Word Made Flesh, Flesh Made Word: Beyond the Protestant Interpretation Problem
White, Lauren Smelser
This dissertation delineates an interlocking set of hermeneutic challenges that have historically beset Protestant biblical interpretation, particularly in Protestant communities that have maintained close allegiance to the tenets of Martin Luther’s “sola Scriptura” teaching. These believers are consistently at a loss in view of the subjectivity of interpretation and the Protestant communion’s tendency to fracture along lines of interpretive disagreement. This project seeks to chart the complex theological and philosophical commitments undergirding prominent episodes in the unfolding of this “Protestant interpretation problem,” examining its historical instantiations from Reformation-era to contemporary theological options. The dissertation then explores alternative hermeneutic paradigms tied to two modern contemplative approaches to revelation, proposing that these paradigms offer promising resources, though not ready solutions, for moving beyond the Protestant interpretation problem. In overview of the various options surveyed, the project closes by endorsing a view of Christoform revelation as a Spirit-guided process that incorporates human interpreters’ improvisational responses to divine self-communication (rather than working towards purging them away from some “objective core” of revelation) in sacramental fashion. The practical implication is that of placing a higher premium on—and, thus, giving more careful attention to cultivating—the multiple intelligences at play in the discursive community’s improvisational formulations of Scripture’s Christoform content and implications, understanding the ongoing struggle towards meaning as itself a graced bodily site of transfiguration into Sonship.