alastair.adversaria » Dilettantes and the Bible

Dilettantes and the Bible

Jim West is absolutely right, such people have no right to be interpreting the Bible. However, that said, I am not sure that I trust most biblical scholars with the task of interpreting the Bible either. As Stanley Hauerwas observes, biblical scholarship and fundamentalism are two sides of the same coin, both assume that the biblical text should be accessible to anyone without the necessary mediation of the Church.

The most essential training in biblical interpretation that we will receive is not that provided by a theological degree, important though that is, but the training provided by belonging to a faithful Christian community under wise and faithful pastors. For this reason I am as suspicious of the assured interpretations of much modern biblical scholarship as I am of the interpretations of Jehovah’s Witnesses and others like them. For all of their valuable linguistic gifts and scholarly credentials, biblical scholars outside of the Church are dilettantes who lack the basic training to interpret the Church’s Scriptures aright (this theory that I had to study last semester is a good example). Those who have not undergone and are not undergoing the paideia of the Christian Church, living as a community of discipleship under the Word of God, have no right to interpret the Scriptures. For this reason we should not even enter into debate with them on questions of interpretation.

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Indeed! You are right and I agree— Barth called this the hermeneutical circle. If one is inside the circle (a part of the faith and a faithful Christian community) then one is far more qualified to interpret scripture than one outside. I believe him to be right.

Still, I take more seriously the work of trained scholars outside the circle than untrained ones inside.

I think this leads us towards more of a communal understanding of Scripture rather than the individual’s understanding of Scripture which, like most everything else, has its benefits and drawbacks. But, I believe this is the safest and surest way to understand what G-d is telling us as His people.

[...] Then Peter over at Adverseria posted on “Dilettantes and the Bible” and takes to task those who interpret outside the community of faith. Once again, I get the gist of his point and I agree with it to a certain degree, though he picks on “most scholars” as “dilettantes” since they interpret outside the community of faith. Here I disagree on a number of points. First, and perhaps I am being picky, but no biblical scholar — even those who never darken the doors of a church — would qualify as a “dilettante” (here I am assuming a biblical scholar is someone who has serious academic qualifications and devotes his or her time to studying the Bible). According to Dictionary.com, a dilettante is “an amateur or dabbler; especially, one who follows an art or a branch of knowledge sporadically, superficially.” That one may not be a member of a community of faith does not qualify one as a dilettante, IMHO. Second, I would daresay that “most” biblical scholars are part of a community of faith; perhaps they are not part of your community or perhaps they are using a method of interpretation that is not directly relevant to your community of faith, but that doesn’t mean they do not belong. Third, I am not sure that Christian history would support Peter’s claim that the church is the best context for interpretation. Finally, I totally disagree with him when he asserts that “we [=those faithful interpreters] should not even enter into debate with them [= scholars outside the community of faith] on questions of interpretation.” This sort of exclusivism does no good. We should humbly listen to all interpreters and sift the good from the bad. [...]

[...] Over the past few days, several bibliobloggers have been discussing the idea of how exclusive biblical interpretation should be.  That is, who makes the best interpreters.  Two bloggers, Alastair and Jim West, have argued against just anyone interpreting the Bible, while Chris Heard at Higgaion has countered by arguing again exclusivism in interpretation.  I will allow my readers to read their posts, as I do not plan to engage in the conversation directly, but I did want to make one comment. [...]

Chris and others don’t seem to recognize that the logical conclusion of their positions is found in sites such as this one- http://www.littlegeneva.com, a racist “reformed” site which encourages dilettantism. Such neo-nazi thinking really has no place in civilized society. But, again, such a viewpoint is the end result of Chris’s ideology.

Jim,

I entirely agree.

Sometimes I wonder whether the Internet encourages dilettantism. The vast majority of the material online would not be published by any respectable publisher. The Internet is full of self-proclaimed authorities writing for people who lack the training necessary to discern the good from the bad, most thinking that they have a right to their own opinion, a conviction sustained by the ease of access to the medium. Unless you know a subject pretty well (or have a good nose for bad scholarship) it can be hard on occasions to separate the wheat from the chaff.

In many respects I am writing as a dilettante. As one who is still a young member of the Church and an undergraduate, I am well aware that on the majority of issues I haven’t received anywhere near enough training to deserve a right to my own opinion. I have a lifetime of submission to the training of the Church and the academy ahead of me. I have absolutely no right to put myself forward as an authority. If I am ever to be an authority, the title will be one given to me by the Church or the academy and not one that I have conferred upon myself.

John 7:15

“The Jews therefore marveled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?”

It was a sore point with the establishment in Jerusalem that Jesus was not one of the select community of scholars - it has been a sore point with scholars ever since.

Yes - to the learned ones, Jesus was another “dilettante”.

And Christians have no right to comment on Islam.

[...] Jim West creates a new word, Flugschriften and a FIRESTORM (with responses from Alastair, James Crossley, Jim again, Tyler Williams, Loren Rosson, Duane Smith, Chris Heard, Rick Sumner, Loren again, Chris Weimer, Chris Heard again, Jim again, and one last time Chris Heard).  [...]

Alastair the dilettante! I like it! Can I be one too?

[...] Over the last couple of days I wrote an essay for one of my modules. It was very much a rushed job and I am far from satisfied with it, for a number of reasons. It would have benefited from far more rigorous research (in the end the essay was more or less written from my memory of the sources that I used, rather than from much new reading) and the quality of the writing could have been vastly improved if I had properly gone back over it. Nevertheless, I have decided to reformat the essay slightly and post it as it is relevant to the dilettante debate that took place on this and other blogs (see under the ‘Book Reviews/Miscellaneous’ section of the linked post) and to certain other issues that are raised from time to time on my blog. This is also the nearest that I can get to an intelligent thing to post at the moment. [...]



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11 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Indeed! You are right and I agree— Barth called this the hermeneutical circle. If one is inside the circle (a part of the faith and a faithful Christian community) then one is far more qualified to interpret scripture than one outside. I believe him to be right.

Still, I take more seriously the work of trained scholars outside the circle than untrained ones inside.

I think this leads us towards more of a communal understanding of Scripture rather than the individual’s understanding of Scripture which, like most everything else, has its benefits and drawbacks. But, I believe this is the safest and surest way to understand what G-d is telling us as His people.

[...] Then Peter over at Adverseria posted on “Dilettantes and the Bible” and takes to task those who interpret outside the community of faith. Once again, I get the gist of his point and I agree with it to a certain degree, though he picks on “most scholars” as “dilettantes” since they interpret outside the community of faith. Here I disagree on a number of points. First, and perhaps I am being picky, but no biblical scholar — even those who never darken the doors of a church — would qualify as a “dilettante” (here I am assuming a biblical scholar is someone who has serious academic qualifications and devotes his or her time to studying the Bible). According to Dictionary.com, a dilettante is “an amateur or dabbler; especially, one who follows an art or a branch of knowledge sporadically, superficially.” That one may not be a member of a community of faith does not qualify one as a dilettante, IMHO. Second, I would daresay that “most” biblical scholars are part of a community of faith; perhaps they are not part of your community or perhaps they are using a method of interpretation that is not directly relevant to your community of faith, but that doesn’t mean they do not belong. Third, I am not sure that Christian history would support Peter’s claim that the church is the best context for interpretation. Finally, I totally disagree with him when he asserts that “we [=those faithful interpreters] should not even enter into debate with them [= scholars outside the community of faith] on questions of interpretation.” This sort of exclusivism does no good. We should humbly listen to all interpreters and sift the good from the bad. [...]

[...] Over the past few days, several bibliobloggers have been discussing the idea of how exclusive biblical interpretation should be.  That is, who makes the best interpreters.  Two bloggers, Alastair and Jim West, have argued against just anyone interpreting the Bible, while Chris Heard at Higgaion has countered by arguing again exclusivism in interpretation.  I will allow my readers to read their posts, as I do not plan to engage in the conversation directly, but I did want to make one comment. [...]

Chris and others don’t seem to recognize that the logical conclusion of their positions is found in sites such as this one- http://www.littlegeneva.com, a racist “reformed” site which encourages dilettantism. Such neo-nazi thinking really has no place in civilized society. But, again, such a viewpoint is the end result of Chris’s ideology.

Jim,

I entirely agree.

Sometimes I wonder whether the Internet encourages dilettantism. The vast majority of the material online would not be published by any respectable publisher. The Internet is full of self-proclaimed authorities writing for people who lack the training necessary to discern the good from the bad, most thinking that they have a right to their own opinion, a conviction sustained by the ease of access to the medium. Unless you know a subject pretty well (or have a good nose for bad scholarship) it can be hard on occasions to separate the wheat from the chaff.

In many respects I am writing as a dilettante. As one who is still a young member of the Church and an undergraduate, I am well aware that on the majority of issues I haven’t received anywhere near enough training to deserve a right to my own opinion. I have a lifetime of submission to the training of the Church and the academy ahead of me. I have absolutely no right to put myself forward as an authority. If I am ever to be an authority, the title will be one given to me by the Church or the academy and not one that I have conferred upon myself.

John 7:15

“The Jews therefore marveled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?”

It was a sore point with the establishment in Jerusalem that Jesus was not one of the select community of scholars - it has been a sore point with scholars ever since.

Yes - to the learned ones, Jesus was another “dilettante”.

And Christians have no right to comment on Islam.

[...] Jim West creates a new word, Flugschriften and a FIRESTORM (with responses from Alastair, James Crossley, Jim again, Tyler Williams, Loren Rosson, Duane Smith, Chris Heard, Rick Sumner, Loren again, Chris Weimer, Chris Heard again, Jim again, and one last time Chris Heard).  [...]

Alastair the dilettante! I like it! Can I be one too?

[...] Over the last couple of days I wrote an essay for one of my modules. It was very much a rushed job and I am far from satisfied with it, for a number of reasons. It would have benefited from far more rigorous research (in the end the essay was more or less written from my memory of the sources that I used, rather than from much new reading) and the quality of the writing could have been vastly improved if I had properly gone back over it. Nevertheless, I have decided to reformat the essay slightly and post it as it is relevant to the dilettante debate that took place on this and other blogs (see under the ‘Book Reviews/Miscellaneous’ section of the linked post) and to certain other issues that are raised from time to time on my blog. This is also the nearest that I can get to an intelligent thing to post at the moment. [...]



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Dilettantes and the Bible

Jim West is absolutely right, such people have no right to be interpreting the Bible. However, that said, I am not sure that I trust most biblical scholars with the task of interpreting the Bible either. As Stanley Hauerwas observes, biblical scholarship and fundamentalism are two sides of the same coin, both assume that the biblical text should be accessible to anyone without the necessary mediation of the Church.

The most essential training in biblical interpretation that we will receive is not that provided by a theological degree, important though that is, but the training provided by belonging to a faithful Christian community under wise and faithful pastors. For this reason I am as suspicious of the assured interpretations of much modern biblical scholarship as I am of the interpretations of Jehovah’s Witnesses and others like them. For all of their valuable linguistic gifts and scholarly credentials, biblical scholars outside of the Church are dilettantes who lack the basic training to interpret the Church’s Scriptures aright (this theory that I had to study last semester is a good example). Those who have not undergone and are not undergoing the paideia of the Christian Church, living as a community of discipleship under the Word of God, have no right to interpret the Scriptures. For this reason we should not even enter into debate with them on questions of interpretation.

11 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Indeed! You are right and I agree— Barth called this the hermeneutical circle. If one is inside the circle (a part of the faith and a faithful Christian community) then one is far more qualified to interpret scripture than one outside. I believe him to be right.

Still, I take more seriously the work of trained scholars outside the circle than untrained ones inside.

I think this leads us towards more of a communal understanding of Scripture rather than the individual’s understanding of Scripture which, like most everything else, has its benefits and drawbacks. But, I believe this is the safest and surest way to understand what G-d is telling us as His people.

[...] Then Peter over at Adverseria posted on “Dilettantes and the Bible” and takes to task those who interpret outside the community of faith. Once again, I get the gist of his point and I agree with it to a certain degree, though he picks on “most scholars” as “dilettantes” since they interpret outside the community of faith. Here I disagree on a number of points. First, and perhaps I am being picky, but no biblical scholar — even those who never darken the doors of a church — would qualify as a “dilettante” (here I am assuming a biblical scholar is someone who has serious academic qualifications and devotes his or her time to studying the Bible). According to Dictionary.com, a dilettante is “an amateur or dabbler; especially, one who follows an art or a branch of knowledge sporadically, superficially.” That one may not be a member of a community of faith does not qualify one as a dilettante, IMHO. Second, I would daresay that “most” biblical scholars are part of a community of faith; perhaps they are not part of your community or perhaps they are using a method of interpretation that is not directly relevant to your community of faith, but that doesn’t mean they do not belong. Third, I am not sure that Christian history would support Peter’s claim that the church is the best context for interpretation. Finally, I totally disagree with him when he asserts that “we [=those faithful interpreters] should not even enter into debate with them [= scholars outside the community of faith] on questions of interpretation.” This sort of exclusivism does no good. We should humbly listen to all interpreters and sift the good from the bad. [...]

[...] Over the past few days, several bibliobloggers have been discussing the idea of how exclusive biblical interpretation should be.  That is, who makes the best interpreters.  Two bloggers, Alastair and Jim West, have argued against just anyone interpreting the Bible, while Chris Heard at Higgaion has countered by arguing again exclusivism in interpretation.  I will allow my readers to read their posts, as I do not plan to engage in the conversation directly, but I did want to make one comment. [...]

Chris and others don’t seem to recognize that the logical conclusion of their positions is found in sites such as this one- http://www.littlegeneva.com, a racist “reformed” site which encourages dilettantism. Such neo-nazi thinking really has no place in civilized society. But, again, such a viewpoint is the end result of Chris’s ideology.

Jim,

I entirely agree.

Sometimes I wonder whether the Internet encourages dilettantism. The vast majority of the material online would not be published by any respectable publisher. The Internet is full of self-proclaimed authorities writing for people who lack the training necessary to discern the good from the bad, most thinking that they have a right to their own opinion, a conviction sustained by the ease of access to the medium. Unless you know a subject pretty well (or have a good nose for bad scholarship) it can be hard on occasions to separate the wheat from the chaff.

In many respects I am writing as a dilettante. As one who is still a young member of the Church and an undergraduate, I am well aware that on the majority of issues I haven’t received anywhere near enough training to deserve a right to my own opinion. I have a lifetime of submission to the training of the Church and the academy ahead of me. I have absolutely no right to put myself forward as an authority. If I am ever to be an authority, the title will be one given to me by the Church or the academy and not one that I have conferred upon myself.

John 7:15

“The Jews therefore marveled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?”

It was a sore point with the establishment in Jerusalem that Jesus was not one of the select community of scholars - it has been a sore point with scholars ever since.

Yes - to the learned ones, Jesus was another “dilettante”.

And Christians have no right to comment on Islam.

[...] Jim West creates a new word, Flugschriften and a FIRESTORM (with responses from Alastair, James Crossley, Jim again, Tyler Williams, Loren Rosson, Duane Smith, Chris Heard, Rick Sumner, Loren again, Chris Weimer, Chris Heard again, Jim again, and one last time Chris Heard).  [...]

Alastair the dilettante! I like it! Can I be one too?

[...] Over the last couple of days I wrote an essay for one of my modules. It was very much a rushed job and I am far from satisfied with it, for a number of reasons. It would have benefited from far more rigorous research (in the end the essay was more or less written from my memory of the sources that I used, rather than from much new reading) and the quality of the writing could have been vastly improved if I had properly gone back over it. Nevertheless, I have decided to reformat the essay slightly and post it as it is relevant to the dilettante debate that took place on this and other blogs (see under the ‘Book Reviews/Miscellaneous’ section of the linked post) and to certain other issues that are raised from time to time on my blog. This is also the nearest that I can get to an intelligent thing to post at the moment. [...]



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11 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Indeed! You are right and I agree— Barth called this the hermeneutical circle. If one is inside the circle (a part of the faith and a faithful Christian community) then one is far more qualified to interpret scripture than one outside. I believe him to be right.

Still, I take more seriously the work of trained scholars outside the circle than untrained ones inside.

I think this leads us towards more of a communal understanding of Scripture rather than the individual’s understanding of Scripture which, like most everything else, has its benefits and drawbacks. But, I believe this is the safest and surest way to understand what G-d is telling us as His people.

[...] Then Peter over at Adverseria posted on “Dilettantes and the Bible” and takes to task those who interpret outside the community of faith. Once again, I get the gist of his point and I agree with it to a certain degree, though he picks on “most scholars” as “dilettantes” since they interpret outside the community of faith. Here I disagree on a number of points. First, and perhaps I am being picky, but no biblical scholar — even those who never darken the doors of a church — would qualify as a “dilettante” (here I am assuming a biblical scholar is someone who has serious academic qualifications and devotes his or her time to studying the Bible). According to Dictionary.com, a dilettante is “an amateur or dabbler; especially, one who follows an art or a branch of knowledge sporadically, superficially.” That one may not be a member of a community of faith does not qualify one as a dilettante, IMHO. Second, I would daresay that “most” biblical scholars are part of a community of faith; perhaps they are not part of your community or perhaps they are using a method of interpretation that is not directly relevant to your community of faith, but that doesn’t mean they do not belong. Third, I am not sure that Christian history would support Peter’s claim that the church is the best context for interpretation. Finally, I totally disagree with him when he asserts that “we [=those faithful interpreters] should not even enter into debate with them [= scholars outside the community of faith] on questions of interpretation.” This sort of exclusivism does no good. We should humbly listen to all interpreters and sift the good from the bad. [...]

[...] Over the past few days, several bibliobloggers have been discussing the idea of how exclusive biblical interpretation should be.  That is, who makes the best interpreters.  Two bloggers, Alastair and Jim West, have argued against just anyone interpreting the Bible, while Chris Heard at Higgaion has countered by arguing again exclusivism in interpretation.  I will allow my readers to read their posts, as I do not plan to engage in the conversation directly, but I did want to make one comment. [...]

Chris and others don’t seem to recognize that the logical conclusion of their positions is found in sites such as this one- http://www.littlegeneva.com, a racist “reformed” site which encourages dilettantism. Such neo-nazi thinking really has no place in civilized society. But, again, such a viewpoint is the end result of Chris’s ideology.

Jim,

I entirely agree.

Sometimes I wonder whether the Internet encourages dilettantism. The vast majority of the material online would not be published by any respectable publisher. The Internet is full of self-proclaimed authorities writing for people who lack the training necessary to discern the good from the bad, most thinking that they have a right to their own opinion, a conviction sustained by the ease of access to the medium. Unless you know a subject pretty well (or have a good nose for bad scholarship) it can be hard on occasions to separate the wheat from the chaff.

In many respects I am writing as a dilettante. As one who is still a young member of the Church and an undergraduate, I am well aware that on the majority of issues I haven’t received anywhere near enough training to deserve a right to my own opinion. I have a lifetime of submission to the training of the Church and the academy ahead of me. I have absolutely no right to put myself forward as an authority. If I am ever to be an authority, the title will be one given to me by the Church or the academy and not one that I have conferred upon myself.

John 7:15

“The Jews therefore marveled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?”

It was a sore point with the establishment in Jerusalem that Jesus was not one of the select community of scholars - it has been a sore point with scholars ever since.

Yes - to the learned ones, Jesus was another “dilettante”.

And Christians have no right to comment on Islam.

[...] Jim West creates a new word, Flugschriften and a FIRESTORM (with responses from Alastair, James Crossley, Jim again, Tyler Williams, Loren Rosson, Duane Smith, Chris Heard, Rick Sumner, Loren again, Chris Weimer, Chris Heard again, Jim again, and one last time Chris Heard).  [...]

Alastair the dilettante! I like it! Can I be one too?

[...] Over the last couple of days I wrote an essay for one of my modules. It was very much a rushed job and I am far from satisfied with it, for a number of reasons. It would have benefited from far more rigorous research (in the end the essay was more or less written from my memory of the sources that I used, rather than from much new reading) and the quality of the writing could have been vastly improved if I had properly gone back over it. Nevertheless, I have decided to reformat the essay slightly and post it as it is relevant to the dilettante debate that took place on this and other blogs (see under the ‘Book Reviews/Miscellaneous’ section of the linked post) and to certain other issues that are raised from time to time on my blog. This is also the nearest that I can get to an intelligent thing to post at the moment. [...]



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