Saturday, April 25, 2009

Seminarian Woes or New Testament Scholarship Has No Clothes

I'm deathly afraid of naive fundamentalism. The Jesus within it hovers six inches above the dusty near east earth. He opens doors for women, never passes gas, and speaks timeless principles that drift over the heads of his hearers and into my living room unscathed. He fits well into the moral majority mold made for him.

But my self-righteous flight leads me into the jaws of the burgeoning beast of NT scholarship. Deep within its bowels I can't make heads or tails of what I came looking for - Was it the Jesus of history? Or was it Matthew's spin? Or am I really seeking the church behind the author behind the text? Or did it all get fuddled in transmission anyway?

There, the Jesus who so winsomely and authoritatively turned Torah interpretations on their heads now slavishly fulfills every whim of Second Temple Jewish literature. The Jesus who confidently butted heads with Pharisees and Sadducees now double checks his theology with Qumran. And the Jesus who recreated the world in his resurrection becomes Paul's plaything, a vacuous two-dimensional figure brought back to life and relevance by a stroke of creative genius.

Who will deliver me from this hermeneutical body of death?

"Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" As I settle down to my English text, millenia removed from the events it contains, I encounter a present, abiding, divine Word. He neither sparkles like the gilded former version nor evaporates into the obscurity of the latter.

Jesus speaks. There is power in the written and risen Word.


John Paulling said...

That's because you're so western, and modern, David.

No, great post. I wonder if what's so annoying about some of these scholars is not so much the historical, cultural work that they've done, but the snide and arrogant tone they assert their findings with. Like we've said before, it is unbelievably pot-calling-the-kettle-blackish for a scholar to say, "oh you think so and so, because you're influenced by the Enlightenment. I'm more first century Jewish, let me explain the text to you."
Reading a few volumes of the Talmud does not solve the problem of the hermeneutical leap. How do these scholars get the contextual framework to understand the Talmud aright?

david gentino said...

That's right. I do harbor some suspicions about the nature of the "historical" and "cultural" work being done and the end to which its really serving. But more about that in another post.

jim thompson said...

love it, bro. I'm going to steal it. it'll be Gentino compyrighted.

and because i've been trying to think pnuematically as of late...

what is the Spirit's role in this?

david gentino said...

Jim I'd love to hear your answer to that question as well. I start walking down the road of reason, community, sound hermeneutics, access to cultural and historical matters and I end up with a very substantial case against a genuine, Spirit-filled Christian gaining access to the text without a jump start. I'm just not comfortable with the categories I've been given to work with to explain how He works.

Can I just say its kind of like the wind which blows where it wills?

jim thompson said...

ha... yes you can say that :)

here's my long-winded and feeble two cents.

first, the enlightenment telling us to worship the scientific method has not assisted our categories, whatever they may be, as far the Spirit's work is concerned.

Jesus in John 14-17, Paul in Romans 1-8 [pneuma is used 5x in chs 1-7 and 22x in ch 8], 1 cor 12-14, etc, etc, etc... these all show that the theoretical and experiential dynamics of our pneumatology are of equal significance. when i pick up berkhoff, thiessen, and other systematicians i gag. to them, He is merely the one that regenerates and indwells. they just say it a half dozen ways.

this is where i am blessed by gordon fee, grudem, and some other fellows.

but still, it can't only be about reading other guys on the Spirit, but experiencing God by means of His active, empowering, presence.

next, we need to kindly crap on cessationism.

then, i belive we should functionally ask what it means "to be filled" [eph 5.18]? that's a command to all Christians in Ephesus church. but why don't i ever hear that preached on, pondered, or proclaimed as necessary for xians.

also, always keeping in mind that the same Spirit that breathed out the text is the one that inhabits sinners... this has been important to me. it has made me think differently and more happily about the catholicity of the church.

along those lines, Ro 8.9 and tons of other places... "the Spirit dwells in US." i think the corporate dimension of this is vital as well.

none of this is in place of, but to me, underneath how you closed you brief diatribe: "Jesus speaks. There is power in the written and risen Word."


i'm just sick of confessions, creeds, and systematics that merely give the Spirit of God a head nod and then do church and get on mission as though they are the fucntional fire that burns.

anywho. i've got class. i could go on. i need some feedback.


jim thompson said...

in addition, when you say "There is power in the written and risen Word," i believe that that power is the Spirit... as in 1 cor 4-5.

david gentino said...

I wish you'd stop beating around the bush and tell us what you really think, Jim.

You are right, the Spirit must be central to this. And we do have a a host of creeds and systematics and churches who fail woefully in considering what the Spirit, walking in him and his filling means for the believer today.

I'm not sure you have to crap on cessationism to achieve that. He is still a vibrant, active, powerful Person within our faith community. That is, unless you want to add new revelation and tongues as vital ingredients to the mix.

Brianna said...

I'm joining this blog community as a seemingly far-off high school connection to David, and I leave a comment merely to say thank you for the intense dialog and obviously well-read discussion that takes place here. My recent faith struggles place me directly in the midst of these types of contextual and syntactical questions about what the heck it means to actually BE all of the titles and phrases that I have been carrying with my identity all of these years.

Having stated that, I understand about half of the vocabulary words discussed here and know even less of the specific names mentioned. I am assuming from the level and nature of this discussion that all involved are in higher ministry/seminary education and plan on taking these ideas to form a framework of foundational theology. I, on the other hand, am a high school teacher yet to start the masters and enmeshed in the day-to-day of adolescent literacy, budget cuts and top-down management frustrations. However, despite my learning curve on the vocab and theology, I still want to put out a "thank you" for making it available to the public. Three cheers for challenging intellect colliding with a enigmatic faith.