Secular and Theological Interpretation of Scripture

Interesting quote from IVP Academics The Future of Biblical Interpretation

Nowadays competent Western interpreters from ‘any religion or none’ share methods that were largely pioneered by believers but do not presuppose religious belief. That can be welcomed as making possible a conversation between believers and nonbelievers about the Bible. However, nonreligious methods may foster nonreligious attitudes and perspectives…Most biblical interpretation has until recently been theological interpretation, done by believers with religious aims and presuppositions. Where these are absent or can no longer be taken for granted theologians need to be explicit about the character of their work and religious communities it serves. They may well admire nontheological scholarship on the Bible, but its independence of religious suppositions may reduce its religious value.

Robert C. Morgan

There is a lot in this one quote, thoughts? Do you agree or disagree?

7 thoughts on “Secular and Theological Interpretation of Scripture

  1. So … basically, if you’re going to interpret with non-religious methods, “don’t forget where you came from/ don’t forget where your foundation lies”?
    Could you give examples of those methods of which he speaks?


    1. That sounds simpler than the way he put. I found the article as whole really interesting, but also confusing at times. The best I can tell the methods he is talking about is historical criticism broadly speaking. Think he is pushing for more of an implicit form of theological interpretation.


      1. I know it sounds simpler than the way he put, but it is actually, I think, quite succinct. We can’t forget the theological nature and origin of the writings, even though there may be a beneficial non-religious interpretation. Thus, “Don’t forget where you came from.”
        I could understand such concerns about such interpretive methods as historical criticism. Now, I do believe that they do have some benefit, like revealing a certain facet about a certain author (e.g. Paul and his possible Stoic ties).
        (On that particular note: What do you think about Paul’s Stoic interpreters (Bultmann, Mahlerbe, Stowers, and more recently Engberg-Pedersen (I’ve no doubt you’ve probably read some of their stuff, if not all of it; Engberg-Pedersen seems entirely sold out on trying to prove it, and I’m having a hard time swallowing what he’s saying, even from the get-go.))?)


        1. Don’t get me wrong I meant simpler as a compliment. If he would have just said it that way would have made more sense!

          I agree with you about engberg-pedersen. Stowers I find a little better but still struggle to agree. Haven’t read enough of mahlerbe to comment. And bultmann, well I’ll just say bultmann is bultmann.

          We can talk about someday on campus and should ask Brookins if really interested he knows a lot more about this than I do.


  2. I know. I’m taking Brookins for Greek (he’s doing a little class on “The Body Metaphor in Paul”), and I’m reading Engberg-Pedersen for his class. He seems a bit too “naturalistic” for me, as in, he sounds like he wants to throw out all of theological reading from the get go, which kind of gets me a bit concerned…


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