Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Here and there around the blogosphere

I've been crazy busy recently, but have also had the pleasure of running across a few interesting essays and posts that I thought I would share with you.

Stephanie Paulsell writes in the latest Christian Century about the importance - the proper importance - of a learned ministry. I heartily endorse what she is saying; in fact, I would have written a broadly similar essay if given the opportunity. The church suffers when it is anti-intellectual. The church also suffers when it is over-intellectual, although it is my sense that, on the whole, we have suffered more from the former than the latter recently. The key is loving to learn and using whatever intellectual gifts one has to love and serve others, not fancying that being a smarty pants makes you better than or above others - and not letting others put you down or marginalise you because you've got a lot of 'book' learning. (I've written more about this elsewhere.)

Being part of the 'body' of Christ means that we are each given gifts which are meant to be realised in serving and loving others; it also means that others have gifts which are meant to be realised in serving and loving others too, including oneself. There is no gift which puts us 'above' another, and there is no gift which puts us 'beneath' others. There is of course difference, genuine difference, but this is not a difference which exalts one and puts another down.

We should never nourish the conceit that we can 'go it alone', any more than we would look at a dismbodied hand lying in the street and say 'hey, good for it - it's finally decided to go its own way!' This is another way of acknowledging that whatever gifts we have also involve limitations and incompletions which can only be filled by others - and similarly that we may have something for them as well.

Also, Doug over at Metacatholic draws our attention to a survey which seems to bear out the intuition that self-identified fundamentalists don't know the Bible better than others. In light of the study's finding that there is no correlation between Biblical literacy and political orientation (i.e. conservative may be either biblically literate or illiterate, liberals the same), Doug makes the observation that: "If true, however, it may suggest very controversially that not only does “believing the Bible” function as a shibboleth rather than anything else, but that the scriptures may exercise very little power over the biblically literate and illiterate alike. If Bible reading and knowledge has no correlation with political affiliation, that would seem to be suggested."

That is one way of analysing the data, but not the only one. It may actually suggest that it is people who have ideologies and political orientations, and not texts - and so a broad range of people may know and love the Bible, but interpret it differently. Or, a different and less hermeneutical point would be this: perhaps the politics suggested by the Bible are not easily mapped onto present-day political syntheses, and so there are both continuities and discontinuities between Scripture and the present day, such that the Scriptures do form people when engaged thoroughly and with depth, and yet without dictating which of the present political syntheses on offer is most appropriate or faithful.

He does helpfully raise the question about the (potential) incorrigibility of our beliefs and practices, political and otherwise, which is a serious question, as well as the possibility of our failing to hear and not even realising our failing - a possibility which ought to haunt us.

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