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The hermeneutical nexus of an undenominational Bible school : an application of philosophical hermeneutics and the literary analysis of Paul Ricoeur to the Carroll model for congregational studies

Damsell, Wilfred Ernest (2004-12)

Thesis (DTh)--Stellenbosch Univesity, 2004


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The hermeneutical nexus and an undenominational Bible School. This dissertation arose out of reflections on the Carroll Handbook Jor Congregational Studies and inter alia seeks to give a philosophical base to that work. Noting the frequent references to hermeneutical principles, the researcher found that one of them were dealt with adequately in considering congregations as carriers of faith. There being no difference in principle between a congregation and a Bible School, the dissertation deals with both. It was apparent that there is a nexus (a binding together) of hermeneutical principles and processes in such an institution that forms the thick discourse in these carriers of faith. Having been associated with a Bible School for a quarter of a century, the researcher was aware that such institutions, like congregations were badly in need of a metacritical approach in order to meet changing conditions and new challenges. This dissertation attempts as a starting point to have a better understanding of the identity of the institution. The Bible School, as an historical reality, has had and still has a vast influence particularly in the Third World. This was exemplified by the growth and flowering of so-called Bible School Movement which is described and which revealed hermeneutical principles and processes which were essentially describing its identity in broad terms. Some of these processes are critiqued. In an attempt to find a central focus for a Bible School, the researcher found that subject to the main purpose of the church (the increase among men of the love of god and one's neighbour according to H Richard Niebuhr) there are in fact so many foci among Bible Schools that he could only conclude that God uses the gifts He gives to His Church in different ways and different circumstances as He wills. It was then found necessary to examine the application of hermeneutics to an institution seeing that metacriticism is a hermeneutical exercise and Carroll used many terms implying hermeneutics. For this purpose foundations were sought in Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Gadamer and especially Paul Ricoeur. Hermeneutics changed fundamentally over the period covered by these scholars, from a psychological to a literary base. The researcher found it necessary to draw from both the psychological and the literary approaches. He seeks to make a synthesis between Carroll (and Hopewell who initiated Carroll's work) and Ricoeur because the most fundamental methodology of both require a narrative form, a text. Regrettably Carroll was unable to give any philosophical base to his main point of "sum it up in story' which meant that the life of the congregation over a selected period of time was to be reduced to a narrative. This has been called the thick discourse of the congregation. The philosophical hermeneutics of Ricoeur, however, gives an advanced literary analysis and the researcher extrapolates and applies this to institutions to make a synthesis with Carroll's institutional insights. A key element in Ricoeur's hermeneutics is that discourse is the event of language and is understood as meaning. In the synthesis attempted this thick discourse of the institution is expounded as a kind of locutionary act, i.e. a speech act. The thick discourse of the institution is multi-faceted covering language, culture, time, space and matter, which are the events of discourse understood as meaning. The Carroll model requires that the congregational story be reduced to narrative form, i.e. a text. It follows that the Ricoeurean concepts of distanciation and appropriation as applied to institutions take effect and these ultimately involves the congregation in an enlarged selfunderstanding. In the appropriation of the text to which the congregational discourse is reduced, a new world-view emerges, a different self-identity is discovered. This, the -- researcher suggests, requires a postlocutionary act so that from being-in-the-world the institution becomes something new. Becoming (one of Carroll's main concepts) requires reimaging and re-imaging requires metacriticism. For this focus and boundaries are required as an institution is an open system. In the end a complementary relationship between Carroll and Ricoeur is advocated as part of a thick discourse in this preliminary study of institutional hermeneutics.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie navorsing het ontstaan uit nadenke oor Carroll se Handbook for Congregational Studies as 'n moontlike prakties-teologiese basis vir 'n ondersoek na die identiteit van instellings soos Bybelskole. In Carroll word herhaaldelik verwys na hermeneutiese faktore soos gemeentes as draers van die geloof. Hierdie dissertasie wil beweer dat daar in beginsel geen verskil is tussen sulke instellings en gemeentes nie: albei is draers van die geloof. Dit was gou duidelik dat daar 'n nexus ('n saamgehegtheid) van hermeneutiese beginsels en prosesse is wat binne so 'n instelling funksioneer as 'n "thick discourse" daarvan. Die navorser was betrokke by 'n Bybelskool vir meer as 'n kwarteeu en het deeglik besef dat sulke instellings, net soos gemeentes, 'n dringende behoefte het aan 'n metakritiese benadering, veral in tye van snelle veranderinge. Hierdie dissertasie wil help om langs hierdie hermeneutiese weg 'n beter be_car-;f' verstaan te kry van die identiteit en prosesse wat instellings het. Bybelskole het gehad, en het nog steeds 'n groot invloed in die geloofswereld, veral in Derde Wereld opset. Die groei en bloei van die Bybelskool Beweging word beskrywe, veral in terme van die hermeneutiese beginsels en prosesse wat die identiteit manifesteer. Sommige van hierdie prosesse word krities beskrywe. Verder probeer die navorsing om 'n sentrale fokus van 'n Bybelskool te vind, maar het bevind dat die doelstellende fokus van 'n kerk, soos deur H Richard Niebuhr uitgebeeld, lei tot 'n uiteenlopende diversiteit van foci. Dus het hy hom berus by sy bevinding dat God gawes aan sy Kerk gee en dit benut soos Hy wil. Die navorsing vra dan hoe hermeneutiese beginsels, veral die van metakritiek, toegepas kan word op die hermeneutiese benadering van Carroll. Hierin moes teruggevra word na die heremeneutiese ontwikkeling vanaf Schleiermacher na Dilthey, Gadamer en veral Ricoeur. In hierdie ontwikkeling verskuif die basis van die hermeneutiek vanaf 'n psigologiese na 'n literere. Die navorsing probeer dan 'n sintese maak tussen Carroll (en sy voorganger Hopewell) en Ricoeur op grond van hulle gemeenskaplike metodologie gebou op 'n narratiewe benadering. Ongelukkig is gevind dat Carroll nie 'n goeie filosofiese basis aan sy kemgedagte gee nie, naamlik om die gemeente "op te som as verhaal" nie. Dit beteken dat die bestaan van 'n gemeente oor 'n bepaalde periode gereduseer word tot die blote verhaal daarvan, of die "thick description" daarvan. Ricoeur help die navorsing om 'n tree verder te gee met sy literere-analise. Dit het die navorser gehelp om dit te ekstrapoleer en so toe te pas dat 'n sintese met Carroll moontlik word. 'n Sleutelbegrip in Ricoeur se hermeneutiek is dat diskoers 'n taalgebeure is wat betekenisdraend is. In genoernde sintese word die "thick discourse" van 'n instelling 'n soort lokusionere handeling (of 'n sogenaamde "speech act"). Hierdie diskoers van 'n instelling het 'n veelheid fasette soos taal, kultuur, tyd, ruimte, ens - wat intrinsiek is aan genoemde gebeure of diskoers wat betekenisdraend is. Deur die gebruik van Ricoeur se konsepte van distansiasie en appropriasie en dan toegepas op instellings word die selfverstaan van 'n instelling verruim. Daardeur word nuwe lewenswerelde en selfverstaan ontdek. Die navorsing beklemtoon dat 'n soort postlokusionere handeling nodig is om tot iets nuut in 'n veranderende wereld te geraak. Dit weer veronderstel 'n soort van her-verbeelding ("reimaging") in 'n metakritiese benadering. Daarin is egter grense nodig waarbinne 'n instelling as 'n nuwe oop sisteem kan funksioneer. Aan die einde word dus 'n komplementere verhouding tussen Carroll en Ricoeur voorgestel as deel van genoemde "thick discourse" as die basis van hierdie voorlopige navorsing oor institutionele hermeneutiek.

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