Links Stromateis

  • When I agree with Stanley Fish, I do so with trepidation (as someone who thinks he knows which shell is holding the pea) — but I think Fish is quite right about “The Bible Without Religion.” “The truth claims of a religion — at least of religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam — are not incidental to its identity; they are its identity.” I wish he hadn’t included that husk/kernel metaphor, much less ascribed it to non-specific “theologians”; I tend to see the whole husk/kernel discourse as a massive red herring (Ha! Triumphantly mixed metaphor!). But as to his insistence that you can’t disregard theology’s claim to truth without trivializing the whole exercise, I’on board. (Thanks for the link, Jennifer!)
  • Via Aaron Swartz,who illustrates for us one possible result of giving an active and brilliant young mind enough money to enable him to devote time to what interests him, Tom Slee’s riposte to Chris “Long Tail” Anderson. I haven’t read either the much-ballyhooed Long Tail or No One Makes You Shop At Wal-Mart, but I estimate that I would — as usual — adopt a position that doesn’t align precisely with either.
  • If Kathy Sierra is a cute little kitty, is Chris Locke a big teddy bear? People whose only notion of Chris involves his role in the recent ructions should take a refresher squint at his prescient “Common Knowledge or Superior Ignorance?” from way back in 1990. Locke 1990 was already saying some of what we ought to have learned last week, that also pertains to the current convulsion in favor of speech codes for bloggers: figuring out what things mean involves intricate judgments that gross instruments (such as computer-enabled “reading” or “codes of ethics for [all?] bloggers” don’t significantly advance. I have a post gestating about the “code of ethics” reflex, but it’s not ready yet.

Don said:

Hmmm. . . I remember when a Furman buddy visited us at Duke and finagled a way into a Milton class Fish was teaching. Fish kept throwing out Scriptural allusions and the only one who picked up on them was my Baptist buddy. Much to the Dukies’ chagrin, by the way. That kind of knowledge seemed pretty important to Fish about 20 years back, but consistency isn’t all that important.

Fish has confused teaching religion — what I do at church — and teaching religious studies — what I do at William & Mary. Fish’s approach explains why folks in universities cut religious studies departments off, or underfund them, or don’t have them in the first place. It’s all just Sunday School, so someone else should do it.


[I’m not sure I understand what you’re getting at, Don. I don’t think Fish is saying that instruction in Bible must inculcate the truth-claims of Judaism or Christianity; I take it that he’s arguing that instruction in Bible (or in theology-as-an-aspect-of-culture) oughtn’t minimize the truth-claims the Bible makes. The Bible isn’t just another story about the world; the whole idea of “just another story about the world” develops from Enlightened modernity, doesn’t it? Rather, the Bible tells the truth about the world, in a way that various sorts of Judaic and Christian traditions have recognized it. If students can’t recognize the BIble as a [per hypothesi] true story, they’re not reading the Bible in a way that will help them understand Milton (for instance).

Again, that doesn’t require religious-studies students to adopt biblical faith; it does require that they imagine a world in which they might do so. But that’s not fundamentally different from expecting English Lit students to imagine a world in which murdering your uncle to avenge your father’s murder makes any kind of sense. If we spend two or three hours saying, “That’s dumb; there’s no such thing as ghosts, and assassinating the king will only cause trouble unless you’ve got a posse of nobles and armies backing you up,” you’re wasting your time reading Hamlet.]

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