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Wednesday, October 05, 2005
the american hermaneutic
Dan Lowe sent me the piece below excerpted from September 12 New Yorker magazine.

In the closing 6 paragraphs, the article gets especially interesting. Gladwell reports that the unbelievable success of "the purpose driven life" caused Rick to do some "soul-searching."

Rick continues...
"God led me to Psalm 72, which is Solomon's prayer for more influence. it sounds pretty selfish. Solomon is already the wisest and wealthiest man in the world. He's the king of Israel at the apex of its glory. And in that psalm he says, 'God, I want you to make me more powerful and influential.' It looks selfish until he says, 'So that the King may support the widow and orphan, care for the poor, defend the defenseless, speak up for the immigrant, the foreigner, be a friend to those in prison.' Out of that Psalm, God said to me that the purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence. That changed my life. I had to Repent. I said, I'm sorry, widows and orphans have not been on my radar.....I started reading through scripture. I said, How did i miss the two thousand verses on the poor into he Bible? So i said, I will use whatever affluence and influence that you give me to help those who are marginalized."

"widows and orphans have not been on my radar" ???? it's the american hermaneutic isn't it? takes me back to my thoughts about Jesus vs. Satan in the wilderness temptation narratives. The real battle ground is for how one reads the Bible. any thoughts?
posted by John David Walt | at 10/05/2005 06:55:00 PM



Blogger Michael said...

I've often wondered whether too many of us read the Scripture with a sense of self-purpose and not necessarily with an eye toward how we can be light to others. In my ministry with small, rural churches, there is - dare I say - too much emphasis on how to get to heaven.

8:16 AM EDT  
Blogger Omar said...

if this is the case, then i suppose most of the american hermaneutic sides with the enemy, who read scripture as a means for power, prestige and wealth.

"just give me what i want, and no one gets hurt."

1:08 PM EDT  
Anonymous Dan Lowe said...

Omar, aren't power, prestige, and wealth the American Trinity? Try that one on for size...anyway, Michael, how are you ministering to that issue of heavy focus upon "heaven?" I'd be interested to know where you're thinking about going with it. Email me at my school address. Peace. Dan Lowe

11:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


11:01 AM EDT  
Anonymous matt maher said...

Divine love is "other centered".
- God, because He is Trinity, is perfectly other centered. The Father loves the Son. The Son loves the Father, and that "spiration of love" is the Holy Spirit.
- When we are initiated into that love, through Baptism and acceptance of Christ, we are brought into an other-centered life.
It's not that God loves Himself in our sense- He does; but it's because He is three persons. It's because He has His son, which is Him, to love.

- Michael, i think you're dead on with that assesment of how most read scripture. We (some staff at my church) were preparing for Sunday Mass last Monday (for two weeks from now); and we got into this whole discussion of how do we hear the Word proclaimed? Do we hear it as God speaking to us about Him or about us; is it God speaking about the community? Maybe it's both. But it's both as a means to an end - that we may be "Other centered". That our LOVE would be other-centered. That is completely opposite of the american hermenutic, which is turning faith into a series of self-help books; where devotionals written by people still alive carry more weight than men who were taught by the Apostles; it's making muscians theologians; and it's making worship look more like an Earthly festival, and less like a Heavenly banquet

5:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

I fear that far too often we exegete the Scriptures mining for truth instead of allowing the Scriptures to mine and exegete our lives and thus transform us through the raw power of the word.

To be sure, the hermaneutical framework - or lack thereof for that matter - will truly affect our reading of the text and its implications for our lives.

I fear that we are in danger of spending far too much time and energy finding our purpose in God's kingdom instead of discovering God's purposes for, in, and through God's people.

8:51 PM EDT  
Blogger Michael said...

Matt and Eric have both said it so well. "Other centered" and "God's purpose" rather than our own. I certainly do not down-play one's desire to our final destination. However, even as I try to push service outside of self through my sermons, I am as guilty as the next sometimes when I, perhaps secretly, wonder what's in it for me. I also see a danger in that kind of thinking, and maybe it's why I push so hard to move my congregation and myself outside our comfort zones.

10:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Michel said...


I lived this reality in Rome... I'm still processing it, but it is very true that even the most dedicated religious are more dedicated to form than content.


3:01 PM EDT  

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