The cry “That’s just your interpretation!” is something that is echoed over and over again in discussions about theology and Scripture today. In our postmodern culture, both inside and outside of the church, it has become acceptable to believe that each person is free to decide what the text of Scripture means for them personally without regard for what the author himself intended to say. It is assumed that the meaning of the text is determined by the reader’s response to the text alone. As part of my study of the Psalms, I have been reading “The Psalms as Christian worship: A Historical Commentary” by Waltke and Houston and was both surprised (and encouraged) by their unrestrained condemnation of postmodern reader/response theories. I wish more Christian leaders would speak as boldly as they have done here. Postmodern reader/response theories are at the heart of the translation controversy that has involved many well known bible translation organizations and it is good to see well respected Christian leaders and scholars step up and address this issue.
Here are a couple of quotes from their commentary:
“Let me segue here. The allegorical approach of Christian commentators cannot be used to defend postmodern interpretation, which gives priority to the reader’s response to the text, not the author’s intention. To be sure, both the “allegorizers” and the postmoderns impose meanings on a text not intended by the author, but postmoderns basterdize the Christian commentator’s allegorical method. The church’s commentators allegorized the text, but they were orthodox, pastoral, and above all Christ-centered, whereas postmoderns are, for the most part, apostate, anthropocentric, and self-serving, and so deconstruct the author’s intention to foist their own political and/or social agenda on Scripture to validate their elitism, while accusing the Biblical writers of doing the same thing.”
“The psalms also are and effective “read” for the emotionally disturbed Christians, more enthusiastic than wise about their faith. With the loss of transcendence today, it suggests we need the Psalmist once more, to lead us through the confusions of postmodernism, to consider how lacking in Biblical integrity is much that purports to be ‘Christian.’”