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Interpretation 2.0 – Capsules

In my previous post I suggested that the traits of Web 2.0 might translate well into traits of theological interpretation. I want to offer some quick ideas–capsules, if you will–about how this translation might work.

1. Web 2.0 doesn’t have a hard boundary, but rather, a gravitational core.

It might be better for us to define theological interpretation in terms of a center or “gravitational core”. In this way a “rule of faith” might come into play. More appropriately, though, we ought to define theological interpretation as that interpretation that is pulled toward Christ. Theological interpretation is not so much defined by the boundaries placed around its edges, but by the larger body to which it is attracted. “Theological interpretation doesn’t have a hard boundary, but rather a gravitational core in Jesus Christ.”

2. Web 2.0 embraces the power of the web to harness collective intelligence.

Theological interpretation, while certainly an exercise that can become a specialization, is not something exclusively the discipline of elite scholars. In fact, I would contend that theological interpretation, like Web 2.0 products, is only fully realized when the collective force of the body of Christ is harnessed. Again, we ought to consider the role of a “rule of faith” which encapsulates the hermeneutic of the Church. But, also we need to understand that the collective intelligence/understanding of the Church is not a concerted effort at any one point in time. The body of Christ must be seen in its pan-historical, cultural, ethnic nature. “Theological interpretation embraces the power of the body of Christ to harness collective understanding of Scripture.”

3. Web 2.0 software infrastructure is largely open source or otherwise commodified.

It may be difficult to offer an analogy of software infrastructure when speaking about theological interpretation. I see the idea of infrastructure in theological interpretation in the interpretative methods employed. In that case, we might be able to say, on the one hand, that biblical interpretation has always been open source. The history of biblical interpretation demonstrates a quite open dialogue and exchange of ideas. Changes have occurred; discoveries have been made; better understanding has been a result. On the other hand, however, since the rise of the historical-critical method, there has been a sense that biblical interpretation is closed off to certain methodological approaches. Much has contributed to this. I believe that at some level the closed nature of historical criticism can be attributed to interpreters’ notions of what it is one is after in interpreting the bible–AKA “meaning”. There is more to say here, and I have addressed some of this in my dissertation. In the interest of keeping this to “capsule” size I will hold off on further comments. “The methodology of theological interpretation is largely open source and otherwise commodified.”

[I’ll expand the following at later date. For now I offer only the first attempt at translation.]

4. Web 2.0 software is delivered as a service, not as a product, therefore, it must be maintained on a consistent basis, and users must be treated as co-developers.

“Theological interpretation is in service to the body of Christ and its life with God, therefore, it must be engaged on a consistent basis, and the members of the body must be treated as fellow interpreters.”

5. Web 2.0 strives for simplicity and to be “organic”. This means applications are loosely coupled and even fragile, applications encourage cooperation and not control, and that “the most successful web services are those that have been easiest to take in new directions unimagined by their creators.”

“Theological interpretation strives for simplicity and to be ‘organic’ and ‘holistic’. This means interpretations are loosely coupled, fragile and underdetermined, interpretations encourage cooperation and not control, and the most meaningful interpretations are those that can be taken in new directions unimagined by original authors or faithful interpreters.”

6. Web 2.0 is no longer limited to one platform.

“Theological interpretation is no longer limited to one eccesiological framework.”

7. Web 2.0 creates a rich user experience where applications learn from the users using an architecture of participation.

“Theological interpretation creates a rich experience of faith where the body of Christ is enriched by the interpretations of its members who are parts of interpretive communities that utilize an architecture of participation.”

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