Irresponsible Heralds of Gospel

Vincent Kundukulam

Scripture is the soul of theology. It is by understanding how Scripture had been successively reinterpreted in the history of the Church that God’s revelation is to be heard anew and received today. If so, the responsible theologians have to be constantly on guard regarding how the various exegetical methods are operating in the interpretation of the word of God. The historical – critical method recovers what the original writer actually wanted to communicate in his particular historical situation. It locates the sense of the passages in the source behind the text namely author, audience and the context. The structural analysts uncovers the linguistic, narrative and mythical structures of the text under consideration. The literary criticism perceives Bible as a divinely-given piece of literature.

Today some of the retreat preachers neglect exegetical and hermeneutical researches. They don’t examine if their interpretations are in consistency with the universal salvific message of Christ. They claim to have direct rapport with Holy Spirit. In fact, in order to know the mind of the Spirit they need to give appropriate importance to the intent of the author, context of the community and cultural matrix of the listeners, through whom God’s Spirit functions. The truth of the text under consideration depends largely upon the experience of the prophet who wrote it. Equally is important to know the needs of the particular community to which he addressed the word of God. Those who interpret the Scripture and the dogmas have to pay attention also to the world of meanings and aspirations of their listeners through which God speaks today.

Regrettably, the negligence of certain preachers and neo-theologians towards the exegetical studies has brought home the old-fashioned defensive style in theology. Dogmatism had been often one of the attitudes of Christian thinkers towards challenges that came from both inside and outside the Church. The apologists sought to provide rational justification for their standpoints without examining whether anything positive could exist in the teachings of the contestants. A bunch of revivalists follow this anti-gospel approach in preaching the word of God.

The apologetically made dogmatism is deficient for many reasons. Firstly it overlooks the critical and prophetic functions of theology. Its disproportionate attention to the hierarchy risks leading theology to authoritarianism. Secondly, dogmatism cut theology off from its original sources. Bible is referred by the dogmatists not to grasp what it says about faith but to justify the propositions which had been hitherto established by philosophers. Thirdly the dogmatic approach ends up in theological sterility because it is explained neither in the context of its origin nor in the context where it is to be explained. It simply ignores the historical dimension of faith, which is a response to God’s revelation in the given context. Scripture has an unwritten future which has to be discovered throughout history by bringing out contemporary meaning to the word of God and this is possible only through the theological anthropological methodology obviously followed by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council.

Theologizing is a responsible ministry in the Church. The carriers of the word of God can have their own spiritual intuitions about the revealed texts but they must respect the ethics of hermeneutics. What created problem was often the vested interests the agents had in interpreting the biblical texts. The impact of misusing Bible is detrimental to Christianity because it affects the way of being Church in the world. As observes Roger Lundin and others, question of ethics is germane to the very process of hermeneutics for its validity and correctness.

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