Sacred Practices: Integral Hermeneutic

Sacred Practices: Integral Hermeneutic

This week’s practice is a little different from most. It isn’t an established practice or intervention. But rather, after having spent a couple months thinking through what an integral approach to Scripture reading might look like, I felt I needed to take these ideas for a few test drives. And since it had been a while since I did a Scripture-reading practice, it seemed like a great opportunity to do this as my sacred practice this week.

Background

I’ve written more than enough about this topic in the past couple weeks. See the following posts for more information:

What is it?

Here’s the rub. I’d thought a lot about what kinds of ideas would go into an integral hermeneutic, but I didn’t have an easy, user-friendly way of approaching it. So in a lot of ways, this week was about figuring out the instructions rather than following them. What emerged was something I call “Four Es and a Challenge.” The holistic, multiperspectival approach can be seen in the first three Es: Experience (1st person), Encounter (2nd person), and Explore (3rd person, questions of modern scholarship). Each of these then feeds into the Challenge, which is the postmodern set of questions around cultural situatedness, privilege and marginalization. This then feeds into the fourth E, Expand, which asks the questions about growth and complexity that are at the core of what I believe must come after postmodernism.

integralhermeneuticalgorithm

My Week

I really enjoyed seeing this model emerge this week in my daily Scripture readings. At various points in the week, I used my integral considerations to approach readings from different parts and genres of Scripture. While some of the questions and considerations lent themselves better to some passages than others, I always found it at least helpful to have them all in mind. What made this a particularly interesting week to be doing this practice — not at all planned — is that I was preaching on Sunday and so was spending a lot of time in the Scriptures.

Reflection

While I definitely found the approach to Scripture reading that emerged for me this week to be helpful, two aspects of it really stood out. The first is the multi-perspectival approach, represented by the first three Es (Experience, Encounter, and Explore). I found there’s a lot of life in the interaction between my experience, the text I’m encountering, and the scholarship. In a way, this manifests a longstanding concern of mine: When I was in seminary I was very distraught — to the point of having a crisis of faith — about how spiritually empty theology and biblical studies were and simultaneously how theological vapid popular works of spirituality were. This approach, which holds my own experience and encounter with the text in one hand, and the scholarly questions in the other hand, is a way of ensuring heart and head are always working together.

This kind of perspective-taking is also helpful practice for everyday life. It involves transcending and including my own experience and subculture to acknowledge what is good, true, and beautiful in the experiences, values, and wisdom of others.

The second aspect that stood out as particularly helpful was the set of guiding questions that emerged in the post about embracing complexity. I think these seemed helpful because they kept the focus on interpreting the Scriptures in a way that was transformative rather than simply informational.

Anyway, thanks for bearing with me this week as I explored this Scripture-reading approach in this Sacred Practices space. It was very helpful for me, and I hope it was at least a bit interesting for you.

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