Though I do not personally know Malcolm Yarnell, I am told by several of my friends he is a fine man, and it is evident to me that he is one highly intelligent individual. He has a doctorate from Oxford, and we are blessed to have him in the Southern Baptist Convention as an employee of Southwestern Theological Seminary.
That which I appreciate most about Dr. Yarnell is that he has not been afraid to mix it up a little on the blogs. He has given some very articulate responses to various posts, and though I find myself disagreeing with his views in a few areas, I truly believe we are blessed as a people to be able to dialogue with him. His contributions have been beneficial to us all, and his courage surpasses many of his collegues who choose to remain silent in the face of opposition.
The other day on Marty Duren's blog, Dr. Yarnell took to task those who criticized his paper entitled The Baptist Renaissance at Southwestern. Dr. Yarnell said, "Since I am the author of the piece under critique, perhaps I should be the one to determine what the article means and doesn’t mean. Otherwise, you have indeed bought into a postmodern method of reading, where the reader himself determines the meaning. Perhaps a few comments may help you see, Marty, where you and some of your correspondents have misread what I said."
Dr. Yarnell gives a very interesting description of the way some people interpret his writing. Though he does not specifically speak of the interpretation of Scripture, the phrase he uses ('postmodern' interpretation) is usually associated with one's view of the Bible and Christianity, not the writings of a seminary professor. His description is the first of two views people have when interpreting the Bible:
(1). The view where the reader determines the meaning of a written text rather than the author.
Malcolm calls this method 'postmodern.' I come nowhere close to identifying myself with postmodern Christianity. In fact, those who know me recognize I cherish the old, fundamentals of the faith, including substitionary atonement, justification by grace, salvation by faith, the bodily resurrection of Christ, etc . . .
But I also realize that when it comes to my interpretation of the sacred text I must simply give to people my opinion. There are some things that seem very, very clear to me from the word of God. They are clear through a simple reading of the text, and the unanimity of various evangelicals throughout history gives evidence to the clear meaning of the text.
But there are other passages in God's Word that are not as clear. In fact, I would say that there are many places in Scipture where doctrine can be interpreted in several different ways. Again, this is not true regarding the fundamentals of the faith, but these secondary and tertiary doctrines over which evangelicals disagree are not essential to salvation, or even Baptist identity. Historically, evangelicals and Baptists have disagreed in their various interpretations of these tertiary issues. It is in these areas of doctrinal disagreements that Dr. Yarnell's definition of 'postmodern interpretation' is not necessarily a bad thing. Why?
The alternative to a Christian coming humbly to a passage of Scripture and saying, 'This is just my opinion, I could be wrong is the second view of interpretation for which I will give the definition and then ask you to give it a name.
(2) The view of interpreting the Bible where the person doing the interpreting speaks as if he is the actual author of it.
What do we call this method?
In His Grace,
P.S. Go over and welcome Missouri Pastor Tom Willoughby to the blog world.