Positivism etc

I have followed the discussion of positivism and related matters with
interest. Not being a Biblical scholar, but a linguist, however, I am
rather slow to contribute to the list. But I was struck by Dan McCartney's
puzzled (?) contribution, which concludes, "I cannot imagine a
fundamentalist agreeing that only statements which are in principle
verifiable by scientific method are meaningful."

I was struck by it because I guess I would call myself a fundamentalist,
and certainly the church to which I belong would be classed as
fundamentalist. As a linguist, however, I would accept (and perhaps insist)
that a dynamic equivalence theory of translation (if I correctly understand
what that is!) is necessary, and that anything more 'literal' (i.e.
something assuming that there are direct cross-linguistic semantic
equivalences) is simply at odds with the nature of language. Most Bible
translators of my acquaintance have a similar view, and I note that
increasing numbers of them illustrate dynamic equivalence in translation in
their letters to their supporters -- and their support continues to come

What I find ironic, however, is that many of my fellow fundamentalists who
lack an academic background in fact _do_ presuppose a 'literal' view of
translation and treat the Scriptures as if individual words/phrases/verses
are totally meaningful without either textual or social context. It is in
this respect, I guess, that a "positivistic view of language" can be
credited to "fundamentalists".

An extension of this position seems to me to be the literalist view of,
e.g., the creation story. This, I take it, arises from a view of text as
being either 'fact' or 'fiction' ('true' or 'false'). I am no church
historian, but it seems to me -- again ironically -- that this approach to
language and to text arises out of a popular education derived from the
Enlightenment which has no place for 'myth', 'legend' or anything else that
lies between 'fact' and 'fiction'. The result is that, quite contrary to
their intention, some fundamentalists, at least, take the texts as doing
something quite different from what their writers intended.

Malcolm Ross
Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies
Australian National University
Canberra, Australia 0200
e-mail: mdr412@coombs.anu.edu.au