Written by Dr. Derek Cooper
Tuesday, 15 November 2011 00:00
The British essayist Erich Heller once wrote “Be careful how you interpret the world; it is like that.”
So, how do you interpret the world?
As it says in Titus 1:15, “To the pure, everything is pure; but to the corrupt and unfaithful, nothing is pure.”
I interpret this passage to signify that interpretation is extremely important. This is not to say, of course, that we make our own independent universes based on our interpretations of reality. Far from it! At the same time, however, we do construct our interpretations of these universes, and we are forced to regularly analyze them as our interpretations collide with those of others.
In the midst of all these rival interpretations, I often wonder what makes my interpretation better (or worse) than another’s. When I see flowers blooming in the spring, for instance, I interpret this as God’s commitment to creation and life—but only because I interpret the world from a Christian perspective. When an evolutionary biologist looks at the same phenomenon, she will interpret this event differently.
The word perspective is a helpful term we use to describe the way we look at the world. Our perspective on the world is the result of myriad circumstances—many of which we cannot control and none of which are identical to those of others. Nevertheless, these circumstances incline us to view the world in one way rather than another.
Regardless of the interpretive method you adopt, I have become convinced that—as a Christian—hope is at the center of my interpretation of the world. It is the theme that puts everything else into perspective. And although this may come across as blind optimism, I prefer to think about it as guarded anticipation.
What about you? How do you think the world should be interpreted? And what are some important criteria for interpreting it in a way that recognizes its hurts yet also appreciates its joys?
Derek Cooper is assistant professor of biblical studies and historical theology as well as Director of the LEAD MDiv program at Biblical. He is co-planting a church in Doylestown called The Garden, and his most recent book is entitled Thomas Manton: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Puritan Pastor: http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Manton-Thought-Puritan-History/dp/1596382139/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1319153564&sr=8-1#_. See his faculty page at: http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/derek-cooper.