Emotional Intelligence and Sola Scriptura

I was reading a comment thread the other day, a discussion about hell, and multiple people in the thread were saying things like this: "I'm not basing my views on emotion or sentiment. I've reached my conclusion because it is the one based firmly on Scripture."

I'm sure you've heard claims like that before. I've heard them many, many times.

"I am basing my views on Scripture."

"My exegesis of the text forced me to adopt the position I currently hold."

"Though I wish it were otherwise, this is the view that Scripture compels me to believe."

"This is the clear teaching of Scripture."

I once quipped at a conference that a fundamentalist is a person who thinks he doesn't have a hermeneutic.

I don't want to rehash that point as it's a point that has been made many, many times. We all have a hermeneutic. We are all interpreting the text to some degree. We are all privileging--deferring to--certain values, doctrines, creedal commitments, traditions, or biblical texts. Something somewhere is trumping something else. In a document as multivocal as the Old and New Testament this is unavoidable.

So we all have a hermeneutic. The only question is whether you are consciously vs. unconsciously using a hermeneutic. Fundamentalists are interpreting the text unconsciously. Fundamentalists are interpreting the text right and left, they are just unaware that they are doing so. This lack of awareness is what produces the sorts of statements described above.

When your hermeneutic is operating unconsciously it causes you to say things like "this is the clear teaching of Scripture."

Which brings me to my point.

What is interesting to me in this phenomenon is not that we are all engaging in hermeneutics, acts of interpretation. That is a given. What is interesting to me is how self-awareness, or the lack thereof, is implicated in all this.

Basically, fundamentalism--denying that you are engaged in hermeneutics--betrays a shocking lack of self-awareness, an inability to notice the way your mind and emotions are working in the background and beneath the surface.

I think statements like "this is the clear teaching of Scripture" are psychologically diagnostic. Statements like these reveal something about yourself. Namely, that you lack a certain degree of self-awareness.

For example, saying something like "this is the clear teaching of Scripture" is similar to saying "I'm not a racist." Self-aware people would never say either one of those things.

Self-aware people would say things like "I don't want to be a racist" or "I try not to be racist" or "I condemn racism." But they would never say "I'm not a racist" because self-aware people know that they have blind spots. Self-aware people know they have unconscious baggage that is hard to notice or overcome.

And it's the same with how self-aware people approach reading the bible. Self-aware people know that they are trying to read the bible in an unbiased fashion. Self-aware people work hard to let the bible speak clearly and it its own voice. But self-aware people know they have blind spots. They know that there is unconscious baggage affecting how they are reading the bible, baggage that they know must be biasing their readings and conclusions. Consequently, self-aware people would never, ever say "this is the clear teaching of Scripture." Just like they'd never claim to be unbiased in any other area of life, racism being just one example.

What I am saying is that when we approach the issue of sola scriptura--using "the bible alone"--there is more to this than pointing out the ubiquity and necessity of hermeneutics. There is also the issue of emotional intelligence, the degree to which you are reading the bible with a degree of self-awareness.

Many fundamentalists seem to struggle with emotional intelligence. Which might also explain why fundamentalists also struggle with things like empathy and emotional regulation (e.g., anger).

Perhaps this--a lack of emotional intelligence--is the root problem with fundamentalism, both biblically and socially.

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