ONLINE – The International Lutheran Council has made available a new resource reviewing a recent Lutheran World Federation (LWF) study document on hermeneutics.
The document in question, “You have the Words of Eternal Life”: Transformative Readings of the Gospel of John from a Lutheran Perspective (Documentation 57/2012)—henceforth Transformative Readings—, is edited by Rev. Dr. Kenneth Mtata, the LWF’s Study Secretary for Lutheran Theology and Practice in its Department for Theology and Public Witness. In a preface to the work, LWF General Secretary Martin Junge notes that, “in 2011, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) embarked on a hermeneutics program in order to nurture [the] desire to ‘read’ shared sacred texts and contexts.” “It is vital to take seriously the witness of past interpretations,” he writes, “and to relate them to contemporary ones.” To that end, Transformative Readings represents “the result of the LWF’s first, international hermeneutics consultation.”
The International Lutheran Council is pleased to provide a new resource reviewing Transformative Readings, prepared by Rev. Dr. Christopher Wright Mitchell (editor of Concordia Publishing House’s Concordia Commentary series and author of a commentary on The Song of Songs in the same series). While noting the strengths of particular essays in the collection, Dr. Mitchell’s assessment of the book as a whole is a word of caution: “The book… discourages the pursuit of traditional hermeneutics,” he writes, “namely, the importance of understanding the biblical text more fully so as to be able to proclaim its message more faithfully.” Instead, he suggests, “various essays attack the idea that the biblical text is truth, or even that its original message can be discerned by readers today.”
“Authors clearly urge churches not to place the highest priority on preaching the biblical teachings about the person and work of Christ for our salvation,” he continues. “Instead, they urge churches to be open to novel interpretations of the Word which the Spirit allegedly is inspiring in the Church today.” “The result,” he says, “is an open-ended view of the Word of God as something flexible and always changing or in need of change.”
Dr. Mitchell’s review is now available in the Resources section of the International Lutheran Council’s website.