Kyle Cupp writes over at Journeys in Alterity:
The idea of an infallible teaching authority has long made sense to me given the idea of a divinely-revealed text proclaiming matters of eternal life and death, especially as the particular text – the Bible – seems to avail itself to multiple conflicting interpretations. Put another way, it doesn’t make much sense to me to say that God revealed what is necessary for salvation through a text marked by ambiguity and layers of meaning, a variety of genres, and myriad historical and cultural nuances (not to mention inaccuracies and inconsistencies) without also providing a way of resolving fundamental disputes concerning salvation that inevitably arise during the difficult task of interpreting that text. The assurance that the Bible is divinely inspired and free from error in the essentials doesn’t mean much if we don’t have any assurance of knowing whose interpretation is true and whose is false.
He is right precisely because knowledge — all knowledge — is an interpretative projective act. Let me give a simple example: The other day, for some reason that I cannot quite explain, I was watching Glenn Beck. Don’t worry, I went to confession after. He was ranting about government and about the fact that we all “know” what it is supposed to be just by looking at it, and that it is the same as looking at a chair. You look at it and say, “that is clearly a ‘chair.'” The same is true of government. It is what it is.
The obvious problem of course is that a chair is not simply a chair to everyone. All knowledge is based on interpretation. Husserl would say that the act of interpretation takes account of one’s inner and outer horizon. For example, if someone from the jungle were to see what I call a chair, his own inner horizon of experience — his past life experiences and memories — and the outer horizon — the chair is near a wall with a picture hanging above it — may lead him to conclude that A. he has never seen one of these before, but he has seen something like it used for climbing, and B. it is a climbing aid to get to the picture. In other words, without any previous context, he has no way of interpreting what the thing that I call a “chair” is. He does not know, as I do, what the carpenter intended of it, or what it is commonly used for in its immediate environment, and without that knowledge, he cannot know it.
The same is true, magnified, with god. Why are there so many religions in the world? Because, without supernatural intervention, the interpretative knowledge of “god” will be based on various projections of people’s inner and outer horizons. When it comes to god in particular, there is no absolute way to know “what” he is. With a chair, the native can ask someone who uses it regularly, or ask the carpenter. But with god, we cannot do that. So we continue to project and interpret based on cultural opinions or deep-seated desires. This is not a wrong approach; it simply is all we have.
It is precisely for this reason that Kyle is right. To know God, we need revelation. We need Jesus to overcome the hermeneutical problem of projection interpretation in knowledge. Jesus is the interpretation of God. He is the hermeneutic of God, solving the problem of many religions. Yet to know him too, we need an infallible church.