Thomas's Blog

A New Hermeneutic

Posted By Thomas Murphy on November 01, 2014

In my office I have an icon of the famous Christ Pantocrator that stares at me from the bookcase across from my desk.  As a person whose vocation involves quite a bit of writing, I spend quite a bit of time staring out over my desk, waiting for inspiration. Naturally, this icon frequently catches my attention especially the gaze of the Christ, one eye human, one divine. How does this icon inform me about living out my faith? How does one have this sacred double vision, a Godly and mortal point of view? How is any of this going to help me finish a Connection article? 

One of the areas of academics that most interests me involves thinking about hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is derived from the Greek word hermeneuo which means to “translate, interpret.” It is a field that explores the way humans make sense of the world around them. One of the most interesting developments over the last part of this century is the rise of the aptly named “hermeneutics of suspicion.” Speaking very generally this worldview utilizes a number of ways of interpreting facts to ferret out the underlying motivations for people’s actions. For instance, those influenced by the works of Karl Marx would invariably ask how individuals were attempting to benefit economically. 

I was thinking about this when again I was caught in the gaze of the icon in my office, one eye human, the other divine. I began wondering, how could we look on the world with this sacred double-vision seeing things through the eyes of the Christ? Now looking at the world through human eyes shouldn’t be a problem. We know how to walk down a sidewalk without tripping. We know that the man in the tattered clothes down town might ask us for money.  We know that the car with Florida tags on the Blue Ridge Parkway will drive really, really, really slow. But trying to look through the eyes of an omniscient, omnipotent creator deity is a bit more of a stretch. 

Perhaps, maybe, it just could be that’s why we were created with imaginations: to try and picture how others, even those wholly ‘other,’ interpret the world. It may just mean trying to imagine everything around us through God’s vision. It may mean asking how God would view how we let the small things impede our joy in the midst of creation.  Would God care if someone took our parking space?  Would God care that we didn’t get the raise we deserved?  Would God care about anything other than our appreciation of creation, our creator, and the well being of the creatures in our lives? 

Of course, we can’t only go through life this way. We would trip on the sidewalk, not be ready to give a person in need some change, and not pass the car with the Florida plates as soon as possible to get to our favorite spot to watch the sunset on a breezy autumn evening, your family wrapped up in a blanket as the light fades. But what if being a follower of the Christ means cultivating a new hermeneutic?  What if it means using our imagination to see the world through God’s eyes and our own mortal perceptions?  What if we are called to interpret the world through double vision?  In my office, the icon continues to stare at me as I continue to gaze on it, hoping the way of truly seeing lies somewhere in between.