September 18, 2009

Yes, Yes, Ye... Siiigh

Finally scanning a year's worth of journal links at the UTA Library today, I found (among many others) this wonderful gem. In reviewing The Nature of New Testament Theology (Blackwell, 2006) one J.L. Houlden says:
In work on New Testament theology the tendency is so deeply embedded to read the New Testament writers in terms of concepts that may (often in the light of later developments) be discerned in them—surely regardless of any attempt to see that, in their New Testament context, they ‘felt’ anything but conceptual in tone in the later doctrinal sense.
It is hard not to feel that the strongly rational character of much New Testament theological writing is often working against the grain of the aspirations of the writers whose works are the subject of their studies.
Absolutely. But as it happens, Professor Houlden is drawing what I find a very limiting dichotomy in bewailing the lack of "any attempt to explore what might be boldly described as the poetic and image-laden character of early Christian writing and sensibility." A quick google search shows his book, The Strange Story of the Gospels, is also concerned with:
"the abstractness of much Christian teaching, especially when compared with the suppleness and imaginative power of the Gospels. ... Creeds leap from Jesus' birth to his death in an instant; and the teaching of the Christian faith has often glossed over the life of Jesus to use the Gospels as collections of moral guidance or for spiritual edification."
Again, Houlden is absolutely right and I passionately agree these points need much more attention. But do we really have to jump from rational abstractness to the opposite (soulish) extreme of feelings and imagination? Is "Story" really just a non-abstract means of expressing a message? Or is it possible christian academics might someday start acting like the Story of the Gospels could indeed be worthy of considering as History, also?

We live in hope...

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