“The process entails a recognition of the limits of my own understanding, and learning to listen, with patience and respect, not only to what the other person says, but also to why the person says it…”

“…An openness to be willing to listen, to see the other person’s point of view, and to be changed, characterizes any hermeneutically sensitive reading of texts, no less than in encounters between persons in everyday life.”

New Horizons in Hermeneutics by Anthony Thiselton

This question, “What does it take to hear and understand a tradition outside your own?“, has dogidly pursued my mind more than any other I’ve encountered as a follower of Jesus in general, and a leader in the church more particularly. I think its an area that every tradition and theological outlook longs to fulfill well, and yet its probably the area I see pride, fear of man, and other sins working within our churches today. I wonder if our greatest challenge in the church today is really a heterodoxy of belief or rather a heterodoxy of community…

If someone were to ask me who the person is who’s helped me work through this area and inspire me to labor toward charitable readings of other Christian traditions I would have to point straight at Anthony Thiselton. I read his Two Horizons work in college for an independent study in theological prolegomena and his voice with its even-keel reflections have been guiding points for me ever since. Did you notice what Thiselton says are necessities for hermeneutical sensitivity;

A recognition of the limits of our own understanding –

Learning to listen –

An openness to be willing to listen –

Doing so with both patience and respect –

Listening to what they say –

And to why they are saying it –

To see their point of view and to actually be changed –

Looking through Anthony’s list makes me wonder whether or not I’ve listened well to others in a hermeneutically sensitive way. Or for that matter whether my denomination has done so. This area is something Christ’ body has wrestled with throughout history, something she’ll no doubt continue to wrestle with for some time after you and I are with him in glory. I wonder if she always fights the good fight of faith here or if she overlook s this spiritual practice because others seem more pressing to her. Justice and mercy always notice the matters we overlook in our sin, the Father’s ear is attentive to the orphan’s cry and the widow’s nightward journey for oil to be warmed by.

What does it take to hear and understand a tradition outside our own? It takes the cross of Christ working upon your flesh and teaching your conscience of its wickedness. It takes the Son’s resurrection power to remind you and I that we are indeed created to be new in the Son, old things have passed. And it takes the communities voice telling us that in a family “listening” is a non-negotiable…