13 October 2014

archery and interpreting scripture

Just a point to preface this post, this is a reaction to one of my seminary classes. It's roughly written, it is not meant to be a finely tuned final draft. Rather this is a rant about a topic about which I am passionate, one that I needed to express.

In psychology, we talk about psychological research needing to have validity and reliability. I often use the analogy of archery to help explain these terms. To keep things simple, for lack of my own knowledge about archery, when shooting you have a target and an arrow. Let’s say that the target is the question that you are trying to answer and that the arrow is the tests or process that you use to answer that question.
Reliability is being able to shoot in the same area again and again; validity is being able to hit the bulls-eye of the target.

Differences between validity and reliability
For psychological research, studies need to be both reliable and valid however if a study does not have validity, then it has no value. Without validity, a study has not reached it goal. It is said that a picture says a thousand words, so hopefully this picture helps to explain the differences, and importance, of reliability and validity. The main takeaway is this: It doesn’t matter if you can hit the same spot every time if you’re not actually hitting the target.

Yet in my biblical interpretation class, we keep discussing the arrow even after acknowledging that the particular arrow which we are discussing will always be found lacking in validity. It seems to me that each time we have acknowledged that historical criticism is lacking in reaching what we understand to be the ends, the goals, of Scripture.
If Scripture was formed by the faith community through the work of the Holy Spirit for the appointed end of sanctification of the believers, then why do we keep probing a means of interpretation that simply has no interest in that end?

We discuss the characteristics of the arrow of historical criticism like Voldemort obsesses about Harry Potter in his quest for power. We question the arrow and its companion arrows that are made similarly. We ask how the arrow was formed and why it was formed and how to make similar arrows.

But there are other arrows that have entirely different creation processes to choose!

In fact, there is one in particular that I am eager to explore and discuss because it seems to do a lot better job of hitting the target, of reading Scripture with the appointed ends for sanctification. There is an arrow that seems to at least have the potential of hitting the target yet it simply sits inactive, silent. What if we pick up some other arrows and start shooting them? What if we were to find a new favorite brand of arrows to shoot? What if? Maybe if we open our eyes to the possibility of other arrows, maybe, just maybe our aim will improve.

So, let’s lay down this flawed, crooked, and warped arrow that we know will not reach our target and open our eyes to the possibility of other arrows. Because we won’t ever reach our target of being shaped, guided, and formed day by day into the likeness of Christ if we can’t first lay down the arrow of historical criticism.