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Alexander Jensen: Theological Hermeneutics

Moreover, postmodern interpretations like post-structuralism and deconstruction demand critical hermeneutics because a work may have multiple texts and readings respectively. Even in a closed-sign system like literary or narrative criticism there is still the need to interpret critically because of differences in the linguistic system. Finally, post-colonial readings are a critique against colonial assumptions which tend to distort discourse with the view that Western culture is superior.

Having surveyed Jensen’s argument for a critical hermeneutic, one major critique of Theological Hermeneutics is that a Pentecostal or charismatic hermeneutic was not included in the survey. Jensen only mentioned that “Pentecostal and charismatic traditions are different in that they allow for an element of immediate ecstatic experience” (213). This assessment is obviously true, but it does not justify the exclusion of Pentecostal and charismatic traditions in such a historic survey. Even though Pentecostal and charismatic interpretations are relatively new, so are the postmodern understandings which Jensen elaborates. And even though the output of Pentecostal and charismatic texts may be relatively smaller than postmodern texts, there have been enough articles written in regards to Pentecostal hermeneutics to justify its inclusion in his survey.1

This exclusion of Pentecostal and charismatic interpretations could be because of the same impression of pre-modern hermeneutic as not being critical (61). But Pentecostal and charismatic interpretations are also critical in that they present a balanced hermeneutic that is sensitive to the continuing inspiration/illumination of texts and readers by the Holy Spirit. Pentecostal and charismatic interpretations also employ critical methodologies like narrative and textual criticism, along with criticism from the community of interpreters. Thus, Jensen is right that hermeneutical theology must be a critical theology due to the multiplicity of understandings that can be obtained from texts. Such critical theology, however, should not be exclusive of the Spirit, especially if epistemology, hermeneutics, interpretation, and method are characterized by a pneumatological logic.2

In spite of Jensen’s exclusion of Pentecostal and charismatic hermeneutics, it is conclusive that Theological Hermeneutics is an excellent survey of theological and hermeneutical thought from antiquity to the present postmodern context. I highly recommend this book to all theology students.

Reviewed by Fitzroy Willis


1 Cf., for example, McLean, Mark. “Toward a Pentecostal Hermeneutic.” Pneuma 6 (1984): 35-56. Moore, Rickie. “Canon and Charisma in the Book of Deuteronomy.” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 1 (1992): 75-92. Thomas, John Christopher. “Women, Pentecostals and the Bible: An Experiment in Pentecostal Hermeneutics.” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 5 (1994): 41-56.

2 Amos Yong, Spirit-Word-Community: Theological Hermeneutics in Trinitarian Perspective (Burlington: Ashgate, 2002), 108.

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Category: In Depth, Spring 2009

About the Author: Fitzroy J. Willis, M.S. (SUNY Health Science Center, Brooklyn), M. A. (Regent University), Ph.D. (Regent University), is an Adjunct Professor of Theology, Biblical Studies, and Philosophy at Ohio Christian University. He has also worked as an R&D Developmental Engineer and a Research Consultant with Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Willis is an experienced teacher, tutor, researcher, scholar, and certified life coach, who is committed to advancing learning and developmental, theological, and biblical scholarship with passion, integrity, and excellence, in service of the church, the academy, and all of society.

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