[Rough Draft]

A weblog about god, doubt, insomnia, culture, baseball

4.15.2004

gone stanley "fish-ing"

i'm sitting in court, looking properly busy @ my computer, but i'm really blogging. (if the judge reads this, which isn't beyond the limits of the imagination -- i'm actually paying attention, i promise!) i just thought i'd share something i read last night that is pertinent to our search for an appropriate hermeneutic. kevin vanhoozer has supplied me w/ a "title" of sorts for one who reads the bible as love letter/historical fiction/what have you: user or neo-pragmatist. vanhooser notes, in his is there a meaning in this text?: the bible, the reader, and the morality of literary knowledge, that the prince of the neo-pragmatists is none other than stanley fish. "fish speaks for the pragmatists when he suggests that we simply stop worrying about interpreting tets and just use them. for fish, there is no such thing as 'the single correct interpretation' only different ways of using texts" (emphasis in original). am i wrong, or isn't that pretty much what we've been bantering about here lately?

the problem w/ this otherwise benign-sounding idea is that fish jettisons any hope of recovering what the text meant when moses or mark or paul (or fish, himself, for that matter -- ever wonder why a deconstructionist would ever write a book??) wrote it. fish "rejects the notion that 'getting it right' in interpretation means recovering the author's mind or intention . . . . the significance of fish's position must not be underestimated: on his view, it is not the author that is the historical cause of the text and creator of meaning, but the reader [and his/her interpretive community, but that's another issue for another day] . . . . what constraints there are on interpretation stem not from the text . . . but from the interpretive community . . . . fish redefines truth in terms of 'what seems good to us now.'"

scary, but that is precisely what we're doing right now in the ecusa and some of the other mainlines (see jim brown's article on same-sex blessing rite -- thanks for the link, rodney; and, no, i'm most certainly not in favor of muddying up our conversational waters by bringing in the homosexuality debate . . . suffice it to say that i'm episcopalian and am dealing w/ it). we are not allowing the bible to "stand over us" and correct us; rather, we demand the position of preeminence and stand, editor's pencil in hand, as arbiters of truth and correctors of the text! as vanhooser writes: "neither the author nor even the notion of truth has any authority for the user. truth is demoted from its prior status as timeless and absolute to 'what is good for us to believe here and now' or 'what works for me in this situation.'"

we can debate all the day long about whether it's possible -- or even moral/ethical -- to go in search of the author's intent to determine the "meaning" of the text, and i'm sure we're about to have just that discussion. but @ the outset, hear vanhooser's warning: "as g. k. chesterton observed, those who stop believing in god do not then believe in nothing, they will believe in anything. and as jesus observed, when one demon is cast out, one must beware that seven others do not take its place. it remains to be seen what demons, or monsters, will take the place of the author, once the latter is bnished from the home of meaning."

(quotes are from kevin j. vanhooser, is there a meaning in this text?: the bible, the reader, and the morality of literary knowledge (grand rapids: zondervan, 1998), 28, 55-57)).

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