Way Cool

One last thing: It looks as though the Wabash Center will be setting up a wifi base station so that the participants in the Teaching and Technology Conference there can (a) watch their TIAA-CREF protfolios vanish (b) play Unreal Tournament against one another (c) check email and (d) (in my case) live-blog the proceedings, which will include presentations about classes where we used emergent technologies to positive effect, discussions of the obstacles, possibliites, and dreams realtive to realizing a stronger use of technology in teaching, responses to assigned readings including David Weinberger’s Small Pieces, Lessig’s Code, and Duguid & Brown’s Social Life of Information.

More On Hermeneutics

That’s “more on.”

If I try to respond to David Weinberger’s notes to me about the hermeneutics post, I may find myself coming round to a more satisfactory way of addressing Tom’s enigma. He pokes me about the extent to which revelation, the divine illumination by which biblical writings bespeak truths that reach beyond run-of-the-mill human knowledge, affects my account of hermeneutics. After all, he points out, one wouldn’t necessarily treat the authorial intention that shaped the menu at a California restaurant the same way one might treat the authorial intention that shaped Genesis.

Terrific point, and (actually) one of my strongest impulses toward differential rather than integral hermeneutics. Why? After all, some of my integral-hermeneutics colleagues argue that the unity of God’s will and its realization in the composition of Scripture require the ascription of a unitary meaning in Scripture (and the concomitant integral hermeneutics). Moreover, they suggest that the idea of God offering an ambiguous or plurivalent revelation contradicts the idea of revelation itself.

Sed contra (as my Dominican teacher used to say), experience teaches us that the Bible has indeed provoked a panoply of divergent interpretations among unquestionably earnest, diligent, intelligent, devout interpreters. On the account of integral hermeneutics, we are obliged to reckon that one among these scholars has been right, the others incorrect — but without any manifest way of determining which. If we subscribe to integral hermeneutics, we find ourselves taking a crapshoot on which spokesperson truly divined what was to be revealed in the Bible. Especially where interpreters divide diametrically, as interpreters have from time to time in Christian history, integral heremeneutics simply fails to give an adequate account of how we might ascertain to whom we ought to listen.

Differential hermeneutics, however, can locate revelation not in the text by itself, such that we’re left to assay the content of an unambiguous revelation that we can’t get at. Instead, differential hermeneutics can locate revelation in the shared practice of interpreting the Bible under the social, liturgical, communal, ethical conditions of participating in life under the Law, or under the Cross. Judaism (as David has pointed out) already demonstrates the theological cogency of a tradition that recognizes plurality of insight within a shared commitment to a very specific Torah. Christianity offers too many examples of “our way or the highway” interpretations of Scripture—but araen’t those schismatic gestures warranted, if not outright required, by a rigorous application of integral hermeneutics?

By contrast, the pre-Reformation Western tradition, and many aspects of the Orthodox traditions to this day, preserve an appreciation for the extent to which the Bible may engender divergent harmonious interpretations.

One last thing before I crash for the night. David’s question about a difference between sacred and secular hermeneutics favors a differential approach in another way, too. Although English departments may shelter some of the most erudite, persistent, articulate practitioners of integral hermeneutics, few if any would ground their practice on theological premises. But that’s just what certain sorts of integral hermeneutics suggest that they ought to do. If one does not believe in a Triune God, for instance, why should one be especially moved by the trinitarian resonances of the author-text-audience triad? (And what if one adhere’s to Kenneth Burke’s schema for interpretation; would that oblige one to proliferate divine Persons?) Differential heremeneutics offers both an account of why people read the Bible differently from their dinner menu (because they do so under different conditions, with a different stake in what they’re interpreting, and different goals in taking on the interpretation) and a (unitary?) general account of why people interpret texts as they do.

More tomorrow; this felt good, and I think I’m getting at some of what I’d been hoping to say to Tom.

DRMA: “Mothership Connection,” Parliament; “You Are My Sunshine,” Norman Blake; “Christiana,” Prince Nico Mbarga and the Rocafil Jazz; “Desert Blues,” Leon Redbone; “Immigrant Song,” Led Zeppelin; “I’ll Never Be Your Maggie Mae,” Suzanne Vega; “Shake It Up,” the Cars; “Don’t Keep Me Wondering,” the Allman Brothers (a propos in several ways); “Shhh/Peaceful,” Miles Davis.


I’m putting off resuming the hermeneutics blog, partly because I sense that I haven’t answered Tom well enough yet, and partly because if I don’t continue working on the blogged version, I might not have to write the version for print. It’s pretty lame as an excuse, but it’s all I’ve got.

Dave Rogers (no, not that one, the other one) enjoys seeing what’s playing from my hard drive as I blog. Glad to note it, Dave, though I think I’ll ite a new, smaller-type style into my stylesheet when I get around to incorporating the Pilgrim relative-size strictures. I’m not using the BlogAmp tool ’cause I play from SoundJam and iTunes mostly. What Dave may not realize is that this playlist saturates my sermons (and “scholarly” writing as well), running indeed as a sort of soundtrack album to my life. A big, long soundtrack album.

Gary Turner thinks I’m sincere. Oh, yeah, surrrre.

DRMA: “He’s Got Better Things For You,” Memphis Sanctified Singers; “Whenever,” Shakira; “Weapon of Choice,” Fatboy Slim (at Nate’s urging — if you can, check out the video with Christopher Walken!); “Turn Around,” They Might Be Giants; “Love At First Sight,” XTC (glad that came around); “Dreamer In My Dreams,” Wilco; “To Sir With Love,” Trash Can Sinatras.

Service Error

The Seabury server was down all night and part of the morning, so far as I can tell. But that didn’t slow down my blogging—no, sirree! I was stuck in the mud all by myself.

Gary Turner isn’t blocked, though; he added two covers to his series of tabloid bloggers, including (last and surely least) me. Time to take Fiona at her word, Gary; in a few months, you won’t be having too many of these evenings alone together any more.

DRMA (that is, “Dave Rogers Music Alert”): “Dear Old Stockholm,” Miles Davis; “Working Class Hero,” Plastic Ono Band.

$99 a Year

I’m not saying anything about Apple’s new policy of charging for the “free” (in the sense of, “Take one, faithful Mac user, it’s free — for now”) mac.com email addresses, because I’d so much rather say something positive.

Give a Spy a Break

It can be a real challenge to ascertain just which of your neighbors or customers are likely to threaten the stability of the Bush Administration and thereby lend aid and comfort to the Forces of Evil. Help your local tipster with this sticker, carefully designed to indicate that you’re dubious about Dubya — hence, a threat to the American way of life.

Nosy Neighbour Turn Me In

Dave Rogers Music Alert: “Circulo de Amor,” El Gran Silencio; “Book I Haven’t Read,” Lambchop; “Blues Stay Away From Me,” Louvin Brothers.

Superfluous Redundancy Department

Does it bother anyone else when people say (as an NPR commentator just did) “mass exodus”? Isn’t an “exodus” necessarily a mass behavior? If Tom Matrullo walks out of a restaurant, does that count as an exodus?

(Parenthetically, I”m asking about colloquial English usage. In Greek—sorry, I just spent a week on this—an individual can certainly make an ??????, a “departure.” Jesus does just this at Luke 9:31, though there I think we should hear a Lukan echo of the “exodus of the children of Israel” that the Old Testament narrates. I’m not so sure that the same applies in 2 Peter 1:15, where the same word appears.)

By the way, Dave, this means that I’m listening to Morning Edition as I blog now — but pretty soon I’ll open SoundJam and fire up the giant playlist on my external hard drive, from which I’ll be sure to blog for you the tunes that play as I type.

Scots For Aye

Whoops! Forgot to blog Frank Paynter’s interview with Gary Turner, eloquent spokesGlaswegian for Scottish blogging causes and ingenious deviser of Blogstickers, Chalkchalking, blogtank, Dropdown USA, and other online sensations.

And Dave: I’m listening tothe Carter Family, “Lonesome Homesick Blues”; Stevie Wonder, “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”; the Rolling Stones, “Hang Fire.”

And Blogchalk : English, USA, Chicago, Evanston, priest, writer, professor. That all sounds dumb, but I suppose I see the usefulness.

If Anyone Can Be Sympathetic. . . .

Mike Golby eloquently undresses Dave Winer in a series of recent blogs, in connection with Dave’s slagging of Rebecca Blood’s books on blogging, and then Dave’s conceptually muddy remarks on journalism and blogging. Dave’s a Big Wig, very much more so than I or even Mike himself, but he really ought to attend to Mike’s critique.

Elaine observes, in Mike’s comments, that of course “if the blogger applies the standards and techniques of professional journalism to the researching and writing,” then the blog can be journalism — but that’s a far cry from what seems to be Dave’s claim that blogging simply is a form of journalism. “Can be,” certainly; “is,“ no. It certainly looks as though Dave has his argument all muddled. Dave’s confident tone and his success as a software entreprenuer sometimes enable him to pass off jumbled ideas as common sense; I recall a number of times Dave has delivered a lofty pronouncement, then needed to backtrack or clarify or (as the expression “do a Dave” memorializes) simply drop the problematic claim.

Of course, almost all of us write our blogs casually enough that we need to watch out about throwing stones. Perhaps Dave’s readers, if not Dave himself, may take this as an occasion to check ourselves and our pomposity quotient. Whoops! Mine just peaked out too high. . . .

Then look at this bit about quitting smoking. Three cheers to Dave for quitting—that’s something really tremendous, even if it did take heart surgery and a week in the hospital to usher him off the habit. But “If I can, anyone can”? How on earth can any sensible human being make that kind of claim? If we didn’t have reason to think otherwise, we’d have to conclude that Dave is heartlessly oblivious to the pain of others’ addiction. I’ll never be in a position to judge your (or her, or his) capacity to overcome an addiction or a mental illness or some other hitch. I never smoked a cigarette, but I dread to think what an addict I’d be if I had. I have shaken off some bad habits, but that’s no proof that someone else can (or that I’m a hero of self-discipline—just ask the editors who are waiting for my writing projects!).

Home Cooking

After an embarrassing departure from Crawfordsville — I left my backpack (including the PowerBook on which I’m now typing, and my Visor) in the Wabash Center shuttle, heartfelt thanks to Derek for doubling back to drop them off at the airport — and a plane flight seated spent seated next to a mountainous airplane mechanic whose mammoth shoulders and arms left me no space, I arrived home and found that I had spammed myself (twice!). I apologize to anyone who got this promise of instant wealth (or whatever) and didn’t filter it out because it seemed to be from me; if it’s any consolation, I seem to be this pseudo-me’s target as well as you.

Au Revoir, Crawfordsville

This morning the Greek consultation ended, everyone quite exhausted at the considerable effort they’d put into constructing the skeleton of a website. It was an impressive push, especially given that most of the team knew relatively little about the insides of web construction. At the same time, everyone was frustrated at how task-oriented the consultation had become. (The Wabash Center, our host for the consultation, has a reputation for making sure that its consultations and conferences aren’t over-scheduled.) We got a lot of good work done, though, and I suspect everyone learned at least a little about what a serious effort it takes to get a substantial site online.
Even better than the week’s work, though, was the conversation surrounding appropriate uses of technology in theological education, both in preparation for the conference coming up in August and as a sidebar among the various Greek scholars. We have some prospects for enticing some theological educators onto the cluetrain. Hey, they’re reading David Weinberger’s book; who knows where that will lead them?