Friday, December 07, 2007

Book Thoughts: Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics

I have written a review of Graeme Goldsworthy's Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006) for www.sharperiron.org that should probably appear on their website sometime next year. I will not post the full review here until it's published there, but I did want to share a few brief thoughts.
The book has several strengths. It is strong in focusing on Christ as the hermeneutical key of Scripture (Luke 24:27, 44), and even reality. "The principles of hermeneutics are to be found within the Scriptures themselves," the author writes (22). These matters are often not considered enough in standard hermeneutics texts, and we certainly need to pay attention to these areas. In addition, proper hermeneutics are part of our sanctification. A good overview detailing the eclipse of the Gospel in hermeneutics is given. The Gospel can be obscured by alien influences and wrong presuppositions in our hermeneutics, so we should be careful to know what our foundation is.
However, the book is not a handbook on hermeneutics for the average person. (The title could mislead some to assume it is a comprehensive text on hermeneutics.) It would not be a good choice for a stand-alone guide to interpreting the Bible. It is helpful in thinking through some theory, but the reader will not find much in the way of hands-on use of that theory (although the book does have some practical helps in it, such as a chart of the macro-typology of the Bible). One won't find a comprehensive help for genres here, and for a work on the big picture of Scripture, the author's According to Plan or Vaughan Roberts' God's Big Picture would serve better. The reader should also be aware of the author's view on literal interpretation. He does not see support for a literal fulfillment of the promises of restoration of Israel and even asserts that this was an error in those to whom Jesus spoke (170). Related to this is Goldsworthy's amillennial eschatology (224-225, cf. 82). (Vaughan Roberts shares this viewpoint, as well as thinking that the interpretation of the days in Genesis as literal twenty-four hour days or long ages is inconsequential, a point I must take issue with!) Despite these caveats, the book is still a worthwhile read, but I would not recommend it for everyone. The trained pastor or scholar will be challenged and benefit from Goldsworthy's ideas. Whether or not one agrees with everything, this is a useful book for thinking through hermeneutical theory. Certainly we need to come to grips with a Scriptural philosophy of hermeneutics and a way to rightly see the relation of the Bible's unity to its diversity. However, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics would not make a great hermeneutics textbook by itself. For other opinions on the book, check out:

1 comment:

Alex S. Leung said...

Thanks for this preview brother! I have it on my shelf, as it was on sale from WTS... and I saw at Southern's Lifeway as a text for Hermeneutics(?). Looking forward to your full review and hopefully, soon reading it myself:)