My aim today isn't to answer this question, only to sharpen its point. If exegesis is to wrestle with the the reality to which Scripture points (according to its genre as kerygmatic witness), then how does one access it and then verify whether one has identified it? This is an issue that is often simply ignored by those who like to imagine themselves as doing "objective" research. As Childs says,
“Seldom has the issue of the substance of the witness, that is, its reality, been dealt with above board and clearly, but rather some sort of assumed hermeneutic has been silently approved" (Biblical Theology, 80ff.).Here are the examples he provides us to help make his point:
(1) G. von Rad's form of Heilsgeschichte as a history of continual actualization of tradition assumes that there is a reality lying behind the various witnesses which emerges in ever greater clarity at the end of the process, but which can also at times be anticipated through typological adumbration. Yet the reader is given only vague hints of what is theologically involved. In his final chapter (Old Testament Theology, II, 319ff.) von Rad is forced to fall back to several traditional, but often conflicting, schemata (Law/Gospel, prophecy/fulfilment, letter/spirit) in order to relate the Old Testament's substance to his christological model (cf. Oeming, Gesamtbiblische Theologien, 58ff).
(2) R. Bultmann's search for the reality behind the New Testament's witness assumes it to be a mode of authentic existence which is described by means of modern existentialist categories. Only those New Testament writers who appear compatible to this move provide vehicles for an authentic voice (Paul, John) while many other New Testament authors are rendered largely mute by means of critical deconstruction (Luke, Pastorals, II Peter, Revelation).
(3) P. Tillich speaks freely of the reality of the New Being which conquers existential estrangement and makes faith possible. Jesus as the Christ is the symbolic expression of this New Being, and the biblical portrait of this symbol mediates a knowledge of God. Participation, not historical argument, guarantees the event on which faith is grounded as a sign of the continuing transforming power of this reality once encountered by Jesus' disciples. That the Old Testament plays a minor role here is apparently taken for granted.
(4)Again, many modern 'narrative theologies' seek to avoid all dogmatic issues in the study of the Bible and seek 'to render reality' only by means of retelling the story. (Hence the agreement of both liberals and conservatives regarding the centrality of narrative, but who disagree concerning the nature of the 'old, old story'.) The move has recently become popular of inviting the reader to enter the fictive world of the biblical text, a realm of symbolic language, which evokes new imagery for its hearers. Clearly an assumption is being made regarding the nature and function of the Bible which privileges the genre of story over against those other biblical forms of psalmody, law and wisdom.
(5)Finally, many modern biblical scholars have been attracted by a hermeneutical theory such as that proposed by David Kelsey (JAAR, 585ff.) who defends the position that the Bible's authority does not rest on any specific content or property of the text, but lies in the function to which biblical patterns have been assigned by the 'imaginative construals' of a community of faith. One cannot rightly attack the consistency of the theory, but the theological issue turns on whether one can do justice to the function of scripture when it is so loosely related to its subject matter, that is, to its reality.
I hope to give my own thoughts soon.
I also hope this begins to highlight the naivety of the outdated categories of liberal/conservative recently employed by N.T. Wrong in his attempt to "figure out" his colleagues. For more on this, see Paul Minear's work.