Brian's Notes - Part 3

Read Part 1 here
Read Part 2 here

Can you suggest a methodology, or even an attitude we should adopt, in reading scripture again – for the first time – in order to see it in the light of “narrative theology”?

This is huge. My first thought is "Read Brueggemann." He has helped me greatly in this regard.

My second thought is some advice a former colleague, Jose Torres, passed on to me: "If something is weird in the Bible, don't try to make it normal. Face its weirdness. Wrestle with it. Don't try to smooth the lumps and wrinkles in the bed; pull up the covers and see what's under there. Some of the greatest treasures come from the weirdest places." That advice has served me well.

Also, I think it's great to read weird commentaries - weird relative to your own upbringing or bias or training. For example, I saw Genesis in a new light after reading Alan Dershowitz's book "The Genesis of Justice," and Daniel Quinn's "Ishmael." In postmodern jargon, this involves listening to "the voice of the other" - seeing from someone else's perspective. I have some Jewish friends who occasionally come to my church - which makes me hear everything differently, because every time the word "Jews" comes up, or even when the name of "Jesus" is said, I can't help but think of how it sounded in their ears. I think these experiences help us with the Bible - asking, "How would this have sounded in the ears of the original hearers?" That involves imagination, which is pretty hard to turn into a technique or methodology, I suppose.

I just finished preaching through Colossians. I can't tell you how fresh it was for me. My dispensationalist-Calvinist upbringing always taught me to read the Bible looking for a couple of key doctrines (total depravity/original sin, justification by grace through faith, penal atonement, etc.). It was all individualistic, all hell-avoidance-oriented, etc. I've been away from that long enough now - plus I just returned from part of the summer in Africa where I was exposed to the fruits of colonial-Christianity - that I was able to read Colossians not as personalistic/individualistic - but as global, social, cosmic, historic, revolutionary, political - and the internal coherence in this reading was staggering to me. (I'm not saying I preached it that well!)

Thanks Brian!


Rev. Mike said...

"Read Brueggemann?" That's it? I had Walter for 3 or 4 classes over 15 years ago at Columbia and appreciated his insights back then, but now what? Do you really mean that the best that the emerging church has to offer is to continue the slow work of the past 100 years of dragging evangelicals back out of the Enlightenment? What's new and different about that?

Rick said...

I think Mike asked a great question, but for Evangelicals Bruggerman may just be "safe" and a first step for many. The next step may be to read who Walt quotes in his books. Mike is right, as much as I like Walt, he is not new.

Thanks for sharing with us,

jen lemen said...

i think brian could comment on this, but--and it's kind of funny--he's on his way to hang out with...brueggemann. honestly, though, maybe we can just think of brueggeman as one of many primers to get our feet wet. also, the point of the emerging church isn't just new or cool--but resurrecting the old and synthesizing a variety of perspectives to provide a fresh one that can speak to us in new ways and help us bravely walk into the future, the desire to love and bless the world being one of our chief motivations.

for those of you who find all this old hat, feel free to comment on your own favorite starting place for these kinds of journeys & from your experience, what you think brueggaman does/doesn't have to offer & who you might offer as an alternative.

Rick said...

Thanks Jen,

That is a good question. Persoanlly, I love Brueggemann and find him to be my favorite OT scholar. Purely for OT I like Richard Friedman as well. For NT, especially Luke, I found Joel Green to be enlightening. There is so much scholarship out thereone cannot read it all.

Once again, thanks for having this blog.

Many blessings,

Mike Todd said...

Well said, Jen, and thanks for the new information, Rick.

Rev. Mike said...

Jen, thanks for not letting me get away with that comment. After I'd posted it, I wished I'd said it better, or at least more charitably. I wrote more of a response at my own blog, so let me suggest that as a point of reference for my personal history with Brueggemann.

I hold Walter in very high regard. Understand that I attended Columbia from 1987-1990, and shortly after I graduated, the Soviet bloc collapsed. As a result, much of the Marxist-inspired liberation theology that was all the rage when I was at Columbia quickly fell into disrepute. Walter was up to his neck in that, so his agenda in books like The Prophetic Imagination was somewhat sullied in the aftermath, at least in my view. I was never on his wavelength politically, but what I did take away from him was his utter commitment to taking the text seriously as it presents itself to us rather than reading it through our particular, corrupted lenses. "TRUST THE TEXT," he would tell us as we took his lessons into the pulpit with us. They are the best advice I ever received from any professor under whom I studied.

For my part, I'm more inclined to follow the "ancient-future" approach of people like Tom Oden and Robert Webber, beginning with the Early Church and extending on to the Middle Ages. I suppose that makes me a fine one to be taking someone to task for being "so eighties," doesn't it? :)

marko said...

FYI, this is the exact subject of Dave Tomlinson's follow-up book to The Post-Evangelical (manuscript still in development - will probably release in the UK sometime next year, and in the US subsequently). He calls it "a second innocence" and leans heavily on Foucoult. i know it's not much help to say "there's a great book on this you can read in a year" - but be encouraged that it IS a subject the em-church is writing about.

marko said...

oh, and on brian's idea of reading "weird" commentaries -- i'm in the middle of Killing The Buddha: The Heretic's Bible, and finding it just that (on the recommendation of Bob Carlton). wonderfully different persectives that push me and pull me.

kooljack said...

RE Walter Brueggemann.
I'd want to read one or more of his books. He is a prolific author. Where should I begin ? Anyone who read him have a recommendation ?