I did a review of Roy Harrisville’s book Pandora’s Box Opened: An Examination and Defense of Historical-Critical Method and Its Master Practitioners over at Books at a Glance. Here is my conclusion.
Harrisville concludes that the historical-critical method introduced many evils, yet it also has been a force for good (at the very same time). The Bible is historically conditioned and requires the use of the human mind for exposition. Because the Christian proclamation involves witness in writing, the receiver must acknowledge the claim made by the biblical text. And the text must be allowed to have its say. In other words, the interpreter sits under the text, not over it.
Therefore the historical-critical method need not be outright rejected; yet its arrogance needs to be stripped away. Alternatives have arisen, according to Harrisville, alternatives such as rhetorical criticism, structuralism, and deconstruction. Yet I think Harrisville could have expanded this list to literary criticism, biblical theology, and canonical criticism. The later three criticisms are united by their rejection of the piecemeal view of the text, and an embracing of the unity. Added to these lists could be philosophical reflections on the role of the community, the nature of truth, and the role of subjectivity. Despite the opening of Pandora’s Box, the critical method is still able to be harnessed in the service of gospel proclamation. As Adolf Schlatter said:
For me, faith and criticism never divided into opposites, so that at one time I would have thought in a Bible-believing way, and at another critically. Rather I thought in a critical fashion because I believed in the Bible, and believed in it because I read it critically.