Thursday, June 30, 2016

chastened intuitions

My blog has needed an update for quite some time. At first, "seminary mom" made sense. I was a mom in seminary, and this somewhat unusual combination of vocations defined my educational journey. Then we moved to Wheaton for PhD studies and happened to land on Seminary Avenue. That gave my url a few more years of relevance (at least for those who knew where to find me!). I've been running on fumes for two years now, far from seminary and from Seminary avenue. And though my hands and my heart are both full, it was time for a change of title as well.

So here it is!

Starting today you can find my blog at I've re-titled it "Chastened Intuitions," and for that I owe you an explanation. The idea came to me several years ago while reading John Barton's Reading the Old Testament: Method in Biblical Study. Barton has the guts to say what many biblical scholars avoid admitting (to themselves or anybody else): competent reading of Scripture involves a great deal of intuition.

In his words, "much harm has been done in biblical studies by insisting that there is, somewhere, a 'correct' method which, if only we could find it, would unlock the mysteries of the text" (5). He examines a whole spate of methods (literary criticism, form criticism, redaction criticism, the canonical approach, structuralist criticism, and new criticism), concluding that each method contributes something, but none is the be-all-end-all of biblical study. Any one of these, when taken to the extreme, collapses upon itself.*

He continues, "I propose that we should see each of our 'methods' as a codification of intuitions about the text which may occur to intelligent readers" (5). They are ways of circling the text and looking at it from different angles. Barton is not saying that the meaning of the biblical text is open to any and every interpretation, whatever a reader wishes to see, but that our intuitions are re-shaped by the reading process so that we become increasingly competent. In other words, we bring our intuitions to the text and in the process of reading we are chastened and changed by it.

This is true of life as well. We think we know how things ought to go, but they don't quite play out as we expected. We take a step back, readjust, and carry on, wiser for the experience.

I believe that when we approach the text and the world with eyes of faith, eager to learn and expecting to be changed, we become increasingly conformed to the image of Christ. Along the way our interpretations of the text and of life become more reliable.

This blog has been and will continue to be a place where I process the lessons God is teaching me as I study his word and engage his world. You're welcome to join me by reading along!


*Sometimes Christians resist the idea of "method" in biblical study altogether because they misunderstand the doctrine of perspicuity (that is, the doctrine from the Protestant Reformation that teaches that the Scriptures are clear). While the basics of God's saving grace in Christ are communicated at a level that even a child can understand and embrace, the Bible is not an "easy read." A host of theological and practical problems arise when we assume that we should simply take the Bible "literally," without regard for its ancient context, its genre, and figurative language.