According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, 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

Friday, January 31, 2014

Book Review: The Lost World of Scripture, by Walton and Sandy, Parts 1-3

Review of The Lost World of Scripture
by John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy
Part 1

Review by Carlos Bovell
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/01/review-of-the-lost-world-of-scripture-walton-and-sandy-by-carlos-bovell/

by Peter Enns
Given what we have learned about literary production in the ancient world, authorship and the process that led to the final form of the canonical book are simply not as relevant as we have thought to our understanding of biblical authority. We need to develop new models that are based on an understanding of the roles of authorities, the nature of documents, and the transmission of tradition in hearing-dominated societies (62).

In many ways, Walton and Sandy provide a great service for evangelicals by trying to bring critical biblical scholarship into genuine conversation with the evangelical doctrine of inerrancy. The way Walton and Sandy attempt to this is through an inerrantist appropriation of the speech act theory.

They affirm, for example:

We believe that God has inspired the locutions (words, whether spoken or written) that the communicator has used to accomplish with God their joint illocutions (which lead to an understanding of intentions, claims, affirmations and, ultimately, meaning), but that those locutions are tied to the communicator’s world (44).

Not a few inerrantist writers hold strong to the hope that speech act theory can preserve inerrancy. In my book Rehabilitating Inerrancy in a Culture of Fear, I suggest that, although this may be possible, the form that inerrancy winds up taking would hardly be recognizable to believers committed to the Chicago Statement.

Further, in light of what Walton and Sandy argue for regarding biblical authors (that there are none), not only will the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy not do, but speech act theory itself will be inadequate.

My understanding of a speech act is that in order for a communication to qualify as a speech act, someone, a person A, has to want to communicate something to a second person B. What Walton and Sandy have effectively done, in driving home the role of orality in the production of the Bible, it seems to me, is remove that “person A” from the equation:
  1. If this is right, speech act theory would seem not to apply to scripture, at least not in the way that Walton and Sandy [may wish to] apply it.
  2. Moreover, if speech act theory manages to collapse when applied to the oral nature of scripture, then Walton and Sandy should not appeal to speech act theory in their defense of inerrancy.
Don’t get me wrong, Christians have (and have had all along) the biblical texts to contend with hermeneutically.  Someone(s) had to have written them in order for there to be biblical texts for us to contemplate. It’s just that now, according to Walton and Sandy, the human communicator, the person A that is needed to appeal to for speech act theory to work, is not connected enough to the production of scripture for scripture to count as that person’s speech act.

It may be the case, then, that on account of the ancient cultures being oral cultures and not text-dominated as Walton and Sandy explain in their book, scripture should never have been construed as a speech act in the first place, or at the very least in the way that Walton and Sandy do in Lost World.

Walton and Sandy articulate their view this way:

Some community of people, we believe under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, determined that certain individuals, as well as certain traditions unattached to specific individuals, had authority—God’s authority. (63)

These human communicators—“some community of people”—are authoritatively involved for some unspecified development in the biblical text, but whatever that development turns out to be, it is not in a capacity to communicate something to someone else, at least not in the way that speech act theory tends to assume.

The communicators act rather as tradents of a body of common knowledge that is “out of their hands,” so to speak: a tradition.

By showing how little involvement biblical “communicators” actually had with the biblical texts in an oral culture such as the one that produced the Bible, Walton and Sandy open the door for evangelicals to begin focusing both on what involvement believers who receive the biblical traditions have on what the texts accomplish, and on how God himself has had to constantly be active, working toward accomplishing his communicative act through biblical traditions.

This is a positive move, in my opinion, but we have also left any reasonable notion of an evangelical, inerrantist, doctrine of Scripture.

If Walton and Sandy want to appropriate speech act theory for a doctrine of scripture, however, they would be better served by opting for at least one of two scenarios.

First, uncouple God’s illocutionary act from that of the “human communicator.” This way, if the human communicator is removed from the picture, God’s speech act can still stand.

Second, they can, after arguing against an “author,” insist that there was some kind of final “redactor” who had a heavy hand in producing the Bible we now possess. This redactor could then act as the “person A” who is communicating something to person B.

Either view, if laid out carefully, would be a step forward, though whether either option would be compatible to inerrancy, at least as it is expressed in the Chicago Statement, is doubtful in my opinion.

In Lost World, Walton and Sandy have given inerrantists a new context for understanding what the Bible is. Let us hope that some will take seriously the orality of the Bible that Walton and Sandy have presented and work together to better integrate their findings into a more satisfying doctrine of scripture.

- Carlos

* * * * * * * * *

Addendum

A third view, in my opinion, is to regard the "human communicator" and/or "scribe," as transmitting redactors (or editors) who are fully (as in, 100% fully) involved in the process of God's speech act. Not none, nor partially, as indicated above by Carlos. But fully. To be 100% personally involved in the communication act of God's authoritative speech act to humanity.

Otherwise we disallow for the phenomenological and existential importance of the holy communicator's life and societal cultural understanding in the transmission of biblical revelation.

And, we make such human communicators mere dictaphones, recording machines, or unthinking ditationists, to the very holy process that had consumed their life producing both the oral traditions - and the latter arising textual traditions - that necessarily accompanied their life force (or devotion, or passion) to communicating God's Word to their human culture.

Hence, within the hermeneutical paradigm of textual capture and transmission must likewise accompany an essential anthropologic, or societal, transcription of God's speech act. Otherwise we create for ourselves and unnecessary naivete about the biblical text when so simply assuming the lack of degrees of the human spirit in its creation and invention (as any oral tradition and written document must be so understood. But in this case, it is a Holy-Spirit driven creation or invention of the first magnitude).

For more discussion about this please refer to the sidebars under hermeneutics generally.

- R.E. Slater