|WHO ARE THE PROMISE KEEPERS?|
October 14, 1997
Other questions asked
in this forum:
What is the role of militarism in the organization? How do the Promise Keepers feel about homosexuality? Why did the Promise Keepers make such a national show of public prayer? What relation does the Promise Keepers have to other similar historical social movements in American History? Additional questions and comments.
October 3, 1997
Our guests debate the Promise Keepers' mission on the NewsHour.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of religion.
A question from Ed Kale of Duluth, MN:
Alice Anderson: Do you not think that the basis of Promise Keepers - a literal interpretation of the Bible - poses a serious question of intellectual integrity which is a danger to present-day society? I kept hoping you'd speak more strongly about the basis of their fundamentalist thinking.
Paul Edwards: Is there room for an historical, non-literal approach to the bible in the Promise Keepers?
Reverend Alice Anderson responds:
I don't claim to be an expert on the fundamentalist or non-fundamentalist thinking of the Promise Keepers. Much of the Biblical interpretation I have gleaned from them is as you say "a literal interpretation of the Bible which is ahistorical."
I think it's dangerous to approach a 2000-3000 year old book as though we were picking up and reading today's newspaper, thinking we need know nothing about the original writers and audiences and the historical circumstances in which they lived and sought to be faithful.
Scholars use two fancy words for Biblical interpretation that I find helpful- exegesis and hermeneutics. Exegesis has to do with what a text said. We can discover this by taking it seriously within its own context, on its own terms, answering its own questions. Only then are we ready for hermeneutics- interpretation- finding out what the text says, what it means to us today. Exegesis is what it said, hermeneutics is what it says.
Failing to follow these two interpretive steps does violence to the text. It keeps it from speaking to our own time. It allows the text to become a mirror for our own projections and prejudices. It is dangerous. It allows the Bible to become a weapon to shut people out rather than a tool to invite them in to wholeness and new life.
If faith is to be vibrant in the times we live it must be intellectually honest and speak to the needs of our own context. Our context is one where women seek mutuality with men, where we live in a pluralistic nation, where people of differing religious world views,ethnic origins and life circumstances try not only to co-exist but to find justice and community together. I think the Word that speaks to these aims is more complex than the Biblical views I have heard the Promise Keepers espouse.
Promise Keepers' Vice President Paul Edwards responds:
Promise Keepers does not espouse a literal interpretation of the Bible. Promise Keepers' approach to Biblical Interpretation (or hermeneutics) tries to draw the meaning of the text that the Biblical writers or editors intended to convey to the original readers.
In addition, interpreters of Scripture understand that any text without context is pretext. Therefore, Promise Keepers views a Bible verse or verses from a book in light of its paragraph. Then, the paragraph is examined in relation to the chapter. As the reader understands the chapter, he or she examines the chapter in light of the whole book. Finally, the interpreter consults the conditions present during the writing of the book to understand the author's intent.
With respect to Fundamentalists, Promise Keepers does not assume a label. Fundamentalists emerged after World War 1, but received particular prominence in the late 1970's and the 1980's. The "popularized" fundamentalists offered an answer for America's moral decline, secular humanism. Promise Keepers, on the other hand, is calling the Christian men of America to repent of their sins, return to responsible roles as father, husband and brother and practice purity and integrity.