writing things down…

Archive for December, 2006

Hello, Beautiful Theology

AKMA has started “A site for discussing the relation of meaning, images, sounds, and words to theological discourse.”  It’s called Beautiful Theology.  Head over and join in on the discussion about Magritte and Tuftes.


Wright on an Ephesians view of God’s purpose

Apparently there is something afoot among evangelicals in the Church of England. Read the full text of a “covenant” presented to Archbishop Williams here (rtf download). Read N. T. Wright’s rather pointed response, Fulcrum: A Confused ‘Covenant’. By in large, I tend to gravitate toward Wright’s position on many things. On this particular issue, I am no different. But, I am making this post not so much to comment on the brewing controversy, rather I was struck by the following sentences in Wright’s response. They speak to a major theme of Ephesians. Since I am keenly attuned to Ephesians-related things at the moment. I present the text here for your reflection.

Equally worrying is the resolute opening statement of individualism, couched in classic evangelical-modernist terms: ‘individuals’ coming into a ‘relationship’ with God. Let’s be clear: of course each person must answer for themselves, must come to personal faith. But that (especially when reduced to the shabby 60s language of ‘relationship’) is not the centre, or the full width, of the biblical gospel. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself; God’s purpose was to sum up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth. The challenge to each person comes, as Ephesians makes clear, within that larger framework. And when the authors write that the love and grace of God in the gospel ‘draws members into the Body of Christ’, the teacher feels his red pen jumping out of his pocket at the slapdash writing: are they already members of the Body before they are drawn into it? Surely they mean ‘draws people into membership of the Body of Christ’…and what is this ‘Body’, anyway? Wait and see, is the authors’ answer: it turns out to be not the church as envisaged within classic Anglicanism or indeed classic Pauline theology, but the free agglomeration of a bunch of individuals.

Quote of the Week

“[T]heology and ecclesiology should drive scriptural hermeneutics, not the other way around.”

Stephen Fowl, “The Importance of a Multivoiced Literal Sense of Scripture: The Example of Thomas Aquinas,” in Reading Scripture with the Church: Toward a Hermeneutic for Theological Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), pp. 35-50 (37).

The Ultimate Rejection Letter

A friend sent me the following letter (I’ve modified the names and such):

Sari B. No
Chair – Search Committee
123A Lofty Tower, Selective University
College Hill, CA 94109

Dear Professor No,

Thank you for your letter of December 16. After careful consideration, I
regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me
an assistant professor position in your department.

This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually
large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field
of candidates, it is impossible for me to accept all refusals.

Despite Selective’s outstanding qualifications and previous experience in
rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at
this time. Therefore, I will assume the position of assistant professor
in your department this August. I look forward to seeing you then.

Best of luck in rejecting future applicants.

Will Knott

Checking in

I don’t anticipate blogging much for the next few weeks.  Here’s why…

  1. Stacks of papers to grade by January 8
  2. Two book reviews to complete by the end of February
  3. Syllabus to revise by January 1
  4. Family to visit from December 23-31
  5. Other things to do all the time

I’m looking forward to #’s 4 & 5.  I’ll share on all of these things as time allows.

Quote of the Week

” A hermeneutic that respects the full catholicity of meaning needs to start by accepting abundance as a positive condition.”

A.K.M. Adam, “Poaching on Zion: Biblical Theology as Signifying Practice,” in Reading Scripture with the Church: Toward a Hermeneutic for Theological Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), pp. 17-34 (25).

New Book: A Hermeneutic and Model for Teaching Ephesians?

Another Chris mentioned a book the other day in his blog that caught my attention. I followed his link to copies of the Preface and first chapter. After reading most of the Preface I headed over to the bookstore and picked up a copy of Colossians Remixed: Subverting Empire by Brian J. Walsh and Sylvia C. Keesmaat.

I look forward to reading Chris’ reflections in future posts. He stated that he would likely have more in-depth posts later. I will not tread into his territory here then. But, I do want to note a few things that I picked up in the early pages that give me hope for developing a way to approach Ephesians with my class in the Spring.

The authors state their intention: “The epistle to the Colossians, we are arguing, was an explosive and subversive tract in the context of the Roman empire , and it can and ought to function in an analogous way in the imperial realities of our time.” (7) Thus, they characterize their book as an “anti-commentary”. They note three ways in which the book is an “anti-commentary”: 1) it lacks the typical technical apparatus; 2) it is not written for pastors and scholars; and 3) it asks a different question. On this last point, the authors state, “Ours is a cultural, political, social and ecological reading of this text because these are the kinds of questions that our friends and our students ask.” (8, emphasis added) In a sense, the authors are probing the “so what” questions. For instance, “if it is true that Christ is the Creator and Redeemer of ‘all things’ as the Colossian poem so eloquently puts it, then what might be the implications of such a breathtakingly comprehensive worldview for our ecological, political and economic lives?” [NB: A similar question for students of Ephesians would be something like, “What are the political, social, economic and ecological implications of ‘all things being gathered up (anakephalaisasthai) in Christ’?” Fortunately, as we will see, we get part of the answer in the second half of Ephesians.]

I wonder if these are the sorts of questions I should be helping my students to formulate and answer. I think it would need to be a two part lesson. We do not teach students to ask these sorts of questions, though I sense that they are lying beneath the surface for most of seminarians because they are breaking the surface for the people in the world to whom the seminarians are or will be ministering. But, the question also assumes the students are reading the text closely enough to understand the eloquence of such things as “a breathtakingly comprehensive worldview”. So while part of the lesson would be formulation of questions, it would also be development of skills and habits of careful reading of texts. How else can we begin to understand just how breathtakingly comprehensive the worldview of Colossians is without resorting to careful readings of the text and the contexts of the text?

The authors seem to have these sorts of things in mind in the first part of their book where they consider our context (the formulation of questions?) and the context of Colossians (getting a sense of the worldview?). Part two leads the readers into the complex conversations about truth. Part three moves the readers into serious reflections about praxis in light of the previous parts on contexts and truth.

I am more interested in the hermeneutic approach than I am the conclusions reached. Echoing the authors, I note, while an exploration of the authorship issues of Ephesians is fascinating, it is simply not a question most people are asking. And frankly it is not a question they need to ask, at least at first.