A Methodological “Confession”

Bless us, Father, for we have sinned. It has been 1600 years since Augustine’s Confessions, but we have forgotten that the true test for interpretive virtue is love for you and love for our neighbor. In our zeal to bring about unity we have neglected patience and the cultivation of interpretive virtues. We have instead placed our hopes in methodology and the power of unaided Reason. Mistakenly, we thought that your gift of reason needed not your guiding voice; we have thought that the hermeneutics of suspicion can reveal our sins and that the power of politics can correct them. We avail ourselves to the mercy and grace that is available through your Word, who is the apex, the τελος, and the interpretive key of your revelatory activity in the world. We submit ourselves to Him, and entreat you to work through your Spirit to confront us with your Word, so that we might stand subservient to Him, and not to Lord over Him as though He needed our methods. Help us to be circumspect and patient in the carrying out of our service as ministers of reconciliation.

Paul Ricoeur on Husserl

Paul Ricoeur was a student of Gabriel Marcel, who translated Husserl. He began to note problems with phenomenology, one of which he describes below:

“We have a direct language to say purpose, motive, and ‘I can,’ but we speak of evil by means of metaphors. . . . It seemed, therefore, that a direct reflection on oneself could not go very far without undertaking a roundabout way, the detour of a hermeneutic of these symbols. I had to introduce a hermeneutic dimension within the structure of reflective thought itself.”

Paul Ricoeur, Fallible Man, trans. Charles Kelbley (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1967), pp. xvii-xix

Irenaeus, Hermeneutics

1. Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures;(4) and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavour to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions. Their manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skilful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skilful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king’s form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king. In like manner do these persons patch together old wives’ fables, and then endeavour, by violently drawing away from their proper connection, words, expressions, and parables whenever found, to adapt the oracles of God to their baseless fictions. We have already stated how far they proceed in this way with respect to the interior of the Pleroma.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1.8.1