About half-way through Rosaria Butterfield’s book The Secret Thought of an Unlikely Convert,    she talks about how hermeneutics and worldview influence understanding.

Hermeneutics is an old Greek word that refers to how we interpret life, text, and event…another word that often interchanges with hermeneutics is worldview. Hermeneutics focuses on the details; worldview takes the point of view of the frame.  These two terms need to be understood in relationship….Taken together, hermeneutics and worldview make up a critical perspective….

As a feminist scholar, this concept–worldview–was the most important concept in my intellectual arsenal.  Worldview is central to feminist studies and to any field of study that analyzes oppressed or marginalized peoples.  It helps us to understand how interpretations come from the frames of intelligibility that we use to look at the events that matter.  Critical perspective asserts that we make meaning out of our lives not by personal experience but by the frames through which we filter that experience….An interpretive community consciously and intentionally protects its way of thinking.  This is how important worldview is to education–of all stripes and colors.  And this is how important interpretive community is to worldview.  We do not make meaning in isolation.

Her example:

Let’s take for example a teenager who keeps getting into trouble with the police and with the rules at school.  Parents want to teach this child that cause has an effect.  Parents may think that the best way to teach this kid a lesson is to let the school of hard knocks, i.e., life, be the teacher.  But the problem with this is it assumes that these “hard knocks” stand on their own.  Everything filters through a worldview.  Let’s say this kid’s worldview is “I can only trust my friends.  All people in authority (parents, pastors, teachers, police, etc.) are out to get me.”  With this worldview, the harder the knocks the more firmly this worldview gets hammered home.  And of course this kid’s choice of peer group–his interpretive community–helps him see all “hard knocks” as proof that people in authority are out to get him.  Maybe this kid will turn out like the Prodigal Son.  But how did the Prodigal Son come to his senses?  The Prodigal Son didn’t repent of his sin because he got tired of living like and with the pigs.  He repented because God gave him eyes to see.  Until this happens, no personal experience can topple his critical perspective.  That’s the thing about the frame that we use to look at the world.  It is actually stronger than life experience because it is mindful, positioned, owned, established, and deeply held.  Personal experience can seem fickle.  Worldview (the end result of the critical perspective we choose) is always intimate and claimed.

It is a well written, thoughtful, honest book.  I’ll have it on my shelf too.



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