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Many philosophers of the past century have focused on the problem of hermeneutics. Theologians have shared this concern because of their interest in interpreting biblical texts. As postmodern critics have challenged the possibility of understanding any texts, the issue of how to respond has become acute.
Among myriad approaches to hermeneutics, both secular and Christian theorists have often assumed the same thing: that the need for interpretation is a lamentable, scandalous, even fallen affair. In an ideal world there would be no need for interpretation, since communication would be immediate, instantaneous and errorless.
James K. A. Smith, in this provocative book, cogently surveys contemporary hermeneutical discussion, identifying three traditions and how they understand interpretation: a present immediacy model, an eschatological immediacy model and a violent mediation model.
Questioning the foundational assumption that these models share, Smith deftly draws on and reworks Augustine's biblical understanding of the goodness of creation to propose a creational-pneumatic model of hermeneutics. In his words, such a hermeneutic "would link [Augustine's] insights on the temporality of human be-ing and language with his affirmation of the fundamental goodness of creation: the result is an understanding of the status of interpretation as a 'creational task,' a task which is constitutive of finitude and thus not a 'labor' to be escaped or overcome. Such an 'interpretation of interpretation' revalues embodiment and ultimately ends in a ethical respect for difference as the gift of a creating God who loves difference and loves differently."
"The ineluctable plurality of interpretation, both of texts and of the world, belongs to creation in its goodness and not (merely) to the Fall. That is the thesis of this bold challenge to a whole spectrum of thought, which ranges from evangelical theology to deconstructive philosophy, that finds interpretation to be inherently fallen. On the basis of an Arminian Augustinianism and a Kuyperian Calvinism, Smith sketches a creational interpretation of interpretation. Both the critique of the contemporary consensus and the constructive alternative deserve widespread discussion. The scholarship is impressive and the writing is lucid." Merold Westphal, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Fordham University
"The Fall of Interpretation represents a major contribution to the ongoing discussion between Christian theology and contemporary continental philosophy. . . . This is a brilliantly argued book from a major new voice in contemporary hermeneutical theory." John D. Caputo, David R. Cook Professor of Philosophy, Villanova University
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