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Houston Christian University | May 15, 2024

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Guidelines for Interpreting Culture

Guidelines for Interpreting Culture

| On Aug 29, 2012

Kevin Vanhoozer, Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends

  1. Try to comprehend a cultural text on its own terms (grasp its communicative intent) before you “interpret” it (explore its broader social, political, sexual, or religious significance).
  2. Attend to what a cultural text is doing as well as saying by clarifying its illocutionary act (e.g., stating a belief, displaying a world).
  3. Consider the world behind (e.g., medieval, modern), of (i.e., the world displayed by the cultural text), andin front of (i.e., its proposal for your world) the cultural text.
  4. Determine what “powers” are served by particular cultural texts or trends by discovering whose material interests are served (e.g., follow the money!).
  5. Seek the “world hypothesis” and/or “root metaphor” implied by a cultural text.
  6. Be comprehensive in your interpretation of a cultural text; find corroborative evidence that makes the best sense of the whole as well as the parts.
  7. Give “thick” descriptions of the cultural text that are nonreductive and sensitive to the various levels of communicative action.
  8. Articulate the way of being human to which a cultural text directly or indirectly bears witness and gives commendation.
  9. Discern what faith a cultural text directly or indirectly expresses. To what convictions about God, the world, and ourselves does a cultural text and/or trend commit us?
  10. Locate the cultural text in the biblical creation-fall-redemption schema and make sure that biblical rather than cultural texts have the lead role in shaping your imagination and hence your interpretative framework for your experience.

(via Christopher Benson)

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