Critical thinking – and hermeneutics

This week on my morning commuteI've been working through a course. On hermeneutics. Designed so local trainers can teach ordinary church members how to interpret the Bible when they read it. The course is in beta and is being put out by the Bible Society among whose aims is promoting the use of the Bible not just its translation and distribution.  There are a number of interesting strands here.  The first is that there can be good and indifferent interpretations – not everything goes. The Bible isn't a magic book that you can stick a pin to discover a personal message addressed only to you. A newspaper and pin are quite sufficient for that purpose. If you do want to understand it you need to separate out the world the original text came from, take the text on its own merit, and ask what response the text is drawing from you the reader – (hermeneutics in a nutshell). This means the text is dynamic – the meaning does change from generation to generation – however its interpretations is not reduced to mere subjectivity.

What interests me about this initiative if it is successful is the impact on the critical thinking of those who take part and apply what they learn.  The 400 year celebrations around the King James translation of the bible have reminded us of the political upheaval unleashed when you translated the bible into the language of the people and found a way to distribute it to a mass audince.  And taught them to read it.  Western democracy is dependent on this simple but profound infrastructure – the ability to read and debate a text.

In a parallel universe marketing is now regularly taught in schools. Which means that marketing activity is very well understood – which makes backlashes even more vicious than they used to be.l The general public knows what is going on and doesn't like to be patronised or deceived. Arguably marketing communications has not kept pace with the transparency and fluency now required of them instead of the crass product sell.

 Something interesting and usually unexpected comes from teaching people to think for themselves. 



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