Conferring, Clerically

Ha! Everyone (who cared) was betting that I wouldn’t possibly blog three days in a row — but they were wrong!
It wouldn’t count if I left matters at that, so I’ll note that I’m working on the plan for my presentations to the diocesan clergy conferences next week (three days for stipendiary clergy, two for non-stipendiary). It’s an interesting remit; the broad category given was to note the changes in NEw Testament interpretation that may have taken root since people trained for ministry. Now, that’s tricky all by itself, since some people will have come directly from University or the non-degree training programme in the Scottish Episcopal Church, that is the Theological Institute of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Some others will have trained longer ago (I was chagrined to realise that I started by training at Yale Div nearly thirty years ago) (not quite thirty, detail-oriented correctors). But over all, I’m comfortable talking about changes in NT scholarship over the past few decades, and even people who graduated with first-class honours just a year or so ago, if we have any, could likely use a refresher.
I have four main topics in view: the changing status of “history” and “objectivity” in interpretation, the changing understanding of Judaism, the recognition of the role that imperial conditions played in first-century lives, and the importance of having a joined-up understanding of how matters affect one another.
The presentations will overlap and infuse one another, which is good because it will help me illustrate my fourth point, one that isn’t often made explicit in academic biblical studies. On the other hand, having a well-informed, synthetic view of how the various elements we’re considering affect one another constitues a key ingredient in propounding a persuasive, compelling vision of NT interpretation. It’s one of the reasons Rudolf Bultmann’s influence lasted so long; it makes Tom Wright’s theological take on the Bible stronger; and you, too, will better understand and teach and preach and minister from the New Testament if you have a sense of how things hang together, rather than a database of Curious Facts About the Bible. Plus, your teeth will be cleaner and your carpets will sparkle.
I’ll work in my Pauline theology lecture as a case in point, since that frequently goes down well. I’ll draw out some of the differences between and implications of what I’ve called “esoteric{ and “exoteric” imperatives in interpretation; and I’ll make a case that my sort approach to hermeneutics offers the soundest, most carefully-reasoned and theoretically-grounded vision of how one’s theology, biblical interpretation, worship, and daily ministry can indeed be joined-up.
Now, however, it]s down to exactly which bits go where, and what I want to do for handouts, and how to convey all this without sounding only like a wheezy old lecturer. We’ll see.
Hey, good Doctor Who episode tonight, wasn’t it?

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