According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Transparent Moments of Scholarship when a Theologian Must Either Stay or Change, Part 14 - Lindsey Trozzo

Lindsey Trozzo

“aha” moments: biblical scholars tell their stories (14): Lindsey Trozzo

by Peter Enns
August 8, 2014

Today’s “aha” moment is by Lindsey M. Trozzo (BA, Biola University, Biblical and Theological Studies; MA, Talbot School of Theology, NT). Trozzo is ABD in her PhD work at Baylor University, where she is writing her dissertation is on ethics in John’s Gospel and utilizing Rhetorical Criticism to uncover John’s non-propositional ethic. Trozzo is also working at Texas Christian University as the Research Assistant to the Bradford Chair (David Moessner), where, along with researching and teaching, she is coordinater the Second Century Seminar and manages subscriptions to Novum Testamentum Supplement Series (Brill).


I often think that students take the view that one of my jobs as a professor is to reassure
them that the Bible does not say anything that they do not already think, and to show how
when it says something outrageous it does not mean it.

~ John Goldingay

This was certainly my mindset when I began my biblical education. “I’m not sure,” was a phrase I avoided like the plague. For as long as I can remember, I have been driven to say, “I know. Now let me show you why.”

At home, at school, and at church, I worked as hard as I could so that I would be able to raise my hand with the right answer. “I’m not sure” was a bad place.

This inclination toward certainty extended into my academic life: K-12 Christian school, B.A. in Biblical Studies from an Evangelical university, M.A. in NT from an Evangelical seminary, PhD program in Biblical Studies (in progress). I met success in academic life.

And for a good while, my accumulation of answers was quite empowering.

At first (as the joke goes) seminary “taught me just enough to make me dangerous”— meaning, my seminary-trained and self-inflated ego could out-argue others on a given Bible topic. This wasn’t only a fault of my particular educational system. Broadened scholarly horizons, on their own, would simply fuel me with different data to make different arguments – but for the same problematic purpose.

As a professor of mine has joked, “You can make the data say anything you want – if you’re smart enough.” So my “aha moments” aren’t necessarily about escapingconservative dogmatism.

They are about escaping dogmatism on all sides.

I would say I am experiencing an “aha evolution,” one still in progress, where I’m learning to identify my tendency to look to the Bible to affirm things I think I already know (rather than looking to the Bible to learn something new).

This evolution is about learning to live somewhere in the middle, about becoming more comfortable saying, “I’m not sure.”

The most significant moments in this evolution have not come from my own close readings of Scripture, nor from grating tensions encountered in a conservative classroom or church setting, nor from a moving and persuasive article or essay.

Certainly scholarly arguments have transformed my views about very important issues. Certainly my own close readings of the text have led me to concede that the “biblical stance” on any given topic is not as straightforward as I would like to admit. Yet still, I attribute my personal evolution to something much simpler:

I started listening to people who were different than I was.

In many ways, I am grateful for the conservative context in which I grew up. I was well-loved, and my own conservative community was of the gracious variety. But one detriment of growing up in a close-knit Evangelical faith community (at least in my experience) is that everyone agrees on everything – or at least on the important things.

Dissenting voices are treated with a special brand of caution. Even in the most gracious communities, those dissenting voices are certainly not given the same space as the voices of insiders. For me, this dynamic continued into my academic context as well, since I chose to attend a university and a seminary that resembled the conservative setting of my upbringing.

Though such an approach was never directly prescribed, reading in such a community fueled my tendency to treat the Bible as a means to affirm my stalwart doctrinal positions. Reading in such a community strengthened my sense that “I’m not sure” was a bad place.

It’s not for me to say whether other members of this reading community had the same motivations – perhaps some were actively trying to disengage their presuppositions and see whether some long-held beliefs might be challenged by the voice of the text. But that was not my approach at the time.

Slowly I began to feel a growing chasm between my close-knit Evangelical scholarly community and the diverse community with whom I lived everyday life. I began to see how the positions I had become so equipped to defend simply did not line up with the common human decency I saw expressed by those whom I would have called ill-informed, untrained, or even heretical.

Good people with amazingly powerful common sense had me wondering, “What if we are wrong? What if I am wrong?” It was this, the laying aside of “I know” and the taking up of “I’m not sure,” that invited the conversations that would shape a new perspective for me.

Reading and discussing the Bible within a diverse community (and mostly listening), I gradually learned a more generous approach to the Bible, to others, and to myself. A few members of this diverse community stand out (though there are many others):

  • My profoundly “liberal” freshman roommate who lived a Gospel that extended unquestioning love to those our community excluded and judged most.
  • My upstanding, inspiring, charitable twin brother whose fearless vulnerability and courageous pursuit of accepting himself and others as the image of God challenged my own deep-rooted prejudice.
  • My unique and freethinking husband whose unconditional love for me and openness to every person I’ve seen him encounter stood in stark contrast to my own principled self-importance and need to be right.

Listening to these voices resulted in new questions and led me to more flexible answers than I had previously been able to see in the text.

Becoming an observer of my tradition and myself, I began to realize the inconsistency of interpretation among many Christian communities who adopted a stricter hermeneutic on some issues and a more flexible hermeneutic on others.

Mostly, this community helped me to acknowledge where I was making the text say more than it was really saying, where I was forcing the text to take a stronger position than it really took, where I was overlooking complications and complexities in the biblical witness.

Scholarship has since affirmed that "evolution" that was birthed in experience and community. I was pleased to find that these more flexible ways of reading has long-held a place in the wider world of biblical scholarship—beginning with premodern communal interpretation, continuing with the rise of liberal theologians, and extending into the academy today.

I am happy that our postmodern context allows similar “concessions” for those of us who read the Bible from a theological standpoint. For me, self-reflective and self-aware reading is only possible when I ground myself in a diverse community.

We still all read from a subjective standpoint, and this is something I’m not sure we can escape. But by reading in community, deliberation can free us from dogmatism. I hope that I will continue to listen to my friends who will help me to read reflectively and engage deliberatively, to err on the side of love, and to readily admit “I’m not sure.”

Some resources on reading in community (thanks to my own community for these):

Hermeneutics: An Introduction, Anthony C. Thistelton

Reading In Communion, Stephen E. Fowl

Reading Texts, Seeking Wisdom: Scripture and Theology, eds. David F. Ford and Graham Stanton

The Promise of Scriptural Reasoning, eds. David F. Ford and C. C. Pecknold

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