Original Research

Schriftgezag op het speelveld van de hermeneutische ethiek

Patrick Nullens
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 51, No 3 | a2138 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v51i3.2138 | © 2017 Patrick Nullens | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 April 2016 | Published: 20 April 2017

About the author(s)

Patrick Nullens, Department of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics, Evangelical Theological Faculty, Belgium and Faculty of Theology, North-West University, South Africa


Scripture on the playground of hermeneutical ethics. As a tribute to Jan G. van der Watt, in this article I offer a reflection on the authority of Scripture in ethics, in attempted loyalty to the motto of our theological faculty: Fides Quaerens Intellectum.

The main thesis of this article is that ethics not only requires hermeneutics, but that the core task of ethics itself is interpretation.

From an evangelical-reformed perspective, I will present a phenomenological and hermeneutical model, inspired by thinkers such as Gadamer and Ricoeur, defining ethics itself as a hermeneutical exercise, an act of interpretation, inherent to life itself. Defining ethics as such will influence the way in which we will integrate Scripture in our moral discourse.

The playing field of hermeneutical Christian ethics is described by four points we will briefly discuss. Firstly, we will describe ethics as a philosophical and theological discipline with a hermeneutical task. Next, I offer three anchor points for the unique contribution of Scripture to this hermeneutical process: (1) faith as the entry point for interpreting Scripture as a source for Christian ethics; (2) the church in the world as the context in which one uses Scripture; and (3) in the Augustinian tradition, the double commandment of love as the ultimate rule of interpretation, the measure against which every text should be read.

Despite the fact that these three anchor points all have their negative counterparts (idolatry, individualism and resentment), they are vital to the interpretation of Scripture in Christian ethics. Pastors who use Scripture for moral direction have to be aware of the characteristics of moral


Biblical-theological ethics; use of scripts (in ethics); hermeneutics/interpretation


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