Some in the church have thought that they can safely use the tools of the “historical-critical method” (source, form, redaction, etc. criticism) without the skeptical presuppositions (rejecting as unhistorical anything, such as miracles, that cannot be established by means such as analogy or correlation) associated with them. Others reject this approach, claiming that the presuppositions are inherent in the tools. Here are some points of response, pulling together observations contained in my previous post:
- Given that the Bible does give some information regarding its human authorship, a Christian who accepts the whole Bible as the Word of God can legitimately analyze this data regarding sources, forms, and editing/redaction, etc. much the same way a historical-critic would analyze it.
- However, labeling this a “critical” approach is problematic because “critical” in this context commonly means “higher-critical,” a procedure with the goal of editing the biblical text. The research of a historical-critic may significantly overlap with that of an investigator who believes in the whole Bible, but their aims are different, just as similar technological procedures may be used for very different ends.
- Also problematic is the fact that “critical” = “higher-critical”—employing its tools to go beyond solid biblical evidence.
- Therefore, rather than attempting to convert and baptize the term “critical,” which is inevitably problematic or at least misleading, it is best to seek another label for our exegetical approach. Some have suggested alternatives to “historical-critical method,” such as “historical-grammatical method,” but the emphasis of this hermeneutical label seems to be narrower than the comprehensive range of disciplines, contexts, and backgrounds (including archaeology) relevant to the highest quality wholistic exegesis. “Historical-contextual method” or “wholistic (or “comprehensive”) historical method” would appear more fitting.
Attempts to alter the Bible’s message and authority by treating it as merely human through higher-critical literary approaches, which I have briefly (and therefore inadequately) described, are well known. But their bosom-buddy relationships to some other currently popular manifestations of what could more broadly be called “higher-critical thinking”—such as political correctness or science over the Bible—are less explored. We will get into these in the following posts.
- Why would it be attractive to a scholar in the church to refer to his/her approach as a form of “the historical-critical method”?
- Can you come up with a better term for the exegetical method employed by a scholar who believes that the whole Bible is the Word of God (accepting 2 Tim 3:16-17)?
In Part IV of this series, Roy Gane examines the effects of adjusting ones interpretation of Scripture to harmonize with science.