Archives of Reception of the Bible

Past blogging in more ways than one.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

My own beliefs in the classroom

One of the weirder things about teaching courses with a focus on Reception is that students often can't work out what you think personally. My webpage includes a publication on the Toronto Blessing with a subtitle identifying me as a charismatic (not that I was ever a very good one and not that I am any longer). I find it fascinating that this blog gets listed with 'blogs by Christians' on, but that my students can't work it out. If they are ever my witnesses, then I think there is not enough evidence to convict me!

I have no problems with students knowing what I think and believe (despite some University of Sheffield PhD hangups which occasionally rear up with a "mind you own business" response), and tend to have a 'fess up' attitude to such things. I don't think it makes you a bad scholar, and I think attempts to define what constitutes 'scholarship' on such grounds are ultimately a waste of time. Ideas are ideas and if a person wants to take part in the debate [a la Paul Feyerabend], then God bless them for that--the Popperian 'open society' is my model and anything that closes discussion down by sectioning the academy seems unhelpful to say the least. It just doesn't seem to be an issue in my teaching. Maybe I should attack those we look at more, but the empathy needed to try to understand why someone sees what they see in a biblical text doesn't really lead me to want to do that. Maybe that's why I like a wide range of readers. Ever interesting, ever enlightening, ever inventive. Maybe that's why I like the Jesus Seminar.

Of course, some are real 'gits' too, and ideological critiques are ever necessary. But then I found too with Childs that dissing people at the end of trying to understand them is not necessarily the easiest thing to do. Damn, maybe Reception just leads to a loss of critical edge (as one or two of my old lecturers might have said). But it seems to me that I always like to understand first, and then either develop a critique later or clear the ground for someone else to do so. There are too many strawman arguments in this discipline anyway.


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