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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Getting Down With Distanciation

Yesterday, I attempted to answer the question, “What Is Distanciation? As a follow-up to that post, I would like to share a few more thoughts concerning distanciation as I believe it is a crucial part of sound exegesis. I will mention two ditches to avoid as well as two derivatives to enjoy.

Two Ditches to Avoid

As I reflected on the process of distanciation, I perceived two ditches which I believe are important to avoid. The first ditch is dogmatism which carries the temptation to adopt an unthinking, conformist approach to the text. Unruly dogmatism driven into the text shrouds the meaning of the author because of the defensive pietism of the interpreter. This defensive approach, accomplished by modernity’s certainties, results in a distancing in the wrong direction—away from the text of Scripture.

On the other hand, if modernism had the ditch of dogmatism, postmodernism has the ditch of doubt. While the process one undergoes requires a healthy sense of critical assessment, if the interpreter does not get past the process and makes the means an end, what will inevitably result is a commitment not to exegesis but deconstructionism. Postmodernity’s questioning of language threatens the interpreter’s ability to find meaning in the text, because the ditch of doubt often times finds greater virtue in the reader’s response than the author’s intent. Indeed, we must query the text, but our query should not bring into question the truthfulness and meaning of Scripture. This, too, is a serious threat to avoid. Two Derivatives to Enjoy

Now that I briefly mentioned two ditches to avoid, let me mention two derivatives to enjoy from distanciation. The first derivative is a greater horizon in one’s understanding of the text. Allowing yourself to humbly approach the text with a willingness to change your convictions, you allow the text to determine not only the meaning, but also your theology. We will soon find that God’s truth is not fragile and God’s Word can be trusted. We experience a greater horizon in the understanding of the text as we engage God’s truth and allow it to shape our thinking and theology.

A second derivative is similar to the first one, and that distanciation provides a deeper understanding of the meaning in the text. When one undergoes distanciation, he will be able to see things in the text he was previously unable to see because of the blinding commitments which caused him to either have a superficial or at best partial understanding of the text. Carson writes,

“Provided that part of the task of interpretation is nurtured along with distanciation, distanciation will not prove destructive. Indeed, the Christian life, faith, and thought that emerge from this double-barreled process will be more robust, more spiritually alert, more discerning, more biblical, and more critical than it could otherwise have been (24).

As I continue to process this idea of distanciation, I hope to have a better understanding of what is at stake in rightly dividing the word of truth. There is no shortcut to solid exegesis, and we must painfully labor in the work of studying, teaching, and proclaiming God’s infallible Word. Carson reminds us that there is “no better way of cultivating the soil that sprouts either heresy or the shallowest sort of traditionalism” (129). I think we could go down the hall of heresies and find folks who took the same texts orthodox Christians teach and preach and find that they made the texts say things they wanted it to say. Only minimal reflection of contemporary false teachings will strike the conscience of the committed exegete to the seriousness of this work.

Let me leave you will a good summation from Carson in conclusion to the idea of distanciation. I hope these few posts were helpful for you. It has been for me. When I have mistreated God’s Word, I pray that I do not get what I deserve. May God be merciful to sanctify me in the truth, for His Word is truth (John 17:17). And now for Carson:

“We must first of all grasp the nature and degree of the differences that separate our understanding from the understanding of the text. Only then can we profitably fuse our horizon of understanding with the horizon of understanding of the text—that is, only then can we begin to shape our thoughts by the thoughts of the text so that we truly understand them. Failure to go through the distanciation before the fusion usually means there has been no real fusion: the interpreter thinks he knows what the text means, but all too often he or she has simply imposed his own thoughts onto the text” (24).


Blogger Chris D. said...

Can you provide a phonetic pronunciation of distanciation? I’m finding these posts helpful - but have no idea how to pronounce this word.


9/14/2006 06:02:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...


Because I do not think the word "distanciation" has lexical value in the English language (at least at this point), I would pronounce it the same way it sounds (for example, take "pronunciation and replace the root with distance witht the accented syllable being the "tan"). That's my guess, but I don't think anyone will fault you for saying it otherwise. They would be doing really good to know the idea you are talking about. :)

9/14/2006 10:16:00 AM


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