For the Bride: Inevitable Vantage Points

Last week, I introduced the theme of hermeneutics–an indispensable topic if we are to understand the basis of our contemporary debate regarding human sexuality.. What hermeneutics rightly tells us is that the issue is not about who is “biblical,” but rather how a particular group is interpreting Scripture. That’s hermeneutics.

The first insight we receive from hermeneutics is that there are multiple vantage points which Christians have used over the centuries in creating their version of the Christian message.  Richard Hays does an excellent job in describing this in chapters 11-13 in his book, ‘The Moral Vision of the New Testament.’ He provides examples of the multiple modes and models that create differing views as to the meaning of biblical passages. This is inevitable, but often overlooked (or denied) when people are viewed as right/wrong–or–biblical/unbiblical.

A look at Church history further reveals the diversity. Protestantism illustrates the point. Lutherans view the Gospel from the vantage point of the Cross and justification by faith.  Reformed Christians use the sovereignty of God as their interpretive angle.  My tradition, Wesleyan theology, leads with grace that’s expressed as an order of salvation.

Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians similarly have hermeneutical angles.  These are often expressed through various religious orders, and they may sometimes be connected to the countries and cultures where Christians live.  In other words, hermeneutics are multi-faceted means for determining truth.  There is no one-size-fits-all vantage point.

I had an experience in the Louvre Museum in Paris that illustrates what I am saying.  As I approached the Venus de Milo, I was struck by actually being in the presence of this ancient masterpiece.  But I will also never forget seeing the artists who literally encircled the statue.  They had set up their easles and were capturing the masterpiece from their vantage point–and doing so in their preferred medium.

Every angle provided the artist with a unique view, a different mix of light and shadow.  Moreover, an artist using charcoal was able to depict the statue one way, while an artist painting in water color was presenting another rendition.  And a literalist style was not the same as those drawing or painting more abstractly.  But every artist from every angle was looking at the same masterpiece!

This is hermeneutics.  It is setting up our easle in a particular place, gazing at the Masterpiece, and capturing it in our preferred medium.  In the coming weeks I will show you the painting which has emerged from my vantage point.

(If you do not have my book ‘For the Sake of the Bride’ on which these weekly writings are based, here is the Amazon link for it:

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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