I thought this represented a particularly pertinent critique of theologians who go beyond Scripture in their constructive theologizing; ironically, the quote is in discussion of Hegel’s critique of rationalist theology and biblical exegesis. Hegel had certain folk in mind, in his critique; but I think, in general is still calls us to take some pause in our own theologizing. If we are going to be truly ‘Reformed’ Christian theologians and biblical exegetes, we will need to take our ‘material’ from that disclosed and given shape by Scripture itself; of course, the next question is how do we avoid collapsing our theologies into Scriptural exegesis (eisogesis) V. reading them out of it (exegesis)? This is something that Hegel is not naive to; note Hodgson’s recounting of Hegel,
Hegel attends in the 1824 lectures to both the exegesis and dogmatics of theological rationalism, as represented by J. F. Röhr, J. A. L. Wegscheider, and especially H. E. G. Paulus. Rational exegesis professes only to promote an understanding of the Word of God contained in scripture (1:122-3). But Hegel points out that where interpretation goes beyond a mere explanation of words to a discussion of the contents and an elucidation of the sense, it introduces its own thoughts and prejudices and is more than mere exegesis. Thus ‘the most sharply opposed views are exegetically demonstrated by theologians on the basis of scripture, and in this way so-called holy scripture has been made into a wax nose’, twisted into one shape or another (1:123). Theologians naively believe they are exposing scripture when in fact they are merely displaying their own presuppositions and interests. [Peter C. Hodgson, Hegel & Christian Theology: A Reading of the Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, 60.]
Is there a genuinely Christian way then to read Scripture? Or are we doomed to always and only reading our a priori (prior) theological commitments into Scripture? I would suggest that we follow what the Patristic Theologians (Church Fathers) called the Regula Fidei (the Rule of Faith). The ‘rule of faith’ should be what Jesus identified in his own understanding of Scripture, as found in John 5.39:
39 You studythe Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, …
This comes back to the points I have been making about canon & Scripture in some previous posts; viz. that Jesus understood himself as the reality of Scripture (both Old Testament and the Apostolic giving of the New Testament). This is how we can avoid the problem that Hegel rightly was wary of in his own day. The reason I said this was pertinent, is because I would suggest that most American Evangelical exegesis today (if it is done at all!) suffers from the same kind of rationalism that Hegel was facing in his own heyday of rationalism. Evangelicals, in general, have inherited this mantle of interpreting scripture through, ironically, the Fundamentalist rejection of so called ‘Liberal’ rationalist exegesis. Fundamentalists tried to counter rational exegesis by way of out-rationalizing their ‘Liberal’ counterparts; this is part of the American Evangelical inheritance from its founding fathers in American Fundamentalism.
*A repost, originally posted here.