Sunday, May 9, 2010

Participatory Exegesis

May 9, 2010

I met with my interdenominational colleague group this week. We gather once or twice a year to discuss theology, usually having read a biblical text, something ancient and something contemporary. This time it was the Psalms, The Letter to Marcellinus by Athanasius, and Participatory Biblical Exegesis: A Theology of Biblical Interpretation by Daniel Levering. I went with little clue about what issue Levering was addressing and wondering whether that emperor had any clothes. I found myself thinking that in the end he was arguing for inductive bible study for Roman Catholics. He clearly wanted bible study to be more than reading solely through the lens of the historical critical methods that most of us were taught but that none of us were limited by or to.

Our conversation however did lead us to the question of how our ‘world view’ affects biblical exegesis. Or put another way, we wondered about our fundamental assumptions about theology and history and how they affected our reading of scripture. If we say ‘Jesus is Lord’, do we mean something for all people and all of history? Or is the notion that God has established a single claim for all people for all time a reflection of the limited world view of the Roman Empire (as I suspect)? Is it the greater hubris to claim that Christianity is the ultimate way and that those of other faiths will need to get with the program, perhaps after they die; or is the hubris greater to say that a god who would condemn large swaths of the planet with different religious and cultural assumptions than our own is a god not worthy of worship? Is there a way to develop some kind of theological theory of relativity without resorting to relativism (‘my truth’ and ‘your truth’)?

We didn’t solve these mysteries, but once again ran up against the kinds of fault lines that are divisive for Christians. We see the conflict being played out in many ways in most mainline or old line denominations and between the more ‘liberal views’ and the more ‘conservative views’. Perhaps we are not so much an interdenominational colleague group as an interfaith one.

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