Preaching with a cupped ear: Hans-Georg Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics as postmodern wor[l]d
Bullock, Jeffrey Francis
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For the last twenty-five years, practitioners of what has come to be known as the New Homiletic have attempted to discover a way through the "crisis" of preaching to a "new effectiveness." A growing cadre of homileticians are speculating that, in order to reach this homiletical promised land, it may be necessary to turn away from the more traditional disciplines of biblical and theological studies and to contemporary rhetorical and hermeneutical theory. More recently, New Homileticians have looked to story, narrative, and semantic imagination as ways to move from a homiletical practice that is based in argument and representational language to one that is more experiential or presentational.This study contends that New Homileticians continue to locate their efforts in a representational view of language. Consequently, there is a fundamental distinction between the linguistic world and the nonlinguistic world or, as Aristotle said, "Spoken words are the symbols of mental experience and written words are the symbols for spoken words." Because homiletical theorists continue to adhere to a representation view of language, the Second Helvetic Confession's statement, "The preaching of the word of God is the word of God," is an epistemological ideal rather than an ontological reality. Whereas the Confession embraces a kind of ontological unity between the spoken word of the preacher and the word of God, the theoretical commitments of those who preach this word imply an ontological separation between the world of the "signifiers" and the world of the "signified."This study analyzes and evaluates current views of language and preaching and then juxtaposes them with views of language and communication articulated by the contemporary German philosopher, Hans-Georg Gadamer. This revised homiletic moves beyond constraints imposed by contemporary homiletical theory's language commitments to a unique appropriation of conversation ($\varpi\mu\iota\lambda o\upsilon\nu$) as a means of facilitating an experience (Erfahrung) with the word.
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