The Golden Rule Hermeneutic PDF Print E-mail
Culture and Politics - Sex and Culture
Written by Douglas Wilson   
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 6:24 am

Jesus gave us a fundamental way of measuring our treatment of others -- do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matt. 7:12). Pretty straightforward, and who disagrees with that? Well, the point of His instruction here was not likely to elicit disagreement so much as various forms of non-compliance. As sinners, our problem with this standard is not that we cannot see the justice of it, or that we cannot follow Christ's argument. The problem is a moral one. We don't want to live this way, while at the same time believing that it sure would be swell if everybody else did.

But His words are so self-evidently right and fitting that when it comes to parking places and sharing bits of food or having people over, we have settled into an accommodation with the Golden Rule. Do as you would be done by. Okay. All right. Leave us alone.

But this principle, being a principle, can be applied to much more than not cutting in line because you don't like it when others cut in front of you. This is a principle, which means it has profound applications to all human interaction.

One place where the Lord's words are still widely disregarded -- and not just "kind of," but in a kind of Wild West kind of way -- is in the realm of hermeneutics. Hear as you would be heard. Read as you would be read.


Think about it for a minute. Why do we not get to read Supreme Court decisions with the same hermeneutic they apply to the Constitution? Why do Supreme Court decisions have no penumbrae? Why do we not get to read a fanciful exegete's commentary on Exodus the same way he reads Exodus? Why do postmodern philosophers expect us to treat their words as bearing objective truth, even though the words say that no words actually do? Why does the liberal faux-humilist tell us that all our denominational traditions are nothing but purblind dogmatic exercises, while expecting us to treat his insight into this problem as something other than that? This is not a deep philosophical question. This is simply what men being sinners looks like.

Sinners want their words to be respected, while at the same time reserving their right to disrespect the words of others because, as we all know, "that's different." They want their words respected, but if they deeply respect the words of others -- particularly the words of those in authority over them -- they cannot give free rein to their lusts in the way they would like. Depend upon it. When men start to interpret this way, it is because they want the authoritative word that comes to them to be a lot more flexible than before, and by this it turns out (surprise) that the seventh commandment is chiefly in view. Somebody apparently wants to get laid in ways contrary to the divine stone memo handed down at Sinai. And at the same time, expect that man's own pronouncements about what other people are doing to become increasingly inflexible.

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Rob Steele  Tuesday, October 18, 2011 8:38 am
So true. One quibble: evidently Supreme Court decisions do emanate penumbrae: