Hermeneutics is defined by Random House as:
- the science of interpretation, esp. of the Scriptures.
- the branch of theology that deals with the principles of Biblical exegesis.
A few years ago I was introduced to the term ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ in the book, Copious Hosting, by Jeanie Weis Block:
“Therefore, scriptural exegesis of the disability passages begins with a “hermeneutic of suspicion,” asking a question not unlike the question posed by many feminist theologians when they inquire if Scripture, with its decidedly patriarchal bias, can be relevant and meaningful to women. Likewise, disability advocates must ask difficult questions such as: Do the Scriptures have an ‘ableist’ bias that ultimately oppresses people with disabilities?” p. 101
While it was buried 100 pages into the book, statements like that just jump off the page. The arrogance that we have greater wisdom than the Scriptures is stunning – but very, very common. And not new.
C.S. Lewis wrote a series of essays addressing the idea that we get to judge God and Scriptures rather than see ourselves as standing before God deserving his judgment. He titled it, God in the Dock. And he wrote those essays between 1940 and 1963.
We can keep going back into history. I actually thought of the above quote from Weis Block’s book while reading Luke 6:
On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. Luke 6:6-7
The scribes and the Pharisees wanted to SEE A MIRACLE so they could accuse him. Even observable evidence of omnipotent authority over creation only fueled their certainty that Jesus couldn’t be who he said he was. Talk about a hermeneutic of suspicion!
God does not fit into easy categories because only God is free and righteous and just and holy – all in infinite proportions. When he says he creates some who are disabled, he is speaking and acting out of his infinite depths of knowledge and righteousness, not our time-centered, sin-filled, finite perspective.
A ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ of the Scriptures? No, never. Please, when certain passages are hard to understand, take the opportunity to dig deeper rather than become suspicious of the author and his authority to do whatever he wills with his creation. For his glory and our good.