November 21, 2009

N'awlins Day 4

I slept in a little this morning. I keep telling myself, "It's not a sprint. It's a marathon." Two and a half days to go. Today was packed with highlights. In chronological order...

(1) Some Bibliobloggers and Yahoo B.S. Group(ies) had a flash mob in the middle of the book fair, which was really a delight and a thrill. I met so many blog friends for the first time in person. We took a picture. I've run into so many bibliobloggers in the halls the past two days I can't even begin to start listing them. Eighteen months of blogging and I know a lot of people at this thing. Wow.

(2) What I've been looking forward to all week - meeting with Jared Compton about Quirinius investigation into the Lukan Census that gets beyond the bog of Quirinius. Plus, I gave him some very old research I'd dug up on Greek grammatical constructions that may or may not parallel Luke 2:2. I hope Jared and his connections can suss it out further for us. (See my recent post and link to his article, here.)

(3) Continuing to dialogue with random strangers at the conference and - not really surprisingly - finding that skeptics are consistently more intrigued by my faith based ("for the sake of argument") non-theological approach to event reconstruction than most of the more institutionally aligned christians tend to be. Btw, if you don't know why that doesn't surprise me, you must be fairly new to this blog. ;-)

(4a) A New Question: We believe Jesus lived without sin, but did people in his world perceive him as sinless? PSA of the day: That intriguing topic is apparently the focus of a new book with a [misleading] deliberately provocative title, Sinners: Jesus and his Earliest Followers. I didn't know that until I got there, but I saw Dale Allison was moderating and Craig Blomberg was on the panel.

(4b) The session ended early, and I was able to approach Blomberg about my recent frustration with two of his books. He was gracious and engaged with me on the topic but in the end his reservations, as expressed, still seemed to boil down to skepticism that any particular chronology will ever be demonstrably more certain than other possibilities. I wasn't entirely satisfied, of course, but I'm grateful he was willing to engage.

(4c) Incidentally, Dale Allison was sitting alone three seats away from Blomberg when I saw they were both available. I really wanted to thank Allison for his most recent book and tell him why I enjoyed it so much, but he left shortly after he heard the beginning of my convo with CB. Cause and Effect? I may never know. ;-)

(5a) The John, Jesus and History section was really enjoyable. I wish I could describe what that conversation was like in full detail, but I guess it's a bit like a cook going into somebody else's kitchen. All the normal historical tools and the Gospels' ingredients were on the table, and it was just fun to watch what the panelists did with it all. (See next point.)

(5b) One panelist in particular - Ann Graham Brock, in the process of comparing John to the other Synoptics - drew out some fascinating things about Luke that might bind him closer to Paul in an awful lot of people's eyes. I'm not spoiling her big surprise here, but I'm telling you now: watch for her future work. The implications are very exciting.

(6) Shortly after leaving that particular historical mish-mosh, I ran into Michael Whitenton & Rob Kashow who told me about a session I missed, where some scholar(s?) pronounced the historical-critical method ITSELF to be a MYTH. As far as I understood, the point is that everyone still finds ways to insert their own presupposed theology or ideology into the text, so the whole thing may just be a push.

Meanwhile (5.5) I'd just come from engaging a prominent skeptic about my proposed methodologies. See point 3 above. After his gracious but rigorous challenges, I believe I succeeded in genuinely intriguing him. At the end, he - not I - asked to dialog more with me in the future.

Maybe skeptics just like to hear christians questioning institutional christendom. I don't know. But for the moment, this phenomenon continues to motivate me to keep on suggesting this "faith-based, for-the-sake-of-argument" approach to believers and skeptics alike. I genuinely believe it is in ALL of our best interests to see what happens when we expose our own agendas and come to the New Testament afresh - not with pure objectivity, which doesn't exist, but with an openness to consider as factual that which the text itself actually claims... so far as we can determine what the text is actually claiming, and trusting it for the sake of academic argument, to begin with... and then to ask, what from this should we rightly conclude*?

You just never know what might happen from there. But I'd love to find out! Wouldn't you?

By the way, I trust nobody reading this post committed the positivist fallacy. You may trust that I did all the things I just told you I did, but none of you would assume that was all the things that I did. If all the things I've done, said and thunk in this week could be put into words, there might be no end to the blog posts that I'd have to write. ;-)

[*conclude, consider, begin to investigate, etc...]

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