In the Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, there are three interesting paragraphs regarding “Charismatic Hermeneutics”:
“Since a primary charismatic concern is spiritual renewal within traditional denominations, many charismatics interpret Scripture within their own theological tradition. However, they do bring to the subject of hermeneutics a belief in the personal relevance of Scriptures concerning the Spirit-filled life, especially those that focus on charisms (e.g., 1 Cor. 12:8–10). Charismatics also see the paradigmatic value of biblical narratives, though they reject some of the ways Pentecostals have interpreted those narratives. Many do not accept the interpretation of Spirit baptism (this term is also disputed) as a subsequent work of grace or “speaking in tongues” as its necessary evidence.” (p. 108)
Charismatics differ from Pentecostals in that they are generally part of existing denominations that are not necessarily connected to the “charismatic” experience. So their hermeneutical method generally follows along the same lines of the tradition they are already a part of. I suppose this means that the hermeneutical commitments from within their denomination’s tradition serve to guide their interpretation of Scripture, though their application of Scripture is probably more open to being influenced by the experience.
Charismatics also differ with Classic Pentecostals in how they interpret (and again, apply) the biblical narratives, especially, I’m thinking, the Old Testament narratives.
“Charismatic experience has led some to view Scripture in a new way. Many charismatics report a renewed focus on Christ, which has led to a fresh commitment to the authority of the Bible as God’s word about Christ. A deeper appreciation of the Spirit’s role in interpretation has also been cited as a contribution of the charismatic renewal to more traditional hermeneutical approaches. According to Richard Quebedeaux, Scripture is understood only through the Holy Spirit, who makes known the “living, ‘dynamic’ word of God,” to which Scripture is subservient.” (ibid.)
I’m not really sure how I feel about this statement. Does the author believe that Charismatics generally believe that the Holy Spirit helps those who have had the “charismatic” experience interpret Scripture better than non-charismatics? Or does the author believe that Charismatics interpret Scripture better because of their experience? The way that the article is written has me confused.
I do not believe people need to be labeled “charismatic” or even to be Continuationists in order to properly interpret Scripture. Such a statement seems ridiculous to me; yet I also want to suggest that what often passes as the “Charismatic” experience is really just a deeper sense of intimacy with the Holy Spirit, so it’s certainly possible that there may be an increased awareness of the Spirit’s work in the hermeneutical task.
My point is that all true Christians are indwelt with the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9), despite whether they identify themselves as Charismatic or not. Thus, the Holy Spirit can enable all believers to properly interpret Scripture, in my opinion.
I guess I’m just a bit cautious to embrace this statement without some nuance. But I’m really excited about the emphasis on a renewal to the authority of Scripture and I have never met a Charismatic that was not committed to living under the authority of God’s Word.
“Charismatic scholars such as Paul Hinnebusch stress the recovery of a personal meaning in Scripture among charismatics, many of whom prayerfully engage in a “directive use of Scripture,” believing that the Bible can give specific answers to personal situations. Mark Stibbe adds that charismatics also rely on “a community of shared experience” in interpreting and applying Scripture to their lives. Drawing on the work of thinkers like Ricoeur, they argue that Scripture can have multiple meanings under the leading of the Spirit, though these meanings may be valid only to the person reading and may not supersede doctrine or good exegesis. Some scholars, though, want to distinguish between the usage of Scripture and its interpretation. Others such as Clark Pinnock strive to maintain a balance between biblical authority, doctrinal tradition, and the freedom of the Spirit, a balance not always found among other charismatics.” (ibid.)
I’d be interested to know what those following the Secondary Illuminations series think about this statement. Is this the way that Charismatics understand “secondary” revelations (insights)? As the quote shows, there seems to be diversity in how hermeneutics and experience are related.
I really, really, REALLY have trouble with the concept of “multiple meanings” because it smacks against everything know and believe about hermeneutics, biblical interpretation. As I’ve stated in some of the comments to the Secondary Illuminations series, I do not think communicating those experiences or ideas are best done using the term “multiple meanings.” I’d rather hear talk about layers, typology, or personal application…
What do you think?
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.
I’d love to know how many of my fellow charismatics know who Ricoeur is. 😉 I hadn’t heard that name drop as a justification of charismatic thought before, but then I’m out of the scholarly fold. It just struck me as sort of funny for some reason, I guess b/c of the degree of separation from the “trenches.”
I do think that my more “charismatic” engagement w/ scripture has influenced my commitment to its authority substantially b/c I’ve seen in it such an amazing cohesion of artistry. I don’t think standard evangelical hermeneutical tools alone would have granted me nearly that much appreciation.
I’ll be interested to see what comfort level you do or do not have w/ my thoughts as I continue that series.
Is that “may be valid” as in “can only be valid” to the person reading, or is it “might only be valid” to that person but may also be valid to the whole church, I wonder?
I share a preference for “layers” over “multiple meanings” but might still not conceive of the difference quite as you do.
The way the author is using “meanings” here to apply it to personal prophetic revelation does not seem to fall into your typical concern over multiple exegetical meanings. If he meant more possibilities by it, then it might be a good word choice for his intent (if a disturbing one to you). If he just meant personal applications not inherent to the text, then I don’t think “meanings” was a good word choice on his part, as “meanings” tend to imply something inherent to the text whether or not seen before.
Even if I tend to think there are sometimes messages in the text and inherent to it apart from the main “meaning,” I do think there is a main “meaning” which is usually recognizable and always granted primacy. In the series I have called the main meaning the interpretation and the other messages illuminations as a way of trying to help mark that distinction. But at the same time I’d readily refer to all the hermeneutics as “interpretive” techniques. I just agree that it is important to try to mark the distinction. For now I have chosen to do so through “interpretation” and “secondary illumination.” I’d also favor “the meaning” and “layers.”
Great post Luke, and a subject that interests me. I think John 16:13 best informs a Charismatic hermeneutic (when the Spirit of truth is come he will guide you into all truth). Understanding this to mean the Spirit will bring clarity and application to a text. Of course, this is not in a vacuum, but within the confines of understanding author-audience and meaning.
I have heard cessationists use this passage to refer to the inspiration of the NT limiting its meaning to the apostles only, but I am not convinced.
The phrase above by Richard Quebedeaux, “Scripture is understood only through the Holy Spirit, who makes known the “living, ‘dynamic’ word of God,” to which Scripture is subservient.” Needs qualifying, on its own this sounds mystic and I disagree (perhaps there was more). Would it not be better to think of the Spirit working to reveal contemporary application of the unchanging message of the Scriptures.
I actually prefer the language of E. D. Hirsch concerning distinguishing between “meaning” and “significance”. The meaning is singular while the significance may be multiple. They are not unattached, but they offer varying perspectives on the text…its original intent as well as its functional use. I do know that Ricoeur has been influential in Charismatic and Pentecostal hermeneutics (including providing some influence upon my own thinking).
When you say double meaning – do you mean the same scripture saying two different things or more so on the application side. I believe that there was only one intent from the writer standpoint but as the reader I have can apply the text in more ways than one, if needed.
Secondary illumination is just that, SECONDARY! and I believe it can be valuable as I see underlying messages in the text, but the primary must be PRIMARY especially when it comes to doctrine. Hermenuetics and proper exegesis must have the lead.
In my personal experience renewal gave me a deeper love for the scriptures and brought clarity, but thats not to say this is the same for everyone and not to say if you’re not charismatic you wont have a clear deep appreciation for scripture since as you rightly sais all believer have the Holy Spirit dwelling on the inside
Yeah, my intent wasn’t that someone w/o charismatic hermeneutics would have less of a conviction of the authority of Scripture. I just meant it as a personal testimony that the reality of the canon as God’s gift has personally been engraved on my heart via God talking to me in personal application and secondary illuminations. With the way He geared me personally, charismatic hermeneutics particularly made Scripture blow my mind. And I suspect I might be more shaken by some of the modern biblical criticism w/o it. Not everyone is geared that way.