Chapter 21: Analysis and Verbal Interpretation
in paraphrase are not comprehensive. Good paraphrases do share many of the
contrastive-identiﬁcational features in the meaning they express. 周ey do all
express one meaning. But they express it with variation. 周ey show diﬀerences
as well as common features.
In a wave perspective, meaning is not quite the easy thing that either modernist
or postmodernist thinking may take it to be.
Modernist thinking is prone to want
unity without diversity, through the complete domination of pure, autonomous
reason. In modernist thinking, meaning is what it is, namely, a pure, isolated es-
sence, and we must all submit to it by wiping out, suppressing, and destroying
By contrast, postmodernist thinking is prone to want diversity without unity.
Each person in his diversity produces whatever meaning is right in his own eyes.
Since most postmodernism believes that God is nonexistent or inaccessible, there
is no way to adjudicate among interpretations, and no conﬁdence that the Holy
Spirit will bring the humility and love that lead to genuine understanding of the
Bible—or of any author, for that ma瑴er. So, for the sake of peace, postmodernism
celebrates diversity of all kinds, including error and aberration.
We may also use a ﬁeld perspective on meaning. Especially in ordinary conver-
sation, people understand the relations of what they are saying to a larger social
interaction. At oﬃce parties an employee may be expected to converse with others
not merely for the sake of particular information but for general socialization. He
cements the social atmosphere of the oﬃce. 周e speech-making at a political rally
is one focal point within a total experience that is intended to promote the morale,
the dedication, and the fund-raising for the political cause. 周e total experience
is important, and the “meaning” of a political speech is found not merely in its
obvious content but in its social contribution in relation to the rally as a whole.
To focus in isolation on the speech as informational content, or as persuasion,
would be possible, but it would miss other dimensions, because meaning in a
broad sense belongs to the relations of the speech to the whole rally.
Similarly, the “meaning” of any particular human u瑴erance is integrally related
to other meanings, including not only meanings in other verbal u瑴erances but
also the cultural meanings in the surrounding cultural contexts. We would subtly
falsify the richness of human communication if we pretended that meaning could
be precisely cordoned oﬀ, delineated with inﬁnite precision, and conﬁned to a
text, now treated in isolation.
11. On modernism and postmodernism, see appendix A.
12. How we deal with unity and diversity on earth among human beings tends to reﬂect what
we believe about unity and diversity in God. Postmodernists tend to promote diversity without
enough unity, which is akin to polytheism (many gods, with li瑴le or no unity). Modernism, by
contrast, is like unitarianism, which aﬃrms one God, but not three persons in the Godhead.
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