All those theories of literature, which take into account the social conditioning of texts, in a way corroborate this stance. But why should this be true? Because - thus my basic axiom, debatable as it is - all human discourse is communicative action. There is always a speaker (sender) 0f messages and a recipient. The words pass from one to the other, they are anchored in determined life situations, they make sense in relationships between real people who speak and listen to each other, deities included (81).
Why do I emphasize so strongly the social origin and conditioning of biblical texts? How can I possibly consider social stratification as a basis for different theological concepts? Am I, as some dear colleagues suggest, walking on the bad path of surrendering unconditionally to social sciences, making theology a slave to empiric research and the precarious knowledge of social structures and processes? On the contrary, I would claim that my efforts to approach the Bible consistently from its human side, to tie texts to their social (and liturgical) roots, to admit social conditionings of biblical authors and modern exegetes, of theological conceptualizations and ethical judgements, does serve a thoroughly theological purpose. The word of God is known to us and communicated to us only by way of contextual events and sayings, narrations and confessions. Thus it is able to really interact with our limited human minds. The small change of God's love and forbearing can be recognized only in detailed studies of life's reality. From the different life situations of old, then, we may make inferences as to our social and personal situations today, and God speaks to us within exactly these rather earthly configurations. The Word which turned flesh really incorporated (and still incorporates) the conditions of our existence and our personal acting therein (92).
This approach to the psalms is important theologically because it reminds us that the psalms were originally wed to rituals that gave concrete expression to the psalms' claims of faith, statements of thanksgiving, words of praise, and pleas for deliverance. Just as ritual without ethics and commitment makes for an empty faith, so too spiritual expression without sacrifice makes for faith within no tangible imprint. The word of God is powerful because it is incarnational. By maintaining the link between the psalms and the cult we can, in some limited way, experience more fully the Word that both became flesh and demands expressions of devotion (in "The Psalms and the Cult," 120).
I suppose we must ask whether the different forms of communication in the divers (historical) texts that have been consolidated into a whole relate to one another. Indeed one may argue these texts relate to one another beyond a simple notion of a redactor or redactors taking disparate materials from different periods of time and consolidating (or forcing?) them into a 'new' text with a different purpose (I read Gerstenberger's work on the Psalter and OT theology in this way to a degree, but maybe I'm off on that). On this view, the purpose of editorial activity could be understood as scoring a point social, political or otherwise. But I think we must press beyond these to the larger theological question of how and why these divers materials have been consolidated into the final form of, say, the PSalter. Is there a theological relationship between the intentionality of Pss 15-24 and the larger corpus of the Psalter? Books 1-3 relating to the larger Psalter as the corpus grew? Pss 1-2 relating to the whole? Are these later relationships (which have been acheived through editorial arrangement, of course) rough or are they theologically consistent with the substance of the text? Another way of asking it is, Given that the text is divers and grew over time, are later editors (of the Psalter) changing the intent and message of previous versions of the Psalter? How would we know? I think here is where Childs points to 'canonical intentionality' or 'canonical consciousness' as a concept, which it seems Barr and Barton almost equate to a kind of magic. But then again, if it is a theological process, then it cannot be equated to magic on Childs' reckoning, but part of the process of God's revelation (cf. OT Theology in a Canonical Context). So maybe Gerstenberger -- given his assumptions -- does not go far enough.