March 3, 2008

Hermeneutics, the Quiz

Friends over at Merging Lanes posted a link to Scot McKnight's Hermeneutics quiz. It's worth taking, if just for the things it makes you think about as you go through the questions. Questions like:

The Bible’s words are:
A. Inerrant on everything.
B. Inerrant on matters of faith and practice.
C. Not defined by inerrancy or errancy, which are modernistic categories.

The commands in the Old Testament to destroy a village, including women and children, are:
A. Justifiable judgment against sinful, pagan, immoral peoples.
B. God’s ways in the days of the Judges (etc.): they are primitive words but people’s understanding as divine words for that day.
C. A barbaric form of war in a primitive society, and I wish they weren’t in the Bible.

The command of Jesus to wash feet is:
A. To be taken literally, despite near universal neglect in the church.
B. A first century form of serving others, to be practiced today in other ways.
C. An ancient custom with no real implication for our world.

Once you've finished, it generates a score somewhere between 20 and 100 and groups you in one of three categories ranging from Conservative (20-52) to Moderate (53-65) to Progressive (66 or higher). I'm not thrilled with the labels as they generate a lot of preconceived emotion even before you look at the test, and I honestly wasn't thrilled with the questions, either. There was usually an answer I felt comfortable with, but I saw several questions where the more conservative response was probably ill-phrased, in my opinion.

Overall, though, I think it produces some interesting conversation about how we look at scripture and how that affects the rest of our theology and practice. I scored a 73 on the quiz, which puts me just over the Progressive line. I fell there because I think our interactions with the Bible have to be carefully compared to their context, both then and now, as well as to what we know about God through our communities and through our own experience. But to answer some of the questions as definitively as I would have needed to in order to score higher on the Progressive scale would have made me equally fundamentalist and extreme by saying things like "The commands against homosexuality are definitely not applicable today" or "Injunctions against women found in the New Testament are completely irrelevant to today's theology". Those are too final and conclusive for me on issues like those.

The most important part of my approach to scripture (and to church in general) is the phrase, "I might be wrong." To me, that's the only thing that can keep me in community with all of my brothers and sisters, regardless of our differences in belief, style, practice, "hermeneutics", etc.

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