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?

Share This