Duke Divinity School
College of William and Mary
In July 2008, Modern Theology published a symposium called “Pragmatism and Biblical Hermeneutics: The Work of Peter Ochs.” The published version contains an introduction by Randi Rashkover, four substantial essays, a response by Peter Ochs, and a conclusion by Steven Kepnes. The four substantial essays are by Nicholas Adams (“Reparative Reasoning”), David C. Lamberth (“Assessing Peter Ochs through Peirce, Pragmatism, and the Logic of Scripture “), James K. A. Smith (“How Religious Practices Matter: Peter Ochs’ “Alternative Nurturance” of Philosophy of Religion”), and Leora Batnitzky (“Pragmaticism and Biblical Hermeneutics: Some Comments on the Work of Peter Ochs”). The Journal of Scriptural Reasoning has taken this as an opportunity to offer reflective responses to these essays and also as an invitation to say more about “Pragmatism and Biblical Hermeneutics.” We thought it important, especially, to highlight aspects of the logical background and possible theoretical implications of Peter Ochs’s work in particular and the practice of scriptural reasoning in general.
A sign of maturity in an intellectual project is that it provokes interesting objections. A further sign of maturity is that it has interesting responses to those objections. The result is a fruitful conversation that possibly can bless those outside of the conversation itself. In this sense, we encourage readers of this issue to read the essays in Modern Theology before reading the essays that follow. Reading those essays, however, is no prerequisite for understanding what follows here, as the present contributors have provided helpful summaries of the essays with which they are in conversation.
One of the goals of the practice of Scriptural Reasoning, we might say, is to encourage and nurture better and more interesting disagreements . The essays that follow here attempt to converse in this way also: not over readings of Scripture per se (as it is in the practice of SR) but rather over what is at stake within accounts of the background of SR. Thus this particular issue, which we have entitled “The Roots of Scriptural Reasoning,” contains articles that address questions concerning biblical hermeneutics, pragmatism, and scriptural reasoning. The contributors have tackled these questions in the following ways.
First, Isra Yazicioglu begins this special issue with an introduction to Charles Peirce’s pragmatism and its application to questions within Quranic hermeneutics. Her case is that not only can Peirce’s pragmatism be applied to reading the Quran but also “the Quranic discourse in general seems friendly toward Peirce’s pragmaticism.”
Taking a step back for the purpose of further reflection, William Danaher shows how the “reparative reasoning” aspect of pragmatism (as outlined by Nicholas Adams in Modern Theology ) can be traced back performatively to the theology of an earlier figure in American philosophy: Jonathan Edwards. Danaher argues that Edwards’s interpretation of the Merkabah (Ezekiel 1:4-28) “can be considered as an exercise in reparative reasoning.”
Third, Jacob Goodson responds to David Lamberth’s “Assessment of Ochs’s Peirce, Pragmatism, and the Logic of Scripture ” by arguing with Lamberth on his own terms. Lamberth is a scholar of William James, and Goodson entertains the possibility that James himself offers an account of “reasoning” that is friendly toward and helpful for understanding the “reasoning” of scriptural reasoning. Therefore, like Danaher, Goodson seeks to broaden the theoretical background of Ochs’s work as well as scriptural reasoning by bringing other American philosophers into the conversation.
Chris Hackett’s essay represents a shift in this issue. Rather than talking about Ochs’s work and scriptural reasoning in the context of American philosophy, Hackett talks about it in the context of contemporary theology. Hackett replies to James K. A. Smith’s “How Religious Practices Matter: Peter Ochs’ “Alternative Nurturance” of Philosophy of Religion” by turning “over some earth in order to expose the root” of Ochs’s philosophy of religion and his scriptural reasoning project. Specifically, he develops an “eschatological transcendentalism” in order to show how Ochs might engage with the radical orthodoxy of John Milbank.
Fifth, Peter Kang responds to Leora Batnitzky’s “Pragmaticism and Biblical Hermeneutics: Some Comments on the Work of Peter Ochs” by arguing that the tension that Batnitzky identifies in Ochs’s work is actually the wonder of Ochs’s work. Kang makes this move in two different steps: first, by attending to the basics of what Ochs means with his use of terms such as “binaries” and “dyads”; second, by engaging Ochs’s work with the logic of George Lindbeck’s Christian theology for the purpose of showing that the practice of scriptural reasoning is not problematic (as Batnitzky suggests) if understood within Lindbeck’s Christian framework.
Our hope with this issue is that these essays may broaden the understanding of the pragmatist background to Ochs’s work in biblical hermeneutics, and that they may provide ways to understand the logic and theories of the practice of scriptural reasoning.