I’m reading D.A. Carson’s excellent work, Exegetical Fallacies, and, as I’m sure will happen quite frequently in this study, came across a word I did not know, and in fact could not find in my Dictionary.com iPhone app either!
The word is “distanciation”, and I assumed it has to do with distancing oneself from the subject. But it must be more than that, for the ultimate end of exegesis is to know what God’s Word says so that we might be better equipped to glorify God in our lives and to teach others to do so as well.
Here is what Carson says:
The fundamental danger with all critical study of the Bible lies in what hermeneutical experts call distanciation. Distanciation is a necessary component of critical work; but is difficult and sometimes costly. (23)
I found a good definition here.
The fallacy that comes from the omission of distanciation has to do with an interpreter’s inability to distance himself from his presuppositions in the interpretive process and discerning the meaning of the text. We all have presuppositions which are simply beliefs or convictions we hold prior to handling the text (also called apriori convictions or control beliefs). Having presuppositions is not bad, of course, but what is detrimental and fallacious is when we use our presuppositions to influence our interpretation and alter the meaning of the text.
Beyond Carson, this subject of imposing our presuppositions on the text is something that’s been at the forefront in my reading (Horton), mp3 listening (Riddlebarger), and discussions with pastors and elders at church as well. I am very thankful for these means of grace in my life and I hope that all students of God’s Word would likewise have the eyes of their hearts enlightened (Eph. 1:18) to this subject.