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What Is "Process Hermeneutics"?

by David J. Lull

David J. Lull is assistant professor of New Testament at Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Connecticut 06510. The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 189-201, Vol. 13, Number 3, Fall, 1983. Process Studies is published quarterly by the Center for Process Studies, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.

A response to David Kelsey s review of the two essay collections on Biblical interpretation from a process perspective must begin with a word of appreciation for this labor of love. Coming as it does from one who considers himself an outsider and an amateur in regard to process thought, his essay nevertheless, or precisely for that reason, provides those of us working on "process hermeneutics" with illuminating analysis and criticism. By responding to my colleague’s review of our work, I wish to clarify further what "process hermeneutics is or intends to be, a question arising from Kelsey’s review essay in part, at least, because of the "hermeneutical pluralism" represented in the collection of essays published under this banner.1

I. Exegetical Inclusiveness

"Hermeneutics," as a field of study, concerns theories of interpretation, the process of understanding, and meaning. Occasionally, as in structuralism, distinctively new methods are developed from a particular hermeneutical perspective. As a rule, however, existing tools of exegesis are used from different hermeneutical perspectives. Unlike structuralism, "process hermeneutics" has not developed distinctively "process" exegetical tools; and I do not foresee its doing so.

What makes a hermeneutic distinctive are the combinations, emphases, and goals toward which publicly available exegetical methods are used and justified from a particular perspective. Most of the current hermeneutical options tend toward reduction or exclusion in the act of interpretation, as when they utilize either structuralist or "historical-critical" methods, focus on either sociological data or "ideas," and locate "meaning" in the internal "world" of the text, or in the external reality to which it refers, or in the author’s intention, or iii the reader’s response (see OTIPP 1). Further reduction or exclusion results when "authorial intention" and "reader response" are understood as acts either of cognition or of imagination alone (see RHPT). At one level every hermeneutic is exclusive in practice, as when "process hermeneutics" centers attention on the metaphysical claims of Biblical texts about the reality of God (e.g., see MEH).2 But "process hermeneutics" refuses to be reductionist in its theory of interpretation, understanding, and meaning; hence, its inclusive hospitality to "any and all disciplined methods of interpretation," as Kelsey puts it (compare, e.g., RPIPS, especially 106-15). Its methodological inclusiveness is protected from the charges of being ad hoc because of its basis in a theory of perception-as-interpretation.

II. Whitehead’s Theory of Perception

"Process hermeneutics" has developed a distinctive theory of interpretation, understanding, and meaning from Whitehead’s general view of perception -- in particular his notions of "symbolic reference and of "propositions" (see WH and APPH). The former notion, which Whitehead provides in giving an account of the cognitive dimension of perception as it moves from experience to thought to language (see S and PR 168-83), enables "process hermeneutics" to make a contribution to the discussion of communication theory, linguistic analysis, and semiotics (see RRR, RHPT, and WM). Here the emphasis of "process hermeneutics would be on speech and understanding in relation to knowledge of the external reality to which they refer. It would be more correct to speak of texts as "straightforward descriptions" of an event or state of affairs, to use Kelsey’s phrase, if one has in mind this notion, "symbolic reference," in Whitehead’s theory of perception, rather than "propositions," as Kelsey does. But "straightforward description" is a loaded phrase, one "process hermeneutics" would avoid. While the process of "symbolic reference" identifies the percepta of experience with external reality, and thereby is firmly rooted in the objective world, there is room for error. Experience, thought, and language, therefore, always have a cognitive dimension, which is subject to judgments of truth and falsity. This complex process allows for error and cannot be presumed to lead to "straightforward description."

Both "symbolic reference" and "propositional feelings" have receptive and imaginative aspects; but, whereas Whitehead emphasized the former, cognitive aspect in his discussion of "symbolic reference," as a rebuttal to Hume and Kant, he emphasized the latter, creative aspect in his discussion of "propositions," an emphasis needed to counter "the interest in logic, dominating over-intellectualized philosophers," among whom "aesthetic delight" is eclipsed by "judgment" (cf. PR 184-86 and WH 33) In "symbolic reference" a dim, but indirect, mode of perception ("causal efficacy") is combined with a clear, but indirect, mode of perception ("presentational immediacy"), which produces a sense of the external world. This sense, at least initially, is impartial to its truth or falsity; but attention in any event is on the external world precisely in its pastness or actuality. In "propositional feelings," on the other hand (cf. PR 184-207), the same initial indifference to truth or falsity remains, but now attention focuses on a future or potential world as well as a past, actual one. A set of entities are envisioned as qualified by potentialities that may differ from those that actually qualified them; such envisionment is a potentiality for novelty. Transformation of "the way things are," for better or worse, depends on entertaining such proposals about "how things could be." These proposals are felt as dreadful or hopeful, entertaining or dull, attractive or repulsive. Propositional feelings, thus, have subjective forms; but these forms are only one aspect of propositional feelings. Perception is a complex process of interpretation of "data from the real world" as well as of "proposals" about the past, actual world germane to its possible future states. And among the "proposals" entertained in a given moment there are those whose logical subjects include the percipient subject; but these are not the only "proposals" there are. One can see a vacant lot, for example, and imagine a house on it; this "proposal" is clothed with a valuative feeling, but it is not itself a "form of subjectivity," as Kelsey suggests.

When his theory of perception is applied to literary interpretation, as one field of experience or perception, texts themselves, Biblical or otherwise, are conceived as "proposals," that is, donations of propositions as "lures for feeling." This view holds that in interpretation a cluster of propositions is entertained that includes some of those entertained by the text’s author but also some novel propositions entertained by the interpreter in the course of reading a text. The clusters entertained in the creation of a text and in its interpretation overlap but are inevitably different, in spite or precisely because of the interpreter’s effort at a disciplined reading of the text. This difference is due to differences of perspectives, differences that go beyond those between modern scientific perspectives and pre-scientific ones, although it includes these. For one thing, the text itself is a datum for the interpreter in a way it was not, and could not have been, for its author. That is one way the actual worlds of author and reader differ and is indicative of the many ways their worlds have changed, changes which create new propositions (cf. PR 188). For another, no text exhausts that which it seeks to express. The imprecision of language -- its inability to express exactly any cluster of propositions and the possibility of error in "symbolic reference" -- affects both authorial expression and interpretation. Moreover, the freight of expression, whether that of author or interpreter, includes more than a penumbra of bare propositions. For perception, or experience in general, always contains feelings of valuation;3 and these will vary from moment to moment, from author to interpreter, and from interpreter to interpreter. Janzen’s paraphrase of Whitehead applies as much to the interpreter as to the author of a text: "we experience more than we know; and we know more than we can think; and we think more than we can say; and language therefore lags behind the intuitions of immediate experience" (OTPP 492).

A "process hermeneutic," however, does not give in to "objectivist" hermeneutics, which claims that texts and interpretation are "true descriptions of reality," nor to "subjectivist" hermeneutics, which refuses to know anything but the interpreter’s own created "world." Objective data and imagination are components of both the author’s understanding and that of the interpreter. The author’s understanding is no less a proposal (the creative aspect) about something than the interpreter’s; but both, one no less than the other, also presume precisely to be proposals about some objective thing (the receptive aspect).

Part of the hermeneutical problem is what to do about the inevitable differences between the author’s and the interpreter’s proposals about the same thing (see, e.g., SCHTE, especially 40f.). Some hermeneutical perspectives would choose to eliminate the differences either by making the interpreter’s proposal conform to the author’s (that is the way of dogmatic or Biblicist orthodoxy) or by making the author’s proposal conform to the interpreter’s (that is the way of a modernizing exegesis). Others eliminate the force of the difference, but not the difference itself, by making various distinctions, for example, between the historical "accidents" and the eternal "essence" (as in Harnack), or between the familiar present worldview, which is normative, and the strange, alien past one, which is not (as in J. Weiss and Schweitzer), or between what a text "says" and what it "means" (as in Bultmann, whose approach attempts to resolve the tensions involved in the former two enterprises). The post-Bultmannian new hermeneutic" can be seen as a quite different approach to the problem of the differences between the proposals of authors and interpreters, but as one which nevertheless continues along similar lines; that is, it understands the text not as a descriptive proposal but as a constructive one, which bestows and creates a "world," participation into which the reader is invited by the text, wherein the reader’s own "world" undergoes transformation (as in Gadamer, followed by Funk and Crossan, for example; or as in Ricoeur).

A "process hermeneutic," informed by Whitehead’s theory of perception, is sympathetic to Bultmann’s existentialist interpretation and to the emphasis on imagination in the "new hermeneutic." But unlike either of these hermeneutical perspectives, a "process hermeneutic" does not reduce a text’s meaning to "forms of subjectivity," as Kelsey suggests. In interpretation, the reader entertains propositions whose logical subjects include entities in the reader’s (and author’s) past world; only as such do they become components of the interpreter’s "forms of subjectivity"; so there is always an element of objective reference.

A proposition becomes part of a "form of subjectivity" when the reader admits it as a datum within the process of self-creation by assigning to it a valuative feeling; but that does not mean it is an "injunction." Although the attachment of a feeling of promise, for good or ill, to a proposition in the context of an entity’s self-creation might suggest that the "logical force" of propositions is an ethical one, it could just as easily be thought of as an aesthetic one. However, I am also suspicious of the use of "logical force" here. Whitehead’s aversion to the dominance of logic in the interpretation of propositions is part of my suspicion. In asking about the "logical force" of propositions, however, Kelsey is not interested in the customary importance logicians place on the cognitive value of propositions, as his term "injunction" indicates. But is "logical force" the right category for the function of propositions in Whitehead’s theory of perception? If it is, it should be applied, not to "propositions," which have no "force," logical or otherwise, in themselves, but to "propositional feelings," in which some "force" has been added to the proposition by the percipient subject; but that "force," what Whitehead calls the "subjective form" of the propositional feeling, varies from one self-creating entity to another. No single term, such as "injunction," describes the "force" propositions may have, whether at the microscopic level of the process of concrescence or at the macroscopic level of Biblical interpretation.

A "process hermeneutic," like Bultmannian and post-Bultmannian hermeneutics, to continue the comparison, regards Biblical texts, precisely in their function as proposed ways of understanding (aspects of) objective reality, as important for the reader’s "forms of subjectivity." The truth of a text’s proposal, however, cannot be taken for granted; neither should a hermeneutic, process or otherwise, be expected to state in advance whether it holds the proposals of Biblical texts to be true (although some hermeneutical perspectives do just that); that can be done only as each text is discussed. The "interest" of a text’s proposal, however, is not exhausted by its truth or falsity. A proposition can be interesting, even if false, if the germaneness of its complex predicative pattern rises above triviality for the logical subjects in its locus (cf. PB 186 and 188). Of course, as Whitehead observes, truth adds to interest (cf. AI 244).4

Take as an example the presentation of Paul in the book of Acts as one who remains a faithful observer of the law of Moses from the Damascus road to Rome, even to the point of seeing to the circumcision of the half-gentile Timothy (16:1-3) and the observance of the Nazirite rites (21:17-26). These texts propose that the reader think of Paul, precisely in his capacity as the Christian evangelist to gentiles par excellence, as at the same time the exemplary Pharisaic Jew. The question whether the author’s proposed picture of Paul is true has resisted solution;5 but the interest of such a proposal by no means awaits this solution. The reflection it prompts about Christianity’s roots in Judaism has importance independent of the truth of the proposal. For the author’s proposed picture of Paul (although on the face of it a "straightforward description") serves to invite approval of the author’s conviction that continuity between Christianity and Israel’s Scriptural religion is germane to the church’s identity and self-creation. Even if this claimed, or hoped-for, continuity should prove historically to have been lacking in earliest Christianity, at least in the form proposed in Acts’ picture of Paul, the import of the proposal might be the increased influence it would give to Israel’s Scriptural religion in shaping future forms of’ Christianity, so that continuity between them might become more pronounced. Whether in fact this was the effect of the author’s proposal about Paul is a historical question; but at issue in this question is the success or failure of the proposal in early Christianity, as well as its truth or falsity, but not its interest for us. Of course, if it were to be the, whether it had been successful or not as a proposal, that would increase the interest of the proposal; and, as Whitehead goes on to observe following his well-known statement about the relationship between the interest and truth of a proposition (AI 244),

action in accordance with the emotional lure of a proposition is more apt to be successful if the proposition be true. And apart from action, the contemplation of truth has an interest of its own. But, after all this explanation and qualification, it remains the that the importance of a proposition lies in its interest.

III. Theological Norms

The emphasis in "process hermeneutics" on texts as proposals led Kelsey to wonder whether the cluster of "propositions" (understood in the distinctively Whiteheadian sense) in a Biblical text are what in Scripture are normative for theology. Although it would be possible to defend such a view, which may be implied by some of the essays in these volumes on Biblical interpretation from a process perspective, I prefer not to do so for two reasons. First of all, the propositions in question are not simply properties of a text; text and interpretation participate in the creation of a given proposition, so that it is as much "in interpretation" as it is "in Scripture." One should say, as Kelsey sometimes does, that for "process hermeneutics" propositions "in Scripture-as-interpreted" function normatively in making theological proposals. Insofar, then, as one regards "propositions" to be normative for theology, what is normative is not just "in Scripture" but in Scripture-and-interpretation.

The second problem with this view is that the term "proposition" itself does not set material limits to what belongs to its general class. It therefore neither states nor implies the criterion/criteria by which a proposal can be judged appropriate to Christian theology. For appropriateness entails a judgment about a certain text-as-interpreted, within which "propositions reside; it is not a judgment made in the interpretation of a text.6 In other words, although "process hermeneutics" proposes that theology attend to "propositions" in Scripture-as-interpreted, this proposal is impartial, at least initially, to any proposition; that is, it is materially indeterminate.7

How, then, are the limits of what is materially appropriate for Christian theology to be determined from the perspective of "process hermeneutics"? To deal adequately with this question one should look beyond our focus on Whitehead’s notion of "propositions," or his theory of perception in general, to the emphasis on God’s work of "creative transformation" in Cobb’s christology (CPA) as well as in my pneumatology (SCTHE and SG). This material norm for the way Biblical texts play a role in theology can be stated either in process categories ("creative transformation") or in Biblical terms (creation, redemption, justification, emancipation, or sanctification).8 To elaborate this norm fully would be to spell out a systematic theology. The "epic" narratives of the Bible (to name the obvious ones: Creation, Abraham, Exodus, Jesus’ passion-resurrection) illustrate the thrust of what is meant in this process perspective by God’s work of "creative transformation."

This material norm for what is appropriate to Christian theology also provides guidance to how process theology, from this perspective, attends to Scripture. For in "process hermeneutics as much attention is given to the way Scripture contributes toward "creative transformation in belief and in existence as is given to what "creative transformation" is. This way of attending to Scripture in theology follows a process theory of texts as proposals of how events, or reality, might be viewed, alongside of which alternative proposals might be set. This diversity may be creatively transformed into a "contrast," which preserves the essential meaning of both author and interpreter in a novel whole. If so, the work of God’s Spirit will have been effective (cf. SCTHE).

This way of attending to Scripture can be said to be as much "Biblical" as process. "Process hermeneutics," at this point, is sympathetic to J. A. Sanders’ theory of "canonical criticism," according to which "canonical" texts are always "contemporized" traditions (see TC ix-xx and AL). Examples of how this process of adaptation works in the New Testament can be taken from the Gospels and from the Epistles.

At one stage in early Christian debates about the legitimacy of Christian missionary efforts among gentiles, an earlier tradition, which held that the Christian message was meant only for Jews, and which was attributed to Jesus himself as its founder and representative, was opposed to a later view, defending the offer of the Christian message to gentiles, which was voiced by a character who was both gentile and female (Matthew 15:21-28 par. Mark 7:24-30). The newly emerging perspective involves a contrast; priority, historically and normatively, was given to the form of Christianity among and shaped by sons and daughters of Israel ("Let the children first be fed . . ."; Mark 7:27) but in such a way that the mission of the Christian church was the discipling of "all the nations" (cf. Mark 13:10, 14:9, and Matthew 8:19-20).9 Here is an orientation to tradition10 as normative without the obligation of conformity and to elements in a new historical context as also normative without he rejection of tradition. The central message of Christianity, that Jesus bore witness to God’s redemptive work and to its sovereignty in the world, provides the basis for the new theological proposal, both materially and in regard to the way tradition is handled and handed on.

One can see a similar phenomenon of "contemporizing" tradition in the development from Paul’s letters to the Epistle of James (for what follows see CEJ). James knew of certain Christians who believed that "faith without works" is salutary (James 2:14), a view which conforms in outward expression to the traditional Pauline formulation (see, e.g., Romans 3:28 and Galatians 2:15-16; and compare the post-Pauline formulations in Acts 15:11 and Ephesians 2:8-9). Evidently they held to the Pauline tradition without "contemporizing" it, or so it might seem. In their historical context, however, the issues, in response to which the Pauline formula was forged, no longer existed: because Christianity was well on the way to becoming a gentile religion, separate from Judaism, the question of the salutary benefit of faith in Christ, which earlier had arisen among Christians who did not observe the cultic requirements of Jewish law, and in that sense were without "works of the law, arose now among Christians whose lives exhibited moral laxity, which could be understood in terms of popular moral philosophy. James, whose response to this form of Christian antinomianism is clothed in images from Judaism -- this "letter" is addressed to "the twelve tribes in the Dispersion" (1:1), commends to its readers obedience to "the perfect law, the law of liberty" (1:25; cf. 2:12), and appeals to the Abraham/Isaac and Rahab narratives (2:21-26) -- was not content with a hermeneutics of mere conformity to tradition, because it had produced "heresy." Here the "contemporized" tradition ("Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith"; 1:18) appears diametrically opposed to the earlier Pauline formulation unless one takes into account the changed historical context; then differences still remain but they can be viewed as compatible.

Jewish traditions remained normative in James’s gentile setting; but precisely because they were normative in that setting, they were transformed along lines similar to those Paul had developed earlier in another setting, with the emphasis on ethics excluding cultic practices peculiar to Judaism, and with an emphasis on ethical principles not bound to any special ethnic group and, therefore, lacking virtually all elements of Jewish ethnic particularly. Whether James understood his response as a "contemporizing" of Pauline tradition,11it can be so understood by us. And if it is debatable whether his and Paul’s "contemporizing" of, say, the Abraham/Isaac narrative are creative transformations vis-à-vis non-Christian Jewish hermeneutics, few would dispute that James’s "contemporizing" of tradition, Jewish and Pauline, marked a creative advance in comparison with that of his antinomian Christian neighbors: the latter were faithful to the "letter" of the tradition, but in so doing were disobedient to its Spirit, whereas the former was obedient to the Spirit precisely in his unfaithfulness to the "letter" of the tradition. Here the criterion of "creative transformation" is both formal (the way of attending to tradition) and material (what is attended to in tradition).

Such examples as these from the New Testament demonstrate the appropriateness of "creative transformation" as a norm in "process hermeneutics" guiding the uses of Scripture in process theology. Other examples could be cited, for instance, in the uses of the LXX in the New Testament for christological purposes (especially in the book of Acts). At any rate it should by now be obvious that this norm is both formal and material, and that it is central to the Biblical witness to the reality of’ God as well as to the uses of tradition in the Bible. That it is stated in process categories rather than "Biblical" terms honestly reflects our philosophical orientation; but it also obscures its roots in Scripture.

IV. The Need for Scriptural Roots

The introduction to NTIPP says, "Any form of systematic theology is fundamentally truncated where its rootage in Scripture is not clear and strong" (IPTNTE 25). Kelsey asks of this statement: why so, from the perspective of "process hermeneutics"? If the essays in these two volumes are not as clear and strong" as they could be on this point (but see THR), it is more fully developed elsewhere (see AB and PT 30-40)12

The Christian theologian is one who, in "doing theology," is reflectively aware of being rooted in the Bible and the history of Christianity. How explicit this rootage is made in any given Christian theology varies from one theologian to another, and from one work to another by the same theologian. What matters is that there be the intention to maintain continuity with Biblical and Christian tradition. Being reflectively aware of one’s roots in the Bible and the history of Christianity strengthens this intention and, therefore, is important in "doing Christian theology."

Nevertheless, the importance of Biblical and Christian tradition for Christian theology is relativized from a process perspective for several reasons. The first is that Scripture is not necessary, however important it is, in and for Christian faith and life. Although Christian existence is "genetically" indebted "in the historical order" (to borrow Kelsey’s terms) to the events of its emergence, namely, those surrounding Jesus and his earliest followers, it is not dependent on knowledge of those events, nor on conscious beliefs about them.13 The indebtedness of a particular mode of existence to the past is largely on a preconscious level; thus, while knowledge and conscious beliefs about the Christian past are important, they are not all-controlling (cf. PT 30-34).

Reflective knowledge and beliefs, however, do increase the effectiveness of elements of the past in shaping the affective-volitional orientation characteristic of one’s existence. Christian theology is the effort to give full expression to that reflectivity which supports and furthers Christian existence, whose primal forms of expression are those of its founder and his first followers (cf. AB 200 and PT 38). Thus, while Scriptural roots in Christian theology are relativized, they are important.

Without the guidance of reflective knowledge and beliefs, never completely lacking, there is no assurance that one’s existence would continue to be Christian. A particular mode of existence is characterized by selection of and emphasis upon certain elements of common reality, which thereby gain increased effectiveness; the function of reflectivity is to support and further a particular selection and emphasis (cf. SCE). When, in theological reflection, attention is given to the primal expressions in Scripture of the vision of reality with which the emergence of Christian existence was intertwined, there is greater assurance that selection and emphasis of those elements of common reality that characterize Christian existence will occur.

The value of Scriptural roots in Christian theology, however, is also relativized by the cultural pluralism within which the church has always existed and which requires that its faith be both publicly credible and appropriately Christian (cf. WT, SRALP, TRS, and Tracy, who is cited in PHPP 107). Neither criterion can be met by appeal to "special Christian truth" alone: the former need not appeal to it at all; appeal to it for the latter, while important, is insufficient. A special mode of human existence, which a "faith" or "religion" fundamentally is, cannot be commended in the face of other, essentially different, ways of being human simply on the basis of private or special experience alone; rather, to be persuasive, such commendation must include reference to experience of common reality open to all (cf. AB 196). And the determination of what is appropriate for Christian theology involves more than interpretation of "scripture and tradition"; it also involves consideration of how and in what direction the Spirit that animated Christian existence in the past will move in the new situational context, in which consideration insights are also drawn from other sources, religious and secular.

What we seek from the perspective of "process hermeneutics," however, is not so much an enduring identity or essence as lines of continuity across the history of Christianity from its earliest stages into the present (cf. PT 194, 201, and THR 93). This continuity is marked by the selection and emphasis of certain elements of common reality, e.g., "divine grace," although not always in the same form. Encounter with other visions of reality, religious and secular, and their correlative modes of human existence, introduces attention to other elements of common reality and their increased effectiveness in one’s life and thought. Theological reflection is Christian to the extent that its openness to other perspectives does not curtail the influence of central elements in the primal expressions of the vision of reality, with which the emergence of Christian existence was intertwined. That influence can best be enhanced by seeing to it that the roots of Christian theology in Scripture are clear and strong.



AB -- John B. Cobb, Jr., "The Authority of the Bible," pp. 188-202 in Hermeneutics and the Worldliness of Faith: A Festschrift in Memory of Carl Michalson. C. Courtney, O. H. Ivey, and G. E. Michalson, eds. The Drew Gateway 45 (1974-75).

AHEC -- Martin Hengel, Acts and the History of Earliest Christianity. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979.

AL -- James A. Sanders, "Adaptable for Life," MD 531-60.

APPH -- Barry A. Woodbridge, "An Assessment and Prospectus for a Process Hermeneutic," NTIPP 121-28.

AST -- Schubert M. Ogden, "The Authority of Scripture for Theology," Interpretation 30/3 (1976), 242-61.

AWPP -- Lyman T. Lundeen, "The Authority of the Word in a Process Perspective," Encounter 36/4 (1975), 281-300.

BCT -- David H. Kelsey, "The Bible and Christian Theology," JAAR 48/3 (1980), 385-402.

CEJ -- Martin Dibelius, James: A Commentary on the Epistle of James. Revised by Heinrich Greeven. Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976.

CPA -- John B. Cobb, Jr., Christ in a Pluralistic Age. Philadelphia; Westminster Press, 1975.

CWM -- Schubert M. Ogden, Christ Without Myth: A Study Based on the Theology of Rudolf Bultmann. New York: Harper & Row, 1961.

HST – Rudolf Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition. Revised Edition. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1968.

IPTNTE -- John B. Cobb, Jr., David J. Lull, and Barry A. Woodbridge, "Introduction: Process Thought and New Testament Exegesis," NTIPP 21-30.

JAAR -- Journal of the American Academy of Religion

LG -- Lewis S. Ford, The Lure of God: A Biblical Background for Process Theism. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978.

LHPP -- Delwin Brown, "Liberation Hermeneutics: A Process Perspective," an unpublished paper presented at the 1982 AAR/SBL meeting.

LPG -- Jacob Jervell, Luke and the People of God. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1972.

MD -- Magnalia Dei, the Mighty Acts of God: Essays On the Bible and Archaeology in Memory of C. Ernest Wright. F. M. Cross, W. W. Lemke, and P. D. Miller, Jr., eds. New York: Doubleday, 1976.

MRH -- J. Gerald Janzen, "Metaphor and Reality in Hosea 11," OTIPP 45-51.

NTIPP -- William A. Beardslee and David J. Lull, eds., "New Testament Interpretation from a Process Perspective," JAAR 47/1 (1979), 21-128.

OTIPP -- William A. Beardslee and David J. Lull, eds., "Old Testament Interpretation from a Process Perspective," Semeia 24 (1982).

OTPP -- J. Gerald Janzen, "The Old Testament in ‘Process’ Perspective: Proposal for a Way Forward in Biblical Theology," MD 480-509.

PA -- Philipp Vielhauer, "On the ‘Paulinism’ of Acts," pp. 33-50 in Studies in Luke-Acts. L. E. Keck and J. L. Martyn, eds. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980.

PC -- Schubert M. Ogden, The Point of Christology. New York: Harper & Row, 1982.

PHCPR -- Clark M. Williamson, "Process Hermeneutics and Christianity’s Post-Holocaust Reinterpretation of Itself," PS 12/2 (1982), 77-93.

PHPP -- John J. Collins, "Process Hermeneutic: Promise and Problems," OTIPP 107-16.

PT -- John B. Cobb, Jr., and David R. Griffin, Process Theology: An Expository Introduction. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976.

RG -- Schubert M. Ogden, The Reality of God and Other Essays. New York: Harper & Row, 1963.

RHPT -- William A. Beardslee, "Recent Hermeneutic and Process Thought," PS 12/2 (1982), 65-76.

RPIPS -- Theodore J. Weeden, Sr., "Recovering the Parabolic Intent in the Parable of the Sower," NTIPP 91-120.

RPPT -- Herbert J. Nelson, "The Resting Place of Process Theology," Harvard Theological Review 72/1-2 (1979), 1-21.

RRR -- Lyman T. Lundeen, Risk and Rhetoric in Religion: Whitehead’s Theory of Language and the Discourse of Faith. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1972.

SCE -- John B. Cobb, Jr., The Structure of Christian Existence. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1967.

SCTHE – David J. Lull, "The Spirit and the Creative Transformation of Human Existence," NTIPP 39-55.

SG -- David J. Lull, The Spirit in Galatia: Paul’s Interpretation of PNEUMA as Divine Power. Chico: Scholars Press, 1980.

SRALP -- Schubert M. Ogden, "Sources of Religious Authority in Liberal Protestantism," JAAR 4413 (1976), 403-22.

STD -- Delwin Brown, "Struggle Till Daybreak: On the Nature of Authority in Theology," Journal of Religion, forthcoming, January, 1985.

TC -- James A. Sanders, Torah and Canon. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1972.

THR -- John B. Cobb, Jr., "Trajectories and Historic Routes," OTIPP 89-98.

TM -- Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method. New York: Seabury Press, 1975.

TRS -- Schubert M. Ogden, "Theology and Religious Studies: Their Difference and the Difference It Makes," JAAR 46/1 (1978), 3-15.

USRT -- David H. Kelsey, The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975.

VI -- Eric D. Hirsch, Jr., Validity in Interpretation. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967.

WH -- William A. Beardslee, "Whitehead and Hermeneutic," NTIPP 31-37.

WM -- Russell Pregeant, "Where Is the Meaning? Metaphysical Criticism and the Problem of Indeterminacy," The Journal of Religion 63/2 (1983), 107-24.

WT -- Schubert M. Ogden, "What Is Theology?" The Journal of Religion 52/1 (1972), 22-40.



1Although "process hermeneutics" is used here principally in reference to NTIPP and OTIPP, these collections are products of conversations that began with a conference on Biblical theology and process philosophy, held at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, in 1974, whose papers were published in Encounter 36/4 (1975), PS 4/3 (1974) 159-86, and LG 29-44. Out of that conference evolved the SBL ‘Process Hermeneutic and Biblical Exegesis Group." And papers presented in the AAR have also contributed to the development of "process hermeneutics" (cf. LHPP and PHCPR). As one adds the individual bibliographies of William A. Beardslee, George W. Coats, J. Gerald Janzen, and Russell Pregeant, just to mention a few of the Biblical scholars involved, this list becomes impressive in its quantity and diversity.

2 An argument for "the validity of metaphysical reflection as a component in [the] interpretive process . . ." is made in WM.

3 For this reason one cannot make as sharp a separation of "interpretation" (= "meaning") and "application" (= "significance") as Hirsch (VI) does in criticism of Gadamer (TM); Ricoeur shares the latter’s view at this point. Compare WM 108-13.

4 Compare Whitehead’s similar remarks in PR about "symbolic reference" (168) as well as "propositions" (186-88).

5 The classic presentation of the problem is PA; for more recent discussions, see LPG and AHEC.

6 This general view is persuasively presented elsewhere by Kelsey (USRI); also see Nelson’s critique of Ogden in RPPT.

7 Compare Kelsey’s comments on Barth, Bultmann, and Tillich in BCT (397).

8 In this remark I am proposing a response to the Williamson-Ogden exchange in PS 12/2 (1982), 77-100.

9 Compare the views of Luke-Acts (cf. LPG) and of Paul (cf. Romans 11:25-32).

10 The disputable assumption that "traditions" -- one early, the other late -- have been placed on the lips of the Syro-Phoenician woman and Jesus to form an apophthegm ("controversy dialogue") needs to be defended, but space does not allow it here (cf. HST 38).

11 One could also compare James 1:22ff. with Matthew 7:21-27 and contrast it to the miracle stories’ theme of "your faith has saved you/made you well"

12 For a sample of the "hermeneutical pluralism" that characterizes "process theology," compare WT, AST, SRALP, AWPP, TRS, and STD with the view expressed here.

13 Compare Schubert M. Ogden’s position, which holds that, although Christian theology is "the interpretation of the Christian message, found in the earliest "Jesus traditions," Christian existence is a possibility open to human beings simply as such (cf. CWM, RG, WT, AST, SRALP, TRS, and PC).

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