Thanks, @Christy, for the Vanhoozer links. Narrative Theology. Once again, I discover that there is already a name for something that I was thinking. By way of “payback,” here are some interesting perspectives from Anthony Thiselton’s book on hermeneutics, The Two Horizons, that you and @Mazza_P (at least) might enjoy:
"We have seen that Wittgenstein lays down a very solemn warning
about the power which a picture possesses to seduce us, to lead us astray,
or at the very least to dictate our way of marking out the terms of a
problem. He writes concerning the spell of a picture over his own earlier
work: “A picture held us captive. And we could not get outside it.“ “The
picture was the key. Or it seemed like a key.“ What misleads us is not
simply the power of a model or metaphor as such, but the fact that all too
often our way of seeing a particular problem is wholly dictated by a single
controlling picture which excludes all others. In these circumstances it
exercises a spell over us, which bewitches our intelligence and blinds us
to other ways of seeing the problem.
In the history of the debate about the nature of biblical authority,
often each side has operated with a controlling picture on the basis of
which it makes out the entire ground of the debate. The most obvious
example concerns a one-sided picture of the Bible either as exclusively a
divine Word of God, or else as exclusively a merely human word of
religious men. …
We have seen that for Wittgenstein “the speaking of language is
part of an activity.“ “Only in the stream of thought and life do words
have meaning.“ This means that the actual experience of the authority
of the biblical text is something which occurs in concrete and dynamic
terms. This is seen in many different ways and experienced at different
levels. Biblical authority is not simply an abstract and monolithic concept.
We have seen, for example, that the biblical writers address themselves to
different particular situations, and that, in turn, they write out of their
own particular situations. This means that the biblical text comes alive as
a “speech-act” (cf. Heidegger’s “language-event”) when some kind of
correspondence or inter-relation occurs between the situation addressed
by the biblical writer and the situation of the modern reader or hearer.
This looks at first sight as if it opens the door to subjectivism or at the very
least to what Barr calls a “soft” idea of authority. But to describe such a
view of authority as “soft” is a grave mistake. To recognize the interrelationship
between authority and hermeneutics is precisely to give authority
cash-value and a cutting edge. It means that far from seeing the biblical
message as something packaged up in neat containers and abstracted from
life, it is in the stream of life and thought that it makes its impact, from
situation to situation. The experience of biblical authority is concrete and
dynamic, because it is not experienced outside a given language-game.
There is a danger that both sides in the debate will read too much, or
perhaps not enough, out of this point. We are not saying that the Bible is
authoritative only when it “rings a bell” for the hearer. For we are
speaking here not of authority as such, but of the experience of authority.
At one level, what the Bible says about forgiveness, for example, is
authoritative for the Christian regardless of his situation (in a way which
we shall explain shortly). But at the level of experience, it is when a man
so reads the texts that he hears God, for example, forgiving him that the
authority of the text is fully experienced. In this sense, the language-games
of the Bible embrace a whole range of dynamic speech-acts:
commanding, promising, asking, judging, blessing, warning, pardoning,
acclaiming, and so on. But at another level all these broadly “performative”
acts can be effective only because certain states of affairs are true.
Thus Jesus can say “Your sins be forgiven you” only because he is the
one who can forgive sins. In this sense, the authority of the words of
Jesus rests on something that lies behind the particular speech-act and its
The point which is correct behind the so-called “non-propositional”
view of revelation is that the Bible is not merely a handbook of information
and description, along the lines of propositions in the Tractatus.
But the point behind the so-called “propositional” view is even more
important, even if it is badly expressed in the traditional terms which are
often used. It is that the dynamic and concrete authority of the Bible
rests, in turn, on the truth of certain states of affairs in God’s relation to
the world. As J. L. Austin succinctly put it, for performative language
to function effectively, “certain statements have to be true."