I am currently in Auckland, NZ, attending the Colloquium on Theological Interpretation at Laidlaw College.
The environment at the conference is excellent, as have been almost all of the papers.
I won’t bore you with an extended recap of the 8ish papers I heard today, but there have been some common threads that ran through several of the things I heard–common concerns that I take as very good signs for the practice of theological interpretation.
Two of the papers today from OT scholars touched on issues of theodicy–and anti-theodicy. One was focusing on Lamentations and exploring the polyphonic nature of the text–there is dire complaint, there is defending of God, there is a repentant man a complaining woman, a narrator.
The questions the paper was exploring pertained to the ramifications of allowing each voice to stand, without resolving any one perspective into the perspective of another. The paper was pressing the question of what it might mean for communal praxis to embody the type of point, counterpoint; theodicy, anti-theodicy that we find in Lamentations. Similarly, a second OT paper wrestled with the viability of OT theodicy from another angle.
Then, three of the papers that focused on the NT were exploring some aspect of the crucified Christ and/or love as a driving force in our readings of scripture. I was angling for the story of Christ crucified as the controlling identity marker, hermeneutic, and ethic; another presenter used the category of love from John 14 as the essential component to the hermeneutic that leads us into all truth; and a third presenter discussed the Spirit in Galatians as the Spirit of the crucified Christ who, as this Christ-Spirit, leads Jesus’ followers into the life of new creation.
The common thread in all this is that the papers demonstrated a common drive toward a praxis that is both theologically and exegetically viable.
Much of what I’ve heard today represents, to me, the best of what theological interpretation can be. It is not a strong-arming of difficult texts so that they fit preconceived ideas of Christian theology. That caricature of Christian readings of scripture was nowhere to be found today.
Instead, it was a series of demonstrations that what these ancient texts say can be, and should be, life-giving for the communities that receive them as scripture. Faithful exegesis, even when it is somewhat destabilizing of our preconceptions about “how things are” or how they should be, perhaps especially when destabilizing, has the power to draw us to not merely saying the right things about God but acting more faithfully as the people of God.