Reflections following the Colloquium on Theological Interpretation

Just to venture some thoughts freshly stimulated by the Colloquium on Theological Interpretation held over the past couple of days at Laidlaw College in Auckland New Zealand. I was only able to attend the second day, but nevertheless have come away with fresh insights and questions, and a delight to be a part of the conversation. Daniel Kirk has offered some of his own thoughts at Storied Theology, and presented a paper which I unfortunately was not present for but hear was very helpful.

At the close of the colloquium Joel B. Green noted how it was the first colloquium on biblical studies to begin with prayer that he had attended in a very long time. This was both a shock and saddening, but at the same time indicated the ‘life’ that was present at this colloquium and showed that what took place was actually carried out in the Spirit of TI itself.

Some thoughts…

  • What we need is study of the Biblical documents in line with their nature as confessional documents intended to proclaim, teach and shape lives. Perhaps recapturing the Bible as a personal confession (within a wider social,  geographical, and historical confession), rather than “someone elses mail”, will assist us in doing biblical studies that can more directly speak to the church.
  • Sometimes those who advocate Theological Interpretation seem to be saying that we need to set aside the ‘historical critical’ questions biblical scholars have been taking to the text and replace these with theological questions. But in my humble opinion the many questions asked of the texts–whether concerned with sources, historicity, literary features, etc.–are all legitimate. Can we not ask questions concerning the theology of the texts as well as all these and more?
  • As someone who is entering into the realm of teaching within the context of a Bible college, and who has been interested in the form and function of theological education for some time, I often ponder the pros and cons of the division between Biblical studies and Theology. Does the departmental split need to stand? Or does this need rethinking? While we do not want to collapse one into the other, I think we need to reconfigure their relationship. How we should do so is of course the big question.
    • My thought experiment is to retain the distinction in departments but to not associate lecturers with either one. So while retaining OT, NT, and Theology departments, gone will be NT and OT professors, and professors of Theology. Room would still need to made for particular specializations within each field, but these would be all determinative for what one teaches, researchs, and publishes on. Possible? Im not sure…
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5 thoughts on “Reflections following the Colloquium on Theological Interpretation

  1. I’d rather do away with the split curriculum, deal with things in teaching in a more wholistic way… but as for the people, it is largely forces outside any institution that demand specialisation… journals, professional bodies etc…

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    • I’m really hankering to sit down with some people and discuss this issue. The reason I said not to do away with the curriculum split is because we still need courses on Matthews Gospel, Colossians, Genesis, etc. which aren’t burdened by having to tackle theological issues which require appropriating the whole canon of Scripture. Plus, there is only so much one can explore in one semester (perhaps limiting courses to a semester needs looking at?).

      Can we specialize without becoming singularly focused? Surely we can manage multiple interests, and if this means we cannot read as near to everything as we could before, would this really be a problem?

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  2. Why do we “need” courses on things like Genesis et al.?

    If we taught more wholistically students would still sometimes need to think about creation (or at least the world or humans as creatures) then they’d go to their library (or Google Books) or to their OT tutor and get a quick intro to Genesis. Likewise surely some time they’d be thinking abouyt the nature of faith, enter the need to study Father Abraham…

    On specialisation: my answer would be specialise as much as you have to (for me that means the odd article in ZAW and attending SBL) but keep a breadth of interests at the rubber-hits-the-road interface (for me that’s Children’;s ministry and using electronic communication tools). Results: some PBRF score for Carey, some fun for me, and teaching that is enriched (I hope) from both “ends”…

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  3. It would begin from life. The questions addressed would be posed by what the students were doing or wanting to do. But a certain core of “stuff” would be selected and used to prime the pump.

    So e.g. biblical hermeneutics would be taught because students have to preach. Job would be read because someone has a “Job” in their circle asking awkward questions.

    Free form and task focused. Various specialist tutors would be called in as and when their speciality was relevant, as would books, journal articles etc. Exch student or group of students would work with a primary tutor who would be responsible for ensuring that they didn’t miss too many really important things.

    The biggest problem would be getting something like that to look like an NZQA approvable “course of study”, but I suspect one could string together collections of skills that do come out of life and that do need to be learned…

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