It's been almost nine months since two significant but seemingly unrelated events happened, events symbolized by two separate hills in our nation's capital. The U.S. Senate in an overnight session failed to muster a supermajority of 60 votes to break a filibuster over presidential nominations for the federal court bench. As a result, the minority in the Senate stonewalled four seemingly qualified nominees because they were considered "outside the judicial mainstream."

About the same time, despite the pleas and threats of a large minority of its constituency, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America-whose symbolic "see" is the Washington National Cathedral in D.C.-invested a practicing homosexual with the title of bishop. Although the stories were covered in different sections of the newspapers-the politics and the religion sections-the two stories are closely linked-and much more so than appears on the surface.

The key to understanding the connection is found in the appendix of a new book on preaching. Dr. Walter Kaiser, president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, writes: "In my judgment, the most dramatic moment in the entire 20th century came in 1946 when W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley published their article 'The Intentional Fallacy' in The Sewanee Review" (Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament, Baker 2003).

Wimsatt and Beardsley, according to Kaiser's summary, taught that "whatever an author may have meant or intended to say by his or her written words is now irrelevant to the meanings we have come to assign as the meaning we see in the author's text. On this basis, the reader is the one who sets the meaning for the text." Also called "formalist criticism," this school argued, in short, ...

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