Monday, June 10, 2013

AUGUSTINE AND THEOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION- Jersey Flight

…every one who boasts that he, through divine illumination, understands the obscurities of Scripture, though not instructed in any rules of interpretation, at the same time believes, and rightly believes, that this power is not his own, in the sense of originating with himself, but is the gift of God. For so he seeks God's glory, not his own. But reading and understanding, as he does, without the aid of any human interpreter, why does he himself undertake to interpret for others? Why does he not rather send them direct to God, that they too may learn by the inward teaching of the Spirit without the help of man?” Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, from Preface paragraph 8.

The fact that one should ever have to deal with such an objection is absurd (not to mention Augustine’s own philosophy is absurd, being as it is, a form of irrational mysticism). The idea of "the power which is not our own” (and yet really is our own) is a way of creating authority for one’s view; a way of establishing a special case for one’s “God-given interpretation of reality" (above all non God-given interpretations of reality). Behold the context of true blasphemy!

But Augustine does produce one important observation: a hermeneutics of mysticism and intuition falls flat in that it would mean the justification of all mysticism and all intuition. Hence, “…why does he undertake to interpret for others? Why does he not rather send them direct to God?” Answer: because it would deprive him, the theologian, of his [presumed] exclusive authority. The final clause reads: “only my experience and interpretation of God (and his revelation) can be true!”

The act of theological interpretation is not a matter of truth (not a desire for truth!), but a matter of propositional power (a desire to rid one’s self of one’s positional insignificance), and in most cases, this comes in the form of puritanical, archaic moralism. [We use the word "weak," following Nietzsche, to reference those who seek power by means of theological proposition.]

Down with those who blaspheme against the utility of reason in order to declare the supremacy of their mysticism!