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The relativism of Postmodernism is virtually an irresistible force in academia, especially in the humanities. There is a ?postmodern view? of almost every discipline. There is a postmodern approach to science, a postmodern approach to history, a postmodern approach to language. One of the most prominent aspects of the Postmodern view is hermeneutics. Indeed, there is a sense in which Postmodernism is a hermeneutic philosophy, or a philosophy of hermeneutics. A Postmodern science stems from the claim that there is no neutral observation? all observation is theory laden because observation is done from the perspective of the observer. A Postmodern history is predicated upon the notion that everyone views the world from his or her own historical perspective. A Postmodern approach to language is built on the claim that different cultures perceive reality differently, and this perception is propagated within one?s culture by means of language. At its base, Postmodernism is a hermeneutic perspectivism. The hermeneutic philosophy of Postmodernism has begin to exert an influence on biblical studies. Perhaps this was unavoidable since biblical studies is principally a discipline directed toward the interpretation of the biblical text. Postmodernism?s influence in biblical studies has primarily been in terms of the preconditions, preunderstandings, and/or presuppositions of all interpretation. The notion that everyone comes to a text from some point of view that is composed of the preconditions that make interpretation possible is almost universally acknowledged. These preconditions are constituted in whole or in part by the preunderstanding and the presuppositions of the interpreter. And these preunderstandings and presuppositions are developed in each person by his culture, his language, his personal history, and all other factors that make each person unique. Not only are these preconditions constituted by all that makes up one?s point of view, but these preunderstandings and presuppositions are the very possibility of understanding. Without some preconditions, understanding would be impossible. But it is these very preconditions that are responsible for the perspectivism. Since no two people are exactly alike in all that they think or believe, and since no one?s preunderstanding and presuppositions are exactly like someone else?s, it seems to follow necessarily that no two people have exactly the same point of view. Consequently, it is not possible
Everyone who has ever discussed the Bible has more than likely been faced with the response, "Everybody has their own interpretation."
Is every interpretation the result of someone's particular perspective or personal point of view?
Is there no basis upon which we can discover and hold to a "correct" interpretation?
Biblical interpretation is facing a crisis. More and more authors are surrendering to the influence of Postmodern relativism. This malady is not limited to non-evangelicals. The pervasiveness of postmodern perspectivism propagated through the notions of presuppositions, preunderstanding, world views, horizons, paradigms, historicism, and a host of other approaches that are often confusing and frustrating to the committed Christian who simply wants to understand God's word are forcing many evangelicals to question the very possibility of an objective or correct interpretation of the Bible.
Unless evangelicals can articulate and reasonably defend a notion of objectivity that reaches beyond one's own historical context and personal perspective to declare a Gospel that is true and relevant for all people, in all cultures, in all times, Christianity will continue to be viewed as simply another point of view among the host of conflicting choices.
Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation analyzes and explains the current crises of objectivity and presents a reasoned defense of objective interpretation that directly confronts the relativistic claims of postmodern relativism.
Thomas A. Howe has been an ordained minister since 1976 and since 1973 has served in both a lay capacity and as minister of youth and pastor in local churches in Georgia and Florida. In 1993, Thomas joined the faculty of the newly formed Southern Evangelical Seminary where he is the Professor of Bible and Biblical Languages and Director of the Apologetics Program. Thomas has also served as Adjunct Professor of New Testament for the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Extension at Charlotte, North Carolina, teaching introduction to New Testament Greek.
While at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Thomas has had the responsibility of teaching all levels of Greek and Hebrew, Introduction to Hermeneutics, Advanced Hermeneutics, Philosophy of Hermeneutics, Introduction to Logic, History of Western Philosophy, and other classes.
Thomas Howe has co-authored two books with Dr. Norman Geisler: Gambling: A Bad Bet, published by Fleming H. Revell Company in 1990, and When Critics Ask, published by Baker Book House in 1992. In 1991 Thomas received the National Scholarly Achievement Award in Biblical Studies, and in 1993 he, along with Dr. Geisler, received the Final Nominee Gold Medallion Book Award in Theology/Doctrine Category for When Critics Ask.
In 1998, Thomas was the first Ph.D. graduate from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, North Carolina. His Ph.D. work at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary was in Philosophy of Religion with concentration on the relationship between philosophy and biblical hermeneutics. His dissertation is titled, Objectivity in Hermeneutics: A Study of the Nature and of the Role of Presuppositions in Evangelical Hermeneutical Methodology and their Impact on the Possibility of Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation. His doctoral dissertation built upon the work that was done on his master's thesis dealing with the natureof meaning: Toward a Thomistic Theory of Meaning. Thomas has had more than twenty years of Bible teaching and research in hermeneutics, theology, and philosophy which has particularly equipped him for this task.
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