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Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation [Paperback]

By Thomas Howe (Author)
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Item description for Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation by Thomas Howe...

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

Publishers Description
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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Item Specifications...

Studio: Advantage Inspirational
Pages   549
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9" Width: 6" Height: 1.27"
Weight:   1.81 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 1, 2005
Publisher   Advantage Inspirational
ISBN  1597550019  
ISBN13  9781597550017  

Availability  0 units.

More About Thomas Howe

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Howe graduated from Northwestern School of Law, and has been a practicing attorney ever since. Having tired of the practice of law, he decided to join the most dynamic profession in the world-software development. Tom specializes in application development using Microsoft Access, Visual Basic, Outlook, Exchange, and SQL Server. Tom is a regular speaker at TechEd, Advisor, Informannt and other developer conferences around the world.

Thomas Howe has an academic affiliation as follows - Southwestern University, Texas.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Hermeneutics

Christian Product Categories
Books > Bible Study > General Studies > Exegesis & Hermeneutics

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Reviews - What do customers think about Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation?

Absolutely outstanding  Jun 1, 2008
I highly recommend this book to anyone dealing with anything related to hermeneutics. This book is especially relevant to those dealing with postmodern objections such as, "meaning is determined by the receiver of the message" or, in perhaps a Bible-study setting, "Well, that's just your interpretation."

This should be read alongside Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard (Introduction to Biblical Interpretation) for a very well rounded discussion on hermeneutics as a whole.

Fair warning, though: it can be a bit of a heavy read. That's just the nature of the material. Howe is dealing with the philosophical basis for saying that we CAN interpret the Bible objectively (which is exactly the opposite of what almost all hermeneuticians, even those of an Evangelical persuasion, say). Some of that is helped by solid end-notes to explain some ideas further, and several diagrams help the reader visualize what are admittedly very abstract notions at times. The bottom line, though, is that anyone who works their way through this will be more than equipped to handle the post-modern sink-hole into which the world (including Evangelicalism) is quickly falling.

A must-read for every Christian  Dec 25, 2007
This is the best book on the market dealing with the issue of interpreting the Bible objectively. Dr. Howe demonstrates throughout this book that he is well-educated not only in hermeneutics, but in philosophy as well, and based on his knowledge of these subjects, Howe presents a solid case for objectivity in interpretation.

Whatever book(s) you have read on the subject of objectivity in interpretation, you must read this book if you want to understand not only why the evangelical Christian must hold to the objectivity of interpretation, but HOW the reader arrives at an objective interpretation.

This is not an extremely easy read, but the average lay person should be able to understand and apply it.

This book is now a central part of my collection of books on interpretation!
An Island of Truth in a Sea of Hermeneutical Indeterminism  Apr 25, 2006
This book is long overdue gem of philosophical correction. Since the onset of hermeneutics as a philosophical discipline within the mainstream of post-Kantian philosophy, evangelical Christians have largely followed the trend begun by Schleiermacher and culminating in Gadamer that meaning cannot be objective. In post-Kantian philosophical development, knowing things-in-themselves is considered impossible, and so any meaning that we come across cannot be objective. No one until now has written a well-researched tome from a moderate-realist perspective that not only answers the linguistic analyst but also provides a base from which the Christian may proceed confidently in his Bible study knowing that what He reads is the objective and authoritative Word of God.

Contemporary philosophical developments, as Dr. Howe notes, have affected biblical interpretation quite negatively. For example, it is now customary for a Bible study leader not to ask, "What does this text mean?" but rather, "What does this text mean to you?" Thus, for the contemporary reader, the locus of meaning has shifted from the text to the interpreter. Most people, especially in philosophical discussions, do not consider hermeneutics merely the uncovering of the meaning of a text but rather the process of encountering the text that results in an existentially significant understanding. Yet, as Dr Howe points out, without an objective word from God, there is no word of God, and every man does that which is right in his own eyes.

Briefly, the author organizes his book as follows:

Chapters 1-2: a survey of the current landscape of philosophical hermeneutics as it relates to evangelical attitudes about interpretation

Chapters 3-6: a critique of contemporary hermeneutics, including an examination of presuppositions, their role in preunderstanding, and why contemporary evangelical thinkers cannot defend objective meaning while operating from the post-Kantian philosophy that denies it

Chapter 7-10: a case for moderate realism and its implications for: Metaphysics (Chapter 7), Epistemology (Chapter 8), Linguistics (Chapter 9), and, of course, Hermeneutics (Chapter 10).

Dr. Howe squarely confronts several unquestioned assumptions most current philosophers accept. One of these prevailing notions is that the necessity of the interpreter's having presuppositions (or "prejudice" to use Gadamer's term) results in the impossibility of objectivity. For everyone approaches the text from his own unique perspective, as seems quite obvious. After all, we all have our own perspectives. Further, objectivity requires a neutral interpretation. Therefore, there is no "view from nowhere" as Nagel writes, and objectivity is impossible. Yet, if all presuppositions indicate subjectivity on the part of interpretation, does this also means that the statement "All presuppositions are subjective" is itself subjective? If it is subjective, there's no case for saying that such subjectivism is the way things really are. If it is not, it violates its own principle by positing an objective understanding of reality. As Dr. Howe explains, most influential hermeneuticians, including Saussure, Heidegger, and Gadamer, fall prey to such self-defeating claims. Thus, Dr. Howe argues that not only is objectivity not impossible; it is actually unavoidable. Differences of opinion as to an interpretation do not mean differences of realities about which those differences purport.

Second, it is assumed by most philosophers that the way we know things is by some type of representationalism. In epistemology, one of the fundamental questions concerns the relationship between the knower and the known. A representational scheme, as Dr. Howe outlines, states that what we know in the mind is a copy of what is outside of it. For since the mind is immaterial and reality outside the mind is material, there is no way to get the material into the immaterial, and so what resides in the mind is a copy of what is outside the mind. As Thomas Nagel writes, it is impossible to paint a picture of all of reality because the painter cannot paint himself painting reality. Hence, the impossible view from nowhere seems inevitable, and objectivity is apparently lost. However, what if it is the case that Descartes had it wrong and that reality is actually more than merely bodies extended in space? What if reality is more like the Aristotelian/Thomistic description of form ("whatness") and matter ("thisness")? Then knowledge is not justified true belief (plus something else, say some) but a dynamic union of knower to the known. In the moderate realist epistemology for which Dr. Howe argues, the mind actively acquires the form of the object through his senses; the mind does not passively receive sense data as modern empiricists say. As Dr. Howe explains in detail, there are various powers of the mind in cognition that account for the experience we all have of knowing things. There is sense cognition in which we acquire and intellectual cognition in which we analyze and learn. By knowing, the knower becomes the thing he knows in an intentional way, and so the thing in the mind is what is in reality (only intentionally, not materially). Considered in this way, representationalism and all its foibles are discarded, and knowledge once again becomes not only a possibility but an unavoidable reality, especially in the absence of any empirical skepticism.

In the end, Dr. Howe does something desperately needed but, until now, unaddressed: critique the post-Kantian philosophy that has crippled contemporary Christian thinking in more ways than we realize - especially in how we interpret our Bibles. But for what he takes away in his critique he gives back in far greater proportion: a solid moderate realist philosophy from which we may base not only an objective hermeneutic, but also every other intellectual discipline we may encounter.

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