Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Hermeneutics of Life

Every day we try to make sense of life. And if not just our own lives, then we (especially pastors) try to help others make sense of theirs. It's simply one of the great human (and pastoral) endeavors! It doesn't matter what it is we're dealing with, or what we're trying to sift through, because the fact remains, we're always "dealing" and "sifting." Why? Because we never have all the data! It's just impossible! In other words, we're forced to attempt to make sense of our lives (or the lives of others) with various little bits and pieces of the story. New information is always surfacing; new data is always coming to the fore. Sometimes I think it's a kin to painting by numbers or a jigsaw puzzle--that all we can do is take an educated guess at what the picture is as we put color on the canvas or put another piece in the puzzle.

In Grant R. Osborne's book, The Hermeneutical Spiral, "Osborne contends that hermeneutics is a spiral from text to context--a movement between the horizon of the text and the horizon of the reader that spirals nearer and nearer toward the intended meaning of the text and its significance for today."

Making sense of life's situations is much the same as Osborne's thesis (especially in pastoral counseling). We move between the bits of data we receive and how we understand them, spiraling ever closer to "the truth"--what's really going on; what someone truly needs.

The "hermeneutics of life" can also be compared to viewing a Lichtenstein painting (since a Lichenstein is nothing other than a collection of dots: To view it properly you'll have to move between getting very close to the canvas and backing off it. If you're too close to the canvas, all you'll notice are large dots that make absolutely no sense; if your too far off, you'll never notice that the painting is a collection of dots. The movement between to two is essential!

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