Counter A: Whatever it means to the new readers. By itself it says nothing

Counter B: Great question! Now what evidence do you have that God reads it that way you do?

Daryl said...

Or even:
What would it mean if you knew nothing of the world around you?

DJP said...

C-D Host reminds us that, if someone wants to dodge desperately enough, he'll find a way, no matter how silly.

JackW said...

Or what did it say before you were born.

Daryl said...

I don't care what it means to you, I want to know what it means to itself.

CD-Host said...

DJP --

I find it sort of remarkable that the foremost blog in attacking the emerging church movement knows nothing about existentialism or postmodernism. This is basic Descartes and Rousseau, that all sensory experience is meaningless in and of itself. It is the mind that constructs meaning. By the time you get to the early 20th century (Sarte, Beauvoir, Camus) the notion of universal meaning has fallen.

When someone talks about a verse "says to me" as being a valid interpretation they are implicitly pulling in this entire philosophy. A "well Kant has cooties" argument is not likely to carry the day.

Daryl --

That sorts of begs the question. See above.

DJP said...

CD-host — I always find it remarkable that someone can claim to know what we do on this blog, accusations so silly that he should know actual regular readers will dissolve in laughter.

Would you prefer that we fawn at, worship and flatter the PoMo/existential mindset? Won't happen. What this series is designed to do, instead, is unveil its essentially ridiculous nature, and start an actually constructive conversation.

Which both this and #'s 5 and 4 did.

But you know that already, of course, being a regular reader and all.

Joshua Cookingham said...

I prefer using the grand old rebuttal of "Sez who?"

Hasn't failed me yet.....

Shinar Squirrel said...

Dan,

I've got a MacArthur tape from a MBI Bible conference in 1980 where he said, "What would that verse mean if you were not here."

I've used this one, and actually have been able to shortstop the argument and get to the point where we could at least agree that words mean things.

"well Kant has cooties" - I knew it!

The Squirrel

DJP said...

Joshua - PoMo's who are on the fun from the Godhood of God won't thank you (or me) for revealing their nakedness, though, apart from a supernatural work.

So sometimes you have to settle for objectively having done the job, then initiate Proverbs 14:7.

Joshua Cookingham said...

"This is basic Descartes and Rousseau, that all sensory experience is meaningless in and of itself. It is the mind that constructs meaning."

If all knowledge is subjective, does that mean that the notion that all knowledge is subjective IS SUBJECTIVE?

There are more things in heaven and hell than dreamt of in human philosophy.

Joshua Cookingham said...

"So sometimes you have to settle for objectively having done the job, then initiate Proverbs 14:7."

Aw, but it's so fun to leave em GUESSING!

Just kidding. But I have found that the sez who argument does get them thinking(and I've mostly used it against atheists)....

DJP said...

Getting someone thinking is a great thing. It's the point of this series.

Solameanie said...

Call me a strict constructionist, but one of my first responses would be along the lines of, "Oh, really? What did it mean to the one who wrote it?"

Then, an illustration and challenge. "Take a pen and write your view of an issue in one sentence." After said person does this, I offer my own invented meaning to what they wrote, no doubt eliciting the response, "No way! That's not what I meant at all!"

To which I would answer, "See what I mean?"

DJP said...

Yes, Sola; I did that with Next! #4.

Aric said...

Sadly, I have had family members who have been misled by the Word Faith garbage use similar dodges when discussing the Bible. Thanks for some ammo to combat the WF assult.

After the shock of hearing someone who should be my mentor say "How do you know that verse is not supposed to mean that to me?" I usually say something super intelligent, like "Are you serious?" Yeah, I know, awesome response! Then the sarcastic, snide, semi-arrogant side takes over with a “Well then, I guess I am already perfect since 1 Cor 6:11 says I was sanctified – past tense, so to me that means it is completed already!”

I probably should just say, “So, then how do I show someone, from the Bible, that they are sinners in need of a Savior? Couldn’t they just say that verse doesn’t mean that to them?” This may help me dodge the first strike and “do some mayhem from the side” – to quote a wise, learned man.

Solameanie said...

See what I get for either not paying close enough attention OR not reading every day?

I repent in sackcloth and ashes. ;)

NoLongerBlind said...

I'm not so sure that CD-Host is disagreeing with the intent on this post; instead, is he perhaps disagreeing with the suggested manner of dealing with the hypothetical situation, playing "Devil's Advocate" so-to-speak.....?

CD-Host said...

Blogger Joshua Cookingham:

Quoting CD: "This is basic Descartes and Rousseau, that all sensory experience is meaningless in and of itself. It is the mind that constructs meaning."

If all knowledge is subjective, does that mean that the notion that all knowledge is subjective IS SUBJECTIVE?


Of course. You can choose to construct a reality with the notion that your philosophy is universal (i.e. objectively true) that is essentially what fundamentalism is. In the same way you can choose to construct a reality that your emotions and reactions are universal (i.e true) which is essentially what borderline personality disorder is.

The problem with those attempts is they run into contradictions with how you experience reality. So belief in objectivity in the end self contradicts.

Take the last thread in this series about Larry King. The Torah goes to great length to develop a notion of non universal responsibilities to god based on paternity: children of Aaron vs. other Levites vs. other 11 tribes vs. children of Abraham who are not Jews vs. children of Noah not of Abraham. Page after page, book after book on the different responsibilities of all these people.
Under your objective frame those differentiations don't mean very much and the "torah" should be applied willy nilly to everyone. And moreover Larry King (who rejects the NT) should see that as objectively true and obvious.

DJP said...

Aric, yes, that is awesome, and you made my day with that link!

(c:

DJP said...

CD-Host

< puts on Moderator hat >

Everybody note this reply before engaging CD-Host in his diversion.

1. Sorry you missed that other thread on Larry King. This isn't that thread.

2. You say, "So belief in objectivity in the end self contradicts."

If that means anything, then all your comments here are meaningless wastes of our time.

If it means nothing, then all your comments here are meaningless wastes of our time.

Either way: renounce the statement and engage seriously, or desist, self-refuted.

Benjamin Nitu said...

Objective vs Subjective Meaning

Objective tells something about the subject at hand (the verse) in this case.
Subjective tells us something about the reader.

So, if you remove the subjective meaning (reader being dead :-) ), you are left with the objective meaning ... the truth.

How do we acquire that objective meaning is another discussion. But we can't move forward until we agree that there is one.

Julie said...

Dan,

I think Response A has to be my favorite of the series, so far :0)

Response B works, but it doesn't have that zing. And, being nit-picky, "What did it say to God?" sounds like the verse is supposed to be speaking TO God, rather than issuing FROM God.

Still, "What would it say if you and I were dead?" deftly deflates the enormous ego of one who believes that he himself is the point of reference for what is true.

Love it.

CD-Host said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

Thinking I don't mean what I say is a sure sign someone's not following the discussion.

CD-Host said...

DJP --

2. You say, "So belief in objectivity in the end self contradicts."

If that means anything, then all your comments here are meaningless wastes of our time.

If it means nothing, then all your comments here are meaningless wastes of our time.

Either way: renounce the statement and engage seriously, or desist, self-refuted.


All comments are meaningless. But you are capable of assigning them meaning, as are the rest of the readers. The meaning doesn't reside in the comments themselves, but rather in the shared culture which allows me to predict the meaning you and they are likely to assign.

DJP said...

CD-HostAll comments are meaningless. But you are capable of assigning them meaning, as are the rest of the readers. The meaning doesn't reside in the comments themselves, but rather in the shared culture which allows me to predict the meaning you and they are likely to assign.

Then you admit that you have nothing inherently meaningful to say, to us or to anyone else.

Please never waste our time on this blog again, as long as that is your belief. Dysangelize for nihilism elsewhere.

CD-Host said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

BTW - your statements may not have inherent meaning.

Mine do.

Johnny Dialectic said...

It sounds like CD-Host took an undergraduate class in epistemology one time and got very enthused.

DJP said...

I always think it's thoughtful when folks come in and illustrate the very exact thing I'm talking about.

Problem is: 99.9% of the time, they won't acknowledge it. But others can see and profit.

NoLongerBlind said...

Wow--was I duped! So much for "believing the best"!


AWESOME word verification:

fooling !

Benjamin Nitu said...

These quotes of G.K. Chesterton from his Orthodoxy somehow apply to this "interesting" conversation:

"We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table"

"The meek do inherit the earth; but the modern skeptics are too meek even to claim their inheritance."

"Thinking in isolation and with pride ends in being an idiot. "

Citizen Grim said...

CD-Host: "All comments are meaningless."

I'm gonna go ahead and interpret you to be saying that all comments do have an objective meaning. According to your rules, I can interpret what you say however I please.


DJP: "Your statements may not have inherent meaning.
Mine do."


That is a decent 'escape hatch' for people wallowing in postmodernism, similar to Pascal's Wager. "Maybe your worldview reduces all our words to meaningless babble, but mine tells me there is objective truth. If you're right, I lose nothing. But if I'm right, you've got a serious problem."

DJP said...

You're applying Next! #4.

threegirldad said...

CD-HOST authorized me to tell you all that he has now seen the error of his ways, and feels nothing but extreme remorse for the impertinence of his prior--

Oops! Sorry...wrong blog...

DJP said...

Tsk! Bad 3GD.

The Troika has not adopted my ban modification. Most of our bannees have accepted bannification.

Joshua Cookingham said...

And now you make up words Dan?(bannification)

Is there anything you can't do? lol

DJP said...

What would be really funny would be for a PoMo to fault me for my neologisms.

Joshua Cookingham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joshua Cookingham said...

What would be really funny would be for a PoMo to fault me for my neologisms."

I thought they use neologisms all the time...lol.
So....was CD-Host trying to play Devil's advocate, or was he just wasting time?

Shinar Squirrel said...

I just spent a few minutes at PoMo Boy's blog. Don't bother. I wasted my time, so you don't have to :)

The Squirrel

NoLongerBlind said...

Re: rules of bannification...
Isn't the "Post Author/Moderator" allowed to adopt his own policy, as long as it doesn't violate the sensibilities of the other Blog Host-Partners....?

NoLongerBlind said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DJP said...

Well, yes... if I really wanted to be naughty, I should feel free to do anything to a PoMo-defending commenter. If he says it's unfair, I say that's his interpretation.

Rita Martinez said...

"Well, yes... if I really wanted to be naughty, I should feel free to do anything to a PoMo-defending commenter. If he says it's unfair, I say that's his interpretation."
lol you know we should pray for PoMo parents it must be really difficult for them to instruct and discipline their children. "But Mom! that's your interpretation! I say I have the right to do whatever I want! (Eph 6:1, PoMo Version 1985)"

Solameanie said...

I think this is a classic tableau in terms of pomos. Sooner or later, the monkey (or minkey) wrench they try to throw into the works invariably boomerangs around to impale them instead.

And if you've ever been impaled with a minkey wrench . . .

Jugulum said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

Jugulum asked me about CD-Host:

Right. He's gone. Read the 8:36 and 8:42 comments.

Julie said...

"Dysangelize for nihilism elsewhere."

You ought to make that a sticker, Dan.

DJP said...

LOL

Don't give Turk ideas.

Mark B. Hanson said...

"Are you saying something? Because all I hear is meaningless babble."

Marie said...

Yeah, that's classic John Macarthur, hermeneutics 101. I used that quote a couple of years ago when I was writing a paper on hermeneutics.

So....that's how I'd follow up - explain that historically, Christianity has followed the historical-grammatical method of understanding what a given verse meant. The science of biblical interpretation requires we look at the literal, historical, grammatical, synthetic and THEN the practical principle.

I'd then explain in 1 or 2 sentences what each of those methods means, to disallow room for subjective understanding of verses. Context is crucial. I'd stop when the other person's eyes start to glaze over.

Most likely, I'd be talking to a Catholic rather than a PoMo, and would be told that I'm ignorant and following something some old dead guys came up with (as happened 2 days ago, actually), so I'd give up and go back to doing whatever I was doing beforehand.

Deb_B said...

Flip Side CD-Host:

Linear, Philosophical Chit-Chat, Socrates and Protagoras (4th BC):
Protagoras: Truth is relative. It is only a matter of opinion.

Socrates: You mean that truth is mere subjective opinion?

Protagoras: Exactly. What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me. Truth is subjective.

Socrates: Do you really mean that? That my opinion is true by virtue of its being my opinion?

Protagoras: Indeed I do.

Socrates: My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you, Mr. Protagoras, are absolutely in error. Since this is my opinion, you must grant that it is true according to your philosophy.

Protagoras: You are quite correct, Socrates.

Ahem...

ZSB said...

"Either way: renounce the statement and engage seriously, or desist, self-refuted."

Oh, Dan, how I love thee... :D

-Zach
www.calvinati.com

Jugulum said...

Honestly, I'm having a hard time figuring out just what CD-Host actually meant. Part of his comments look like pomo relativistic claptrap. Other parts... I'm not sure.

Was it Devil's Advocate, as NoLongerBlind and Joshua suggested? Or poorly-expressed? Or just vacuous?

*sigh*

Dave B said...

Funny. Universal meaning keeps climbing out of her grave. Sarte, Beauvoir, Camus? Not so much.

Julie said...

Dan,

Where there's light, there's bugs.

Chad V. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jugulum said...

Taking a stab:

There's sort of something true about "The meaning doesn't reside in the comments themselves". The combination of shapes that make up the letters don't have inherent meaning--the symbols we use don't have inherent meaning. They have agreed-upon meaning, in our language. In our "shared culture".

The point is that we don't get to assign meaning arbitrarily. That's where the pomo plunge happens. We have to go with the meaning that we derive from authorial intent, considering the author & audience's original context.

But... Yikes. I see that CD-Host did a debate with Frank about biblical perspicuity on male eldership. And he starts saying, "if reasonable people in large numbers cannot read scripture on a given issue the same way, when their underlying cultural assumptions change then scripture cannot be said to be perspicuous on that issue". (If my personal cultural context changes the way I read Scripture, then Scripture isn't clear? Oh dear.)

So, it doesn't look like simple devil's advocate.

DJP said...

Yeah, truly not to be nah-nah-nah, but we had CD-Host in about two comments, in his own words (which nothing in the deleted comments retracted).

There are reasons we do what we do.

Please, let's stay on-subject, not off-on-diversion.

SolaMommy said...

I didn't get Response A till I read through the meta, but I like it :-)

andy spaulding said...

Whenever we get into these type of discussions with the unrepentant, we must realize that the foundational issue is not one of intellect but of morality and that man is born with a natural HATRED for the one, true, and living God.

When we hear men say "that isn't what that verse means to me" what they are really saying most of the time is this; "I do not want to believe what that verse is saying because it interfers with my love of sin, so I am making up my own interpertation to suit my debauched lifestyle."

"For the carnal mind is ENMITY AGAINST God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."

CR said...

3GD: CD-HOST authorized me to tell you all that he has now seen the error of his ways, and feels nothing but extreme remorse for the impertinence of his prior--

Oops! Sorry...wrong blog...


LOL!!!!

Lisa Nunley said...

Jon and I attend a bi-weekly neighborhood Bible study and hear "this is what that verse says to me" every time from several people in the neighborhood.
What I want to say in utter frustration is "I really don't care what that verse says to you... what does the whole counsel of God say that Scripture says."
...which to me is Response B.

I love your 'lunging-
angular mayhem' approach.

Sing-Along Steve said...

Y'know, there's something I think is absolutely hilarious about all of the dodging and highbrow-sounding pomo-college-boy lingo. That is that NONE of these deconstructionist fools EVER seem to deconstruct the BLESSINGS that are in the Bible. Oh, no... those are all crystal-clear and certainly refer to them. It always seems to be the "hard sayings" of Jesus or a prophet or an apostle that they feel the need to strip of any objective, absolute authority. Pity, though; I really wanted to be able to use some of that 5-dollar-word philosophy junk to make me sound intelligent. All I got in the bargain was a reminder (you know, from the Spirit that dwells in believers) that I had better lay off that hoity-toity, uptown blather and get back to trembling "at the law I'd spurned", as the old hymn goes.

Hanging around here and reading when the pomo promos arrive is a great tool for refreshing my view of myself as NOT wise, NOT noble, etc. Praise God.

Jim Pemberton said...

Sorry I'm behind, DJP - catching up on my reading. Just one rhetorical question:

How would CD-Host know what anyone meant in order to argue with them?

If the only valid meaning for him is the meaning he assigns for himself, then any argument he makes would be against himself for he's essentially arguing that he can't know within reason your intended meaning.

The same principle applied to this brilliant post: the po-mo challenger's statement presupposes that he understood an interpretation he doesn't agree with. Either the interpretation is much clearer than the Biblical text or the po-mo is applying a hermeneutical double-standard for the purpose of obfuscating the reasonably clear revelation of God.

DJP said...

Exactly, Jim. But folks of this ilk very seldom are vulnerable to such irony. Witness the exchange above. "All comments are meaningless," he says — then goes off crying that he's been misrepresented.