Archives for December 2014

Lectionary Reflection for the Second Sunday after Christmas Day

This excerpt comes from Psalms for All Seasons, commenting on Psalm 147:

Psalm 147, the third of six praise psalms that conclude the Psalter, intertwines acclamations about God’s creation and preservation of the cosmos (vv. 4-5, 8-9, 15-18) with acclamations about God’s present-day acts of healing and restoration to the brokenhearted and outcasts (vv. 2-3, 6, 10-11, 13-14, 19-20).

Addressed to the community that had returned from exile (see v. 2), this intertwining is a way of saying both that the one who heals and restores us is none other than the Creator of the cosmos and that hte Creator of the astonishing cosmos is the one who cares about nurturing and healing us.

 

Prayer for reflection:
We worship you, O God, builder, healer, counter of stars.
We sing praise to you, O God, provider, delighter, protector of your people.
You give us life and joy through your Son.
By the power of your Spirit may we never stop rejoicing in you. Amen.

 

©2012 Faith Alive Christian Resources. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Ebook Special for Christianity and the Postmodern Turn by Myron B. Penner

Now through January 5, the ebook of Christianity and the Postmodern Turn: Six Views by Myron B. Penner (editor) is only $2.99 (89% off) from the following participating retailers:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

CBD

 

“Penner has assembled half a dozen fine scholars to explain and debate the issues that affect mainstream Christian thought in the wake of the postmodern turn. . . . An important contribution to Christian theology as a whole.”
—Fergus Kerr, OP, University of Edinburgh

“The value of this volume is that it demonstrates what is at stake in th[e] debate over Christianity and postmodernism.”
Christian Scholar’s Review

In our post-Cold War, post-colonial, post-Christian world, Western culture is experiencing a dramatic shift. Correspondingly, says Myron Penner, recent philosophy has taken a postmodern turn in which traditional concepts of reality, truth, language, and knowledge have been radically altered, if not discarded all together. This presents the Christian intellectual community with a unique set of challenges for articulating the gospel and fashioning a Christian worldview.

In Christianity and the Postmodern Turn, six contributors–including James K.A. Smith, John Franke, Merold Westphal, and Kevin Vanhoozer–respond to the question, “What perils and/or promises does the postmodern turn hold for the tasks of Christian thinkers?” Addressing topics such as the nature of rationality and biblical faith, the relationship of language to reality and truth, ethics, and apologetics/theological method, the book presents a variety of positions in dialogue with each other. It will be of interest to contemporary theology and philosophy students.

Myron Bradley Penner (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is pastor of Trinity International Church in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. He previously taught at Prairie College and Graduate School and served as a human development worker. He is the editor of Christianity and the Postmodern Turn and coauthor of A New Kind of Conversation.

The Kingdom Is Both Now and Not Yet (an Excerpt from Kingdom Conspiracy by Scot McKnight)

The following is an excerpt from chapter eleven of Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church by Scot McKnight.

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Kingdom begins with a story, and a good story has characters and a plot that creates a problem or some tension, and the plot seeks resolution for that tension. Kingdom story has a resolution. Someday the inaugurated kingdom will be a consummated kingdom. Someday the education will lead to the vocation.

The future is the magnet pulling the past and the present toward it. As Christian Wiman said it, “Remove futurity from experience and you leach meaning from it just as surely as if you cut out a man’s past.” Just a glimpse of that future, which is the subject of this chapter, is, to use Wiman’s words again, “that spirit cleansing whiff of the ultimate.” As a man with a death-dealing cancer, Wiman knows that whiff.

When many Christians hear the word “kingdom” they think of “heaven,” and that means where they go when they die. Most seem to think life in heaven will be a spirit-kind of existence rather than a body-kind of existence. We’ll be able to flit around like angels and pass through walls.

This kingdom-heaven equation leads to further hopes and expectations like being with our loved ones and meeting people like Abraham and David and Isaiah and, for me at least, Hosea. Then we add into that mixture Peter and Paul and Mary and John and Priscilla and Junia, for whom I have a couple questions.

There’s more: we have to add those early Christian saints like Perpetua and Irenaeus and Athanasius, and we can march right through church history, ignoring the multitudes we don’t know and mentioning our favorites like Anselm and Luther and John Wesley and Rebecca Protten and William Wilberforce and Mary Bethune Cookman and John Stott.

You get the idea. Heaven is a glorious and glorified reunion of spiritual, disembodied saints.

But what does Jesus say about the future kingdom? The kingdom is both now and not yet, so we ask, what is the “not yet” like?

There are at least four themes at work in the New Testament’s vision of the future kingdom of God, themes that can animate our hope and redirect our mission. The future kingdom

• will be a flourishing fellowship or society,
• will begin with a climactic judgment,
• will be a perfected community, and
• will be uninhibited joy and happiness.

All we can do is sketch each one.

 

©2014 by Scot McKnight. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Lectionary Reflection for the First Sunday after Christmas Day

This excerpt comes from Luke (BTCB) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 2:22-40:

Strikingly, even before the offering for the firstborn can be accomplished by his parents, Simeon takes Jesus up in his arms, blessing God and saying, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. For my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29–32 KJV).

I cite the KJV here because of its proximity to the language of the liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer (1662) and thus primarily to draw attention among English speakers to this passage being the fourth poetic or hymnic passage encountered thus far in Luke to have entered into Christian liturgy. It has been part of daily prayers since the fourth century; in the Eastern church it is said at vespers, in Western use generally at compline, from which it enters the Book of Common Prayer. Simeon’s benedictional praise poem has thus also itself become a “sign to many” for two millennia.

Now suddenly appears yet another surprising figure, namely Anna (Hebrew Hannah, meaning “grace”). Luke tells us that she is a prophetess and, more remarkably, that she has spent most of her long life in the temple precincts, “serv[ing] God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:37). She is a widow, her husband having died seven years after her marriage. She is of the tribe of Asher and a daughter of Phanuel (whose name is a variant of “Peniel,” recalling Gen. 32:30: “face to face [panîm el-panîm] with God”), and it appears that, most unusually for any woman, she has effectively been an intercessor at the temple for more than sixty years.

She is eighty-four at least (the syntax here is ambiguous); for Luke it is evidently a fact of interest that she is so advanced in age. Later commentators, possessed of the conviction that no apparently incidental number would have been included in the narrative by the biblical writers unless there was a spiritual reason for it, sometimes treat the number as symbolic or figural and see Anna’s responsive thanksgiving as constituting her as a mystical sign of the church (e.g., Bede, Homilies on the Gospels 2.38: seven [a number for the “fullness of time”] multiplied by twelve [a biblical number for revelation of God’s purposes]).

Be that as it may, all commentators see her appearance as highly significant to Luke. In some deep sense, Jesus is an answer to the prayers of Anna, even as to those of Simeon. Arriving on the scene precisely at the moment of Simeon’s prayer she acts as what dramaturgists call “fifth business”; in her words she not only gives thanks to God but, Luke adds, like the shepherds, also immediately begins to spread the good word “to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (2:38).

Calvin sees the examples of Simeon and Anna also as prefiguring the evangelical joy of the church, “that the faithful may encourage each other to sing God’s praises with one voice, and mutually to take up the strain” (1972: 1.98).

 

©2012 by David Lyle Jeffrey. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Between the Lines: A Conversation with David F. Ford – Part 3

We recently had the chance to talk with David F. Ford about his book The Drama of Living: Becoming Wise in the Spirit.

David F. Ford (PhD, University of Cambridge) is Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge, where he has taught for more than twenty years, and director of the Cambridge Inter-Faith Program. He is also a Fellow of Selwyn College and the author or editor of more than fifteen books, including The Shape of Living. Ford is one of the founders of Scriptural Reasoning and has been extensively involved in generating new modes of engagement for inter-faith relations in the post-9/11 world.

Part 1 of this interview is available here.

Part 2 of this interview is available here.

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In your book you write about L’Arche communities. What is L’Arche, and how has it affected your life?

The L’Arche communities began about fifty years ago when the French Canadian Jean Vanier invited two men from an institution for those with severe learning disabilities to live in community with him in the village of Trosly-Breuil, near Compiegne in France. The central idea is of a family-like community of those with and without learning disabilities. There is now an international federation of around 150 communities in all continents. I have been involved with L’Arche for twenty-five years, and recently my wife, Deborah (an Anglican priest and a psychotherapist, who figures at various points in The Drama of Living), has led an initiative to found a small residential community in Cambridge inspired by L’Arche. “Lyn’s House,” as it is called, is not part of the L’Arche Federation because it is not a residential community for those with disabilities, but, with encouragement from Jean Vanier and L’Arche UK, it is a place where four young people are living and creating a place of hospitality and friendship for people with learning disabilities.

The Drama of Living has a good deal to say about L’Arche, and also quotes from Vanier’s remarkable meditative commentary on the Gospel of John, Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John, in which he distills decades of experience of L’Arche and a lifetime of reading the Gospel. For me, L’Arche is an important sign of a deep truth: that it is only by putting those who are disabled, elderly, poor, or otherwise marginalized at the center of our communities that we can have truly healthy social life. Usually, our communities center on the powerful, successful, wealthy, healthy, well-educated, and beautiful. We need to be in communities of the weaker and stronger in which what matters most is not whether a particular person is weak or strong, abled or disabled, but whether it is a community of love and service—face-to-face and (referring to the ritual of footwashing that is practiced in L’Arche, following the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet in John chapter 13) face-to-feet.

The appendix to The Drama of Living is an address I gave at the funeral of Micheal O’Siadhail’s wife, Bríd. She had Parkinson’s for over twenty years, and in writing the address I realized afresh how the “community of the weaker and stronger” can apply in marriage and also to society more widely.

A final point about L’Arche is how celebration is central to it, not least in birthdays and the various festivals through the year. It is the joy (often alongside much suffering) at the heart of L’Arche communities, Lyn’s House, and a marriage such as that of Micheal and Bríd that is to me a key sign of the trust, hope, and love that our world most needs.

 

What place does repetition have in what you call “the sphere of meaning”? Why is rereading so fundamental for learning?

I am intrigued by how much of life is repetition—in bodily functions like breathing, waking, and sleeping; in nature’s patterns of light and dark, seasons and life-cycles; and in so many routines, regularities, and habits. The chapter of The Drama of Living on “Rereading and Rehearsing: Classic Surprises” was a lovely one to write, and all sorts of things came together for me for the first time. I now tell our first-year students in Cambridge that one of the most important things they can learn is to read slowly and to reread good texts time and time again. I love the preface to Paul Griffiths’ book, Religious Reading: The Place of Reading in the Practice of Religion, which I quote in the chapter. I deeply appreciate the way the Gospel of John is steeped in John’s Bible, the Septuagint, which is the translation of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek (the language of most Jews in the Roman Empire) that happened in Alexandria a couple of centuries before Jesus and became the Bible of most of the authors of the New Testament. John’s way of reading his Bible teaches us how to read his Gospel, and clearly involves much rereading.

I am also intrigued by preparation and rehearsal, “repetition in advance.” A great deal of life is taken up by preparation—for events, projects, careers, interviews, meetings, performances, meals, sporting competitions, holidays, and so on. The Drama of Living asks about wise preparation, and connects it to religious habits of prayer, study, and worship.

Then there is the great Jewish contribution to the patterns of repetition in our culture: the week, with a Sabbath. That is meditated upon as one of the wisest institutions of all. The sabbath can be seen as a preparation for the week ahead, or the week can be seen as a preparation for the sabbath. Above all, it is a time when life can be enjoyed for its own sake, and God for God’s sake.

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For more information on Dr. Ford’s new book, The Drama of Living, click here.

The Weekly Hit List: December 19, 2014

Nonviolent Action (February 2015) by Ronald J. Sider received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

“In this persuasive book, Sider (Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger) argues that nonviolence is the best way to defeat the sword. Using case studies primarily from modern history, he asserts that nonviolence is not only more ethical and successful than warfare, but more practical: the nonviolent action that liberated India from Britain cost only 8,000 lives, whereas the violent revolution that freed Algeria cost a million.

“Even bloodthirsty regimes like Nazi Germany couldn’t suppress nonviolent protest: in Bulgaria, civil disobedience saved 50,000 Jews. More recently, nonviolent action has toppled oppressive governments in East Germany, Liberia, the Philippines, and Tunisia.

Sider recognizes that civil disobedience often functions as only one factor among many in ending oppression—but often the one that tips the balance. Nonviolent action will cost lives, Sider says, but it cannot be taken seriously until people are willing to die for its cause. Proponents of just war and pacifists need to recognize they are often on the same side and work together to make war a true last resort. History shows they can. (Feb.)”

 

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig L. Blomberg won Christianity Today‘s 2015 Book Awards Award of Merit in the Apologetics/Evangelism category.

“Although the title might lead one to think this is a beginner’s book, it is not. But neither is it a book only for seminary professors. It is for those who are ready to move on from the shelves full of introductory ‘case for’ books and want to see if the Bible (mainly the New Testament) can stand up to scrutiny from critical scholars. Blomberg answers the toughest challenges in an evenhanded and gracious manner.” —Craig Hazen, professor of apologetics, Biola University

 

Kingdom Conspiracy Media:

PARSE listed their interview with Scot McKnight as one of their “Top 14 of ’14.”

Dr. Conrade Yap reviewed Kingdom Conspiracy.

The Christian Humanist reviewed Kingdom Conspiracy.

Timothy Hawk reviewed Kingdom Conspiracy.

Kingdom Conspiracy was chosen as one of Joshua Reich’s “Favorite Books of 2014” and one of Mechanic Hedge Preacher’s “7 Best Reads of 2014.”

 

Quick Hits:

Craig Detweiler, author of iGods, appeared on Mornings with Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2.

Wesley Hill, author of Spiritual Friendship (April 2015), was mentioned in The Washington Post.

Generous Spaciousness by Wendy VanderWal-Gritter was discussed on Anabaptist Redux and chosen as one of Grace for Sinners’ “Staff Picks for Favorite Books of 2014.”

A Beautiful Disaster by Marlena Graves was excerpted on Gifted for Leadership.

 

Ebook Specials:

Holy Teaching: Introducing the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas by Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt is only $2.99 (90% off) from participating retailers through December 22.

Every volume in the Ancient-Future Bible Study: Experience Scripture through Lectio Divina series by Stephen J. Binz is only $0.99 (92% off) from participating retailers through December 31.

The Truth Shall Make You Odd: Speaking with Pastoral Integrity in Awkward Situations by Frank G. Honeycutt is only $1.99 (90% off) from participating retailers through December 31.

Lectionary Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

This excerpt comes from Luke (BTCB) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 1:26-38

As the curtain rises on this second scene, Mary is described simply as “a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David” (1:27). That is all.

There is no description of her domicile; it is simply inferred from the verb (eiselthon, “entering,” typically used with reference to “coming into” a house) that she is at home privately, precisely as one would expect a young woman of that time to be, in seclusion from the gaze of men. In such a culture, the virginity of a young woman was both her own and her family’s central concern, a matter of honor.

We, who live in a time of sexual laxity more resembling Roman than a normatively halakic Jewish culture, may too easily underestimate the degree to which sexual purity was then integral to both personal and family honor.

It is exceedingly unlikely that a man other than her father or younger siblings would have access to a young woman in her familial home. Thus, we should not be at all surprised that Mary was taken aback by the appearance of the angel Gabriel. Here we need to bear in mind that there is no reason for us to imagine that Mary was confronted with one of the angels as imagined by the painters, whose wings are visual attributes designed to distinguish them symbolically from humans: Dan. 9:21, for example, refers to “the man Gabriel.” That he was not, however, human but a divine emissary must have been suggested by his bearing or radiance.

That Mary is a virgin, moreover, is emphasized by repetition of the term parthenon. This firm identification heightens the sense of the extraordinary in the event of Gabriel’s direct address to Mary (Hebrew Miriam), since, as we have seen, it was so unusual in Jewish culture for any man, let alone a strange man, to salute a woman, especially an unmarried woman, directly (Lightfoot 1979: 3.25).

But what he says is still more extraordinary: “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:28). The term kecharitōmenē (“highly favored one”) is highly unusual, precedented in the Septuagint only in Dan. 10, where Gabriel is likewise the speaker, and it establishes here a connection between Mary as singular “chosen one” and her most saintly Old Testament predecessor in relationship to the eschatological fulfillment of God’s purpose to redeem his people.

Mary is perhaps to all outward appearances quite ordinary, but in the divine perspective she is to be revealed as extraordinary on a level yet unimagined in her culture. (Gabriel’s form of address to her, his calling her kecharitōmenē , suggests in historic Catholic exegesis her having found favor before the angel declares it; the parallel with Daniel supports that implication.)

The subversion of normative cultural expectation is heightened in several ways, some highlighted by the pairing of this narrative with that of the announcement to Zacharias of John’s birth: special births in scripture had always been announced to the father to be; this time it is the woman who hears first. Gabriel says to Mary, “The Lord is with you,” not merely in greeting but in the context a strong affirmation of her chosenness. The following phrase, “blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:28), is missing from some manuscripts but anticipates the response of Elizabeth in 1:42.

All of this together makes the angel’s greeting a stunning indication of Mary’s importance to what follows.

 

©2012 by David Lyle Jeffrey. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Ebook Special for Holy Teaching by Frederick Bauerschmidt

Now through December 22, the ebook of Holy Teaching: Introducing the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas by Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt is only $2.99 (90% off) from the following participating retailers:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

CBD

 

“Here is a book that, by rights, should transform the way that Aquinas is taught among undergraduates and seminarians. [Bauerschmidt] has introduced the Summa Theologiae, thoughtfully produced extracts of it, and then expanded on it with rich explanations and examples in footnotes. . . . Bauerschmidt is to be applauded for succeeding remarkably well in maintaining the mystery of this holy teaching.”
Scottish Journal of Theology

Dante once wrote that Aristotle was “a master of those who know.” This description applies equally to the great theologian St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), who was declared a doctor of the church in 1567. Along with St. Paul and St. Augustine, Aquinas stands as one of the towering figures in the history of Christian theology.

In the Summa Theologiae, Aquinas attempts to set forth the whole of Christian theology in summary form. It was written, he says, for “the instruction of beginners,” but few Christians today have the time or inclination to reach for the five thick volumes that comprise the standard English-language edition.

Frederick Bauerschmidt wants to change that. In Holy Teaching, he presents some choice selections from the Summa Theologiae, along with commentary that unpacks the selections and places them in context.

With Bauerschmidt as a reliable guide, readers can follow Aquinas as he travels the length and breadth of Christian doctrine. Aquinas begins the Summa by proving the need for theology and then moves quickly to examine the attributes of God, vexing questions about living the Christian life, a study of the two natures of Christ, and the nature and purpose of the sacraments.

Holy Teaching is an ideal introduction to the work of Aquinas that will give students, pastors, and interested laypeople a greater appreciation for our common Christian inheritance.

Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt (Ph.D., Duke University) is associate professor of theology at Loyola College in Baltimore, Maryland. He is the author of Why the Mystics Matter and Julian of Norwich and the Mystical Body Politic of Christ.

Between the Lines: A Conversation with David F. Ford – Part 2

We recently had the chance to talk with David F. Ford about his book The Drama of Living: Becoming Wise in the Spirit.

David F. Ford (PhD, University of Cambridge) is Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge, where he has taught for more than twenty years, and director of the Cambridge Inter-Faith Program. He is also a Fellow of Selwyn College and the author or editor of more than fifteen books, including The Shape of Living. Ford is one of the founders of Scriptural Reasoning and has been extensively involved in generating new modes of engagement for inter-faith relations in the post-9/11 world.

Part 1 of this interview is available here.

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What is “Scriptural Reasoning,” and what is its potential impact on religion and society?

Scriptural Reasoning is a practice in which Jews, Christians, and Muslims (and now sometimes those from other traditions too) come together in study and conversation around their scriptures. It has been one of the best surprises of my life since I got involved in its beginnings about twenty years ago.

I had spent fifteen years living in multireligious Birmingham, Britain’s second city, but was never gripped by what I found there in interfaith relations, worthy though much of it was. It was only through Scriptural Reasoning that I realized what was missing: a practice that enables people from very different faiths to engage with each other long term in a way that lets them be fully people of faith in their own traditions. These scriptures are wonderfully rich and deep, have been interpreted for centuries, and now continue to be important around the world. You never come to the end of their meaning and implications. In The Drama of Living I tell the story of Scriptural Reasoning and some of the exciting developments that have been happening around the world in Europe, America, China, and elsewhere. I describe it as a wisdom-seeking practice that at its best (especially when done year after year) leads to a multiple deepening. It can draw us deeper into our own faith, deeper into understanding the faiths of others, deeper into commitment together to the common good of our world, deeper into community—and often friendship—with those of other faiths, and deeper into the disagreements as well as the agreements between us.

That last point is important: it is not likely that, for example, Jews or Muslims will be able to agree with the message of the Gospel of John on Jesus as the full self-expression and self-giving of God, but it is good to be able to explore what is meant by that and other disputed teachings. We speak in Scriptural Reasoning of “improving the quality of our disagreements”—which, when you think about it, is desirable in many other relationships too, including engagements with fellow Christians and with our spouses, children, friends, enemies, and colleagues.

As regards the potential impact of Scriptural Reasoning on religion and society, I think it is immense. Professor Peter Ochs, the Jewish professor of philosophy at the University of Virginia who has been central to Scriptural Reasoning since it began, speaks of “hearth-to-hearth” engagement. Scriptures are at the center of each of our communities, they are places of warmth (and dangerous fire!) where we gather to understand what is most important to us. In Scriptural Reasoning something of this warmth can be shared across traditions, while yet respecting the differences. Peter has been working to find ways of applying this in situations of tension and conflict, as have the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme and the new center of reconciliation near Carlyle in the North of England, Rose Castle. The director of Rose Castle, Sarah Snyder, has been at the forefront of introducing Scriptural Reasoning to the USA, the Middle East, and local communities around the UK. I have had fascinating times doing it not only in the UK but also in China, the USA, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, Jordan, Israel, and Oman, and have just received an invitation to do it in the leading Muslim University of Al Azhar in Egypt.

The most recent major initiative that partly owes its inspiration to Scriptural Reasoning is the Global Covenant of Religions, which seeks to bring together the religions at the international, regional, and local levels in order to resist religion-related violence and encourage peacemaking, better quality education, and respect for religious minorities. It is only a beginning, but watch this space!

 

What is the importance of “face-to-face” engagement, and how does it change how we interact with others? What does it mean for how we interpret texts?

The Drama of Living holds that the primary perspective on human life is the face-to-face. It is important to have broad frameworks, big concepts, and attempted overviews, and also to pay attention to each person’s interior life, but in the drama of living the central dynamics are face-to-face. This is, I think, common sense—you just have to note how the most popular television programs and films make this central. Likewise most of the Bible is stories about people engaging face-to-face. Even in apparently big impersonal organizations, corporations, and governments you usually find face-to-face relationships are vital at every level from the board or cabinet at the top to the local teams and offices. And of course it is the primary perspective of love.

I think there are two main implications for interpreting texts.

First, it is important to realize that most of them had their origins in face-to-face dramas of living, with conflicts, debates, special interests, and complex issues. Their context matters, even when we do not know much about it. So there can be no simple application today of, for instance, the Gospel of John, and John is very good at recognizing this—it is why he uses that important little word “as” so much, as discussed already. For example, when the risen Jesus says to the disciples as he breathes the Holy Spirit into them, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (20:21), that encourages not only reflection on the drama of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in order to understand his mission from the Father, but also reflection on the ongoing drama in the past and today in order to improvise appropriately in the ongoing drama of the twenty-first century.

Second, the priority of the face-to-face applies to our process of interpretation. Central to our efforts to go deeper into the meaning of the Gospel should be intensive conversation with others about the text. One of the formative things for me in reading John was six months during which two New Testament scholars, Richard Hays and Richard Bauckham, met with me for twenty-one three-hour sessions, one on each chapter of John. I am also deeply grateful to other groups, in many academic settings, in various churches, and in Scriptural Reasoning, for fruitful explorations of this inexhaustibly rich text.

One conclusion that is constantly reinforced through such conversation and argument is that the text is endlessly generative of fresh meaning. A key text in John is the promise that the Holy Spirit “will guide you into all the truth” (16:13), and I think that happens most reliably through the discipline of conversation with others and through attending to the wisdom gathered over many centuries in communities of worship, study, and practice. We need to remember that, through writings and traditions, we are always in the presence of the unseen faces of those in previous generations who have been part of this conversation.

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Next week Dr. Ford will discuss L’Arche communities, as well as why rereading is so fundamental for learning.

For more information on Dr. Ford’s new book, The Drama of Living, click here.

The Weekly Hit List: December 12, 2014

Presence and Encounter by Dr. David G. Benner was reviewed by Englewood Review of Books.

“For being a relatively short book, it is contains a deeply powerful message. Although at times what Benner writes is complicated because of some philosophical language, it is challenging nonetheless.

“Most are seeking life change, and most seek it by adding more to their lives. We are told that that if we only had this thing or went to this seminar, then we could be changed. The truth is, true transformation starts with being present and will lead us to encounter with the divine. . . .

“Presence is such a powerful idea, but most of us miss it everyday. David Benner’s book presents us with a message that we all need to hear.”

Read the entire review here.

 

Quick Hits:

Scot McKnight, author of Kingdom Conspiracy, was quoted extensively in “The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill” in Leadership Journal.

Generous Spaciousness by Wendy VanderWal-Gritter was reviewed in Christian Courier and on Disembodied Beard.

Wendy VanderWal-Gritter spoke at Trinity Western University.

The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith was reviewed on One Theology.

 

Ebook Specials:

Creating a Spiritual Legacy: How to Share Your Stories, Values, and Wisdom by Daniel Taylor is only $1.99 (88% off) from participating retailers through December 13.

A Cross-Shattered Church: Reclaiming the Theological Heart of Preaching by Stanley Hauerwas is only $2.99 (85% off) from participating retailers through December 15.

Every volume in the Ancient-Future Bible Study: Experience Scripture through Lectio Divina series by Stephen J. Binz is only $0.99 (92% off) from participating retailers through December 31.

The Truth Shall Make You Odd: Speaking with Pastoral Integrity in Awkward Situations by Frank G. Honeycutt is only $1.99 (90% off) from participating retailers through December 31.