Conclusion: Can We Be Objective?
Many writers have pointed out that total objectivity in interpretation is impossible, and we acknowledge this. However, total objectivity is not our goal. As Christians who have an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we are not striving for a neutral, objective viewpoint. We do not seek to be secular historians as we study the text (they are not objective either). We seek to hear what God has to say to us. Thus we approach the text through faith and in the Spirit (see unit 8). So we want objectivity within the framework of evangelical foundational beliefs like those listed above. This type of objectivity has to do with preventing ourpreunderstanding, our culture, our familiarity, or our laziness from obscuring the meaning that God has intended for us in the text.
This task also can be challenging; however, it is to this task that Grasping God’s Word is devoted. Every unit in this course deals with some aspect of correcting our preunderstanding or neutralizing the negative cultural influences on our understanding. The observation tools we learned in earlier will help us to be objective. The method of reading carefully that was presented in those units requires that we submit our preunderstanding to the text while we scrutinize the text for details. Merely discovering the details of the text often corrects many of our preunderstandings and cultural misconstruals.
We must also stress context because a proper study of context helps to clarify the actual meaning and corrects our preconceived ones. Next, we will deal with meaning and its origin. It will keep us searching to discover God’s meaning from the text rather than trying to create novel understanding (overstanding?) from within our prideful selves. Finally, at the end of the course, we will deal with the different specific types of literature found in the Bible. A clear understanding of different literary types will assist us greatly in avoiding the projection of contemporary literary/cultural norms onto the ancient literary texts of the Bible.
This unit has merely delineated the problems we as readers bring to the text—the cultural baggage and preunderstandings that we must deal with as pretext issues. The solution to the problem lies within the Interpretive Journey. We hope you find the trip rewarding. We certainly think it is worth all of the hard work and effort that you must exert as you travel through the following units!