Hermeneutics of suspicion and affirmation on SDA issues

by koot van wyk Seoul South Korea 18 December 2008

It is claimed that two kinds of believers are earnestly and honestly looking at the same issue and see two different paradygms. Actually, the history of interpretation of the Christian Church through the centuries indicated that there are two sets of interpretational models: a) hermeneutics of suspicion and b) hermeneutics of affirmation.

Hermeneutics of suspicion is defined as:

a. A sidestepping of the foregrounding and attempts to search in backgrounding situations.

b. A suspicion that everything is 'window dressing' and should be sidestepped to "something lurking in the dark" that will "expose" the fallacy.

c. That any corrective action by the church, person, academic, adminstrator, pastor or whoever during early church controversies were attempts that were undertaken under the umbrella of conspiracy with the purpose of victimizing an individual or individuals.

d. That the doctrinal positions contested in the past at such crossroads were actually a themometer of real crisis that shows continuity to present crises.

e. That the doctrinal position which survived officially during a past crossroad experience is actually in error and that the victim or victims at those crossroads actually held the "good", "better" or "best" view at the time.

f. Hermeneutics of suspicion attacked always the concept of inspiration, either of Ellen White or of the Bible or both.

g. The paradigm of Hermeneutics of suspicion tries to focus on the human aspects of the prophet whether in the Bible or Ellen White in order to softpad the brain for surprise deviations that they may suggest under the name of "progressive thinking" or "progressive Adventism" or "developmental Adventism".

h. Historical Criticism as method is actually done with the wheels of the hermeneutics of suspicion and cannot be without rationalism.

i. Whoever suspects, is critical and whoever is critical cries conspiracy and whoever cries conspiracy attempts to sidestep the given.

j. Hermeneutics of suspicion has taken many disguises in the history of interpretation and one can list some: rationalists like Voltaire, Bardt etc. Enlightment scholars like De Wette, Wellhaussen, Modernists like Rudolph Bultmann, Martin Hegel, and the list can go on.

k. They all have one thing in common: anthropocentrism (see Wolfardt Pannenberg in Basic Questions in Theology vol. I [1970]: 39).

l. They all are focussing strongly on humanism as opposed to transcedentalism.

m. They wish to look at the human factor rather than the role and evidence of faith.

n. Hermeneutics of suspicion is trying to diminish or shrink the importance "attached" to events [as they claim the mainstream has made it].

o. Scholars with a Hermeneutics of suspicion claims that their approach is a revival or renewal or progressive in thought.

p. The interpreters with a hermeneutics of suspicion claims that they are in the frontiers of making the past work better in the future or present.

q. These interpreters tries to separate what the text meant from what it means.

s. The interpreters with the hermeneutics of suspicion always tries to make heroes of what they term to be "victims of heretical witch hunting".

t. They have a grudge or general disposition with the Establishment of the Advent Movement and the reasons may differ: moral, ethical, administrative peergroup infighting, church politics, ongoing sins, secret sins not stopped or given up, psychological makeup, ecumenical "crossbreeding", sometimes a cultural Adventist salaried by the Adventist church but not a spiritual Adventist at heart (according to John Hurst History of Rationalism 1864: 134, the destructive father of Rationalism Semler [1750] indicate his two personalities of a mixing of private piety and public academic criticism).

u. To find continuity of arguments posed by progressive Adventism in Spectrum of 1979 with arguments at the Bible Conference of 1919 or issues of Brinsmead-Ford and Paxton with 1888 is not a surprise: the two streams of hermeneutics of suspicion and hermeneutics of affirmation existed from Eden and will run continued side by side until the New Eden.

v. The protagonist of the hermeneutics of suspicion tends to entertain rather than inspire.

w. The entertainment scenario of these activists, can be seen in their cynic remarks, short oneliners to make the audience either giggle or laugh, and by wit, humor and rhetoric they hope to shift the gears from the hermeneutics of affirmation to that of suspicion.

x. The Rationalists as described at length by John Hurst in his History of Rationalism (1864) expose these rhetorical and cynical wit of these scholars regarding similar matters of the progressive Adventists, inspiration of the Word of God, miracles, factuality of the scriptures, "updating tendencies", separation of what it meant to what it means, old unreal stories as opposed to current data or real facts.

Hermeneutics of Suspicion is the direct opposite of Hermeneutics of Affirmation

The modern SDA church as a given is the highest developed theology for our times. No other denomination has this rich, well developed, well harmonized approach as Seventh Day Adventists.

The continuation that this researcher has found between SDA interpretation and the history of interpretation through the ages whether Christian or Jewish [see the online articles in www.egw.org, suggest that any development that is prone to come in future are to lead forward or upward or sideways under the umbrella of the Hermeneutics of Affirmation and not the Hermeneutics of Suspicion.

Diagram of Hermeneutics in SDAb.jpg