As a dyed-in-the wool rhetorician, I've come to realize that regardless of the position one espouses on virtually any proposition, a confrontation with rhetorical realities is inevitable, eventually. Even the most ostensibly neutral, unbiased, opinion-free, balanced, logical, and yes, even polymathic expression of a position is informed by rhetoric, by which I simply mean persuasion.
Perhaps the rhetorical perspective is one of the best--if not the best--ways of looking at the presuppositions that inform every proposition, whether it originates in the hard sciences, the soft sciences, the arts, philosophy, all the -ologies, and even hermeneutics, which inhabits several "pigeonholes." Even an extreme nihilist likes to "pretend" (or acts as if) his/her words have meaning and are capable of being articulated, understood, and maybe even accepted as "true" by an audience, if only an audience of one (viz., himself or herself)! To think otherwise is to go insane. Even in insanity, however, there is persuasion, albeit a distorted version of it. But I digress.
Just because the extremes of rhetoric get the most attention (viz., polemics and dogmatism, on the one hand, and a flaccid pluralism on the other--though the latter gets far less attention today in my opinion), that does not mean, ipso facto, that the less intensely-held propositions are off the hook. Even a biology textbook will get off the beaten path of "neutrality" that is supposed to characterize the hard sciences and include, intentionally or not, some opinions, some educated guesses, and even more than occasionally an unsupported presupposition or two.
About the best we can hope for in a website like Biblical Hermeneutics is that there is a recognition among a critical mass of participants that each contributor to the website has something to offer, especially when it falls within the middle ground between the two extremes I've described above. Personally, being quite self-aware, rhetorically and self-reflexively speaking, I lean toward the dogmatic extreme, particularly regarding the interpretation of the Bible. On balance, however, I assume the Bible is in many ways very much like any other book or any other writing, whether from ancient times or from 2013, in that it doesn't interpret itself. No, it requires fallible and finite human beings, who will never get it right all the time.
That's why it's important to listen to and learn from each other, and more important be honest with ourselves and with one another about our presuppositions. Not that we need
constantly to be qualifying our answers (or questions) with "this is what my tradition says" or "I'm assuming X to be true," or "I know what I'm about to say may be controversial to some of you, but . . .", and so on.
By the same token, however, it's always a good idea to base particularly one's answers on a respect for the text and a respect for, and due deference to, each of the various disciplines that can potentially, at least, inform our hermeneutics. A very short list of these disciplines includes history, historiography, ancient languages, cultural anthropology, language as literature, world religions, philosophy, and philology, to name but a few.
None of us can truly interpret a writing on our own, free of bias, presuppositions, and the influences of those who have gone before. Why would we even want to? What's the sense in re-inventing the wheel over and over again? Clearly, we need to build on the foundation that has been built for us, even by people with whom we disagree. Maybe it's become too much of a cliché, but I think it still has some validity to it:
"All truth is God's truth, wherever it may be found."
Granted, it's not easy determining what the truth is, and even more difficult holding on to it, not to mention living in the light of it.
I realize I have hereby drawn a line in the sand, since there may be a few contributors to BH who posit neither truth nor God. That's OK. Perhaps I could tone down the statement by saying
"No one has a corner on the truth, and the best we can hope for is a measure of civility, irenicism, and consistency in applying reason, experience, as well as the tried and true, as we ask and answer questions vis a vis the biblical text."
Do not be surprised, however, if a full-blown paradigm shift in hermeneutics occurs, brought on by the rhetoric of a vocal minority that somehow captures the attention of a critical mass of supporters who agree with the minority in saying the old paradigm has outlived its heuristic value and needs to be retired.
In conclusion--and appropos the notion that we all need to stand for something or we may fall for anything, a well-respected and world-renown theologian once told me:
"Interpreting the Bible requires initially that we have an open mind, but that openness, like an open mouth at a smorgasbord, sooner or later needs to chomp down on something!"
And so it goes . . ..