Abstract

Charles Hodge continues to garner interest in contemporary theology, though sometimes for unlikely ends. This article assesses one example of this interest. William Placher finds in Hodge a distinction between what a biblical writer teaches under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and what the writer assumes as a fallible human. In Placher's judgment, this distinction provides warrant to set aside certain ethical injunctions when they demonstrably originate in fallible human assumptions and not inspired teaching. A priori, Hodge appears to make such a distinction. In order to assess this reading, I develop case studies of Hodge's biblical interpretation with respect to two pressing issues in his day—slavery and the challenge of science to the Bible—and then consider Hodge's explicit teaching on the doctrines of inspiration and Scripture. I argue that while Placher's interpretation does not sustain the weight of scrutiny, Hodge's hermeneutic evidences surprising sophistication. Based on the case studies, I note that a form of the trajectory hermeneutic may be detected in Hodge, and additionally I find points at which Hodge views the biblical text as scientifically undetermined. I conclude by offering an evaluation of Hodge's hermeneutic, which commends his approach to the challenges of science for biblical interpretation but raises questions about his method for resolving ethical challenges. Scriptural openness to homosexuality is chosen as a contemporary crucible for Hodge's hermeneutic.

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