Illegitimate totality transfer

Today I was listening to a talk entitled "Reading the Gospel While Black" with N. T. Wright, Esau McCaulley, and Tim Mackie. McCaulley makes a great point about the necessity for clear definitions when we discuss topics like justice. He referred to the hermeneutical term, illegitimate totality transfer which assumes that all the uses of a word or term that occur in a given time will apply in any given instance. 

As I tell my bible Study class, words can have different meanings in different contexts. A biblical author can use a word one way with one meaning and another author can use the same word with a different intended meaning. 

Illegitimate totality transfer is when we insist that word or idea carries the entirety of its meaning no matter how it is used. For example, the meaning of the word salvation can convey different meanings and intent in different texts, but some faith groups only see the word in its entirety no matter where or how it's presented in context.

I know we're deep in the theological weeds now but stay with me. McCaulley makes a great point about how this hinders us from having simple conversations and dialog about so many topics of great importance. We listen and speak through our doctrinal ideologies not with an open mind or from a desire to learn and engage in meaningful dialog. This is just one problem with certainties. The old song that says "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it" could not be more wrong or hazardous for our spiritual growth. 

McCaulley's statement about what happens when we ignore the illegitimate totality transfer rule gives us something to think about.

"We've lost the ability to understand one another, and we think that words activate world views. So instead, we don't have conversations with one another, we have conversations with ideologies. What really is needed is for Christians to listen to one another and assume you are talking to the person in front of you, not some book you read about the subject or what someone said on Fox news."

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