Book Review: Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics

Gospel Centered Hermeneutics:
foundations and principles of evangelical biblical interpretation

by Graeme Goldsworthy
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For many the term hermeneutics is either intimidating of unknown. This, however, does not have to be the case. The fact of the matter is that anyone who has ever read anything (including this book review) has undertaken the task of hermeneutics. To be more specific anyone who has ever read the bible and interpreted its meaning has involved himself in the task of hermeneutics. For those who are not familiar with the field of biblical hermeneutics I think that the best way to describe it is by it ultimate goal. In Gospel Centered Hermeneutics Graeme Goldsworthy defines this ultimate goal as “a right understanding of what God says to us in his word.” To be a little bit more specific Goldsworthy adds this,

All of our cognition involves interpretation of what is seen, heard, or felt. In reading the Bible we are interpreting the words and sentences according to our whole life’s experience of learning what such words can mean and how their meaning can be altered or qualified by the wider context of sentence, paragraph and corpus in which they occur. The complexity of this process is usually in the background of our thinking and almost totally unreflected upon by most readers or hearers. Only when an apparent obscurity or clash of ideas emerges does the concept of interpretation surface.

The Gospel Centered Hermeneutics by Goldworthy is the latest book out on the subject of biblical hermeneutics, and it is a good. Goldsworthy clearly outlines the history of hermeneutics, as well as the current trends within the field of study. The thesis behind this book is that the way we think about Scripture, as well as the rest of this world, must be centered on the Cross of Jesus. For Goldsworthy the bible and all of history finds its meaning in the cross. In this book Goldsworthy considers the “foundations and presuppositions of evangelical belief;” overviews “important hermeneutic developments from the sub-apostolic age to the present;” and evaluates “ways and means of reconstructing a truly evangelical, gospel-centered hermeneutics.”

As we undertake this task of understanding God’s revealed word within a gospel-centered hermeneutic we must, as Goldsworthy points out, acknowledge the presuppositions (assumptions) that must be held about Scripture:

1) sender/author: the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ;
 2) the message: Scripture as the reliable word of God;
 3) the receiver: human beings created in the image of God.

“These assumptions or presuppositions are bound up with one another. If we accept that the Bible is God’s word, then he is the sender by whatever human medium. The receivers can be differentiated as original receivers- human authors used by God to speak and write His word; modern receivers- people of God/believers; unbelievers; and inconsistent believers who accept some presuppositions of unbelievers.”

The alternative presupposition of the unbelievers is “the supremacy of humanity and the autonomy of human reason.” Ultimately it comes down to a decision of ultimate authority. Either God with His revealed word is ultimate, or man with his reasoning is ultimate. In order to have a hermeneutic that is “Gospel Centered” (Evangelical) one must submit to God as the ultimate authority.

As I worked my way through this book I was constantly pressed not only on what I believe but why I believe it. Goldsworthy does an amazing job of cutting straight to the foundations of theological positions, particularly theological heresy. In his chapter on Catholic hermeneutics Goldsworthy laid out as clearly as I have ever seen the worldly presuppositions and interpretive paradigms that the Catholic church has adopted.

I am not sure that this book would be a good choice for all of the readers of COCT. However, for those of you who are familiar with the study of hermeneutics (or if you would like to be) this is a must read!

 You can find this book on the web HERE.

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