I attended a lecture last week hosted by the Theology department at my university (no, I don't own this place of higher learning, but isn't it interesting how much of life is "mine" in common English usage. Anyway...). A very well spoken and highly educated pastor from a local Presbyterian church was the guest presenter. The talk was titled: Biblical Interpretation: Where Hermeneutics and Revelation Meet. Interesting. I hadn't planned on going because I had a French course at the same time, but one of my professors scheduled it as a make-up class so I did the unthinkable, skipped out of French early, and showed up at H-403 to hear what was to be said.
The 45 minute presentation was immensely wordy. Most of the time wonderfully wordy, but sometimes my brain could not follow all the complex linguistic helixes being constructed by Dr. T. Nevertheless, I did catch a few things that I liked in what he said. He cautioned against the purely academic study of the Bible, especially methods that removed God from the equation. Yes, he came down pretty harshly on those who would say they are trying to be objective. He insisted that a vacuum left by removing faith will quickly be filled with something else. But he is a pastor, after all, and I loved his passion for connecting God with people in a spirit of grace and integrity.
A professor in the Theology department offered a response after Dr. T. sat down. He defended the historical critical method of interpreting the Bible and cited some examples to back up his points and insisted that one can be critical of the text without being critical of God. He pointed out that the purpose of these interpretation methods is to safeguard against errant viewpoints. I agreed with him as well. Here were two men, both experts in their field, who might be heard to be taking opposing views, but I saw them as complementing each other, both encouraging the pursuit of truth through the scope of their chosen vocations and in that way, presenting a fuller, more complete picture.
I guess not everyone felt the same way. Many of the people in the room seemed to fall into one camp or the other. One of my professors was sitting beside me and after a bit of a discussion, she offered her comments. I can still feel the passion in what she said, her excitement belied by the strong use of her arms and voice. She made a bold call to stop the division between academia and theologians, for we are all part of the church. As she went on, I suddenly found myself all choked up. Oh no, not here, you can't cry here in a university lecture surrounded by academics and especially when you are sitting beside your esteemed professor who holds one tiny part of your future in her hands. Though I have learned that it is not a good idea to stifle the movements of the heart, I tried to maintain a quiet control while letting myself respond with a loud internal YES to the powerful challenge to embrace unity with courage and refuse to stand divided.
After the session ended, I somewhat timidly offered my appreciation to my professor for her comments and in the middle of doing this, found myself close to tears again. Oh, well, there was no getting away from it. I finished my sentence in a quivery voice and explained my behaviour by saying that these things moved me. My professor put an arm around my shoulder and told me that I reminded her of herself when she had started out. I smiled and nodded and could not say anything. It was like the voice of a beloved one had said, "You belong here and you're going to do okay. You don't have to compromise who you are or stifle your passion. Bring who you are to your studies. Bring life and learning and love and wide-eyed wonder, even if it is unrefined and unsophisticated and sometimes raw, to everything you do and watch what happens. Watch yourself grow and blossom and bear fruit. And watch the world around you grow as well. Let me teach you."
Is it really so amazing that one should hear the voice of Jesus when studying the Bible?
These are some crunchy leaves on my street earlier this week.