Thursday, December 20, 2007
The Hoover Hermeneutic
When I took Hermeneutics at SWBTS, I didn't learn about this one. I see it at work, however, throughout Christendom. The Hoover Hermeneutic approaches texts with the sole objective of sucking all of the meaning out of a text in a manner reminiscent of a Hoover vacuum cleaner, leaving God's Word as a vacuum—an empty expanse. This approach to interpretation is far more interested in making sure that everybody knows what the Bible does not say than in making any attempt to demonstrate what the Bible does say. I believe that every part of the Bible is given in order to say something to us. Once upon a time, theologians employed the Hoover Hermeneutic to try to defend their doctrines from so-called "difficult passages." Are you Arminian? Employ the Hoover Hermeneutic on John 6:41-51. Do you believe in Limited Atonement? Pull out the Hoover for 1 John 2:2 and other similar passages. Do you believe in perseverance (as I do)? Vacuum out Hebrews 6:1-8. Those were the predilections of a former generation, from which we have expanded the practice. Today we apply the Hoover Hermeneutic to ethical passages. Are you a homosexual? Hoover out all of the passages in the Bible dealing with homosexuality. Want to sue another believer? First Corinthians is no match for the Hoover Hermeneutic. Divorcing? Well, you get the idea. And we retain the penchant of our fathers for using it to justify our theological novelties as well (those passages don't really mean that women shouldn't be pastors). The Hoover Hermeneutic has become a great little dodge enabling people to affirm the Bible as absolutely true while still holding onto the relativism of the present age. "The Bible is absolutely true and would speak with absolute authority to this issue if it actually said anything substantive about this issue, but since it doesn't (and I have a few great hermeneutical tricks up my sleeve to show you why it really doesn't say what it seems to say), let each person have liberty to believe and practice however he wishes." To employ yet another H-word, the Hoover Hermeneutic is the Heisenberg principle of nouveau theology. I find that there are several passages where I myself am tempted to employ this hermeneutic. I'm inaugurating a series of posts dealing with these passages/topics one-by-one. This is a part of my effort to rid myself of the Hoover Hermeneutic by gaining wisdom from all of you as to the meaning of various troublesome passages. I'll post my first installment in a few hours.