Monday, 05 February 2007
Whitley: First Delivery
The first delivery of the Whitley Lecture was last Wednesday at Bristol. It went well: about 40 present, including old friends and many new faces, made up largely of ministerial students from Bristol and Cardiff Baptist Colleges. The lecture was slightly too long (this will be altered the next time I present it), but there was good interaction after it and we went well over our allotted time. Among the questions that, for me, generated further reflection were:
- have I underestimated the extent to which interpretation is bound up with issues of power, not least at the level of the local church? (Answer: I possibly have in the lecture, although I make comments in it that address this point and developed on them in my comments)
- does my thesis mean that 'anything goes' and that there is no prospect for agreement or convergence in interpretation (answer, no its doesn't mean that, but addressing these concerns is a lengthy and complex task and my focus is inevitably on the fact and legitimacy of interpretive difference, given the assumptions about the nature of interpretation that prevail in our churches). There was a nice historical point here noting that by starting with the General Baptists I am in danger of suggesting that the doctrinal move to Unitarianism was OK (the irony of discussing this point in the institution partly responsible for the development of Evangelical Calvinism was not lost on me).
- do we need to be more radical about re-thinking Sunday worship and especially preaching? Yes, we probably do and I confessed to feeling caught here between the desire for churches to be places of genuine plurality and my belief in preaching as proclamation. I still hope to think that this is a creative tension.
- did I use too many long words?: yeh but..no but...yeh but...
Incidentally, the day after returning i picked off my copy of AKMA's book Faithful Interpretation off the shelves, and found to my delight that he is articulating a similar vision, in rather more sophisticated terms. The chapter on Integral v Differential Hermeneutics is right on the mark.
I had a conversation today in which I was asked if I felt that there was potential for the ideas in the lecture to really make a difference to the ways in which we as Baptists understand and talk about the whole interpretive task. I have my doubts. But thanks to Bristol for giving me the opportunity to give a first airing to these ideas.