It was over three years ago when I heard a preacher-friend make a comment that I cannot get out of my mind. He was speaking on a somewhat controversial topic. He was trying to describe his study and his method of working through a topic that challenges traditional church of Christ belief and practice (I will leave the topic unnamed so that the topic itself does not overtake what I am trying to express).
Here’s what he said – “When it comes to controversial topic, my exegesis tells me one thing, but my theology tells me something different.”
These words have troubled me, almost haunted me, for the last three years. I have wrestled with this statement over and over. For me the big issue is, does exegesis drive theology, or does theology drive exegesis? Or put another way, does my exegesis shape my theology or does my theology shape my exegesis?
There have been days when I have convinced myself that exegesis obviously drives theology. After all, how are you going to do theology without preliminary exegesis? But there also have been days when I have decided that theology drives exegesis. After all, how can you do exegesis without presuppositional theology?
And so I wrestle. I flip-flop. I have an internal “the chicken or the egg?” debate going on in my mind about exegesis and theology.
Just last week I was convinced that exegesis trumps theology. Yesterday I decided I had it backward. Today I am just trying to find some safe haven in the tension between the two.
So what comes first, the exegesis or the theology?