The Hermeneutical Element of Godly Character

Athanasius

At the very end of his book, On the Incarnation, Athanasius makes a very interesting comment that has always stuck out to me.

But for the searching and right understanding of the Scriptures there is need of a good life and a pure soul, and for Christian virtue to guide the mind to grasp, so far as human nature can, the truth concerning God the Word. One cannot possibly understand the teaching of the saints unless one has a pure mind and is trying to imitate their life. Anyone who wants to look at sunlight naturally wipes his eye clear first, in order to make, at any rate, some approximation to the purity of that on which he looks; and a person wishing to see a city or country goes to the place in order to do so. Similarly, anyone who wishes to understand the mind of the sacred writers must first cleanse his own life, and approach the saints by copying their deeds. Thus united to them in the fellowship of life, he will both understand the things revealed to them by God….

~ Athanasius, On the Incarnation, chapter 9, section 57.

Illustration

Grant Osborne has popularized an idea known as the ‘hermeneutical spiral’ according to which various elements like exegesis of the text, biblical theology, systematic theology, historic theology, etc. create a ‘hermeneutical spiral’ something like the following admittedly simplistic explanation:

Wesley on “What Manner of Men We Ought to Be”

Preface

In John Wesley’s “An Address to the Clergy” in Wesley’s Works (1872 Jackson ed., vol 10), originally addressed or more likely written in London on February 6, 1756, Wesley addressed a group of clergy/ministers (or as we might say, “pastors/elders”) as to what type of men he and they ought to be as shepherds of God’s Church. The following is Wesley’s selected list of attributes (in direct quotes) that I trust you will find both interesting and challenging.

“To begin with gifts”

“With those that are from nature”

  • “First, a good understanding, a clear apprehension, a sound judgment, and a capacity of reasoning with some closeness.”
  • “Secondly. Is it not highly expedient that a guide of souls should have likewise some liveliness and readiness of thought?”
  • “Thirdly. A good memory. . . .”

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