Monthly Archives: August 2005

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Status report

I’m spending most of my work time at the moment on the SCM Study Guide to Christian Doctrine – a fairly throrough reworking of the on-line doctrine course that I wrote over the last three years. I’m in the middle of the second chapter, on ‘Knowledge of God’. The first chapter is really just an orientation exercise, explaining what sort of thing I mean by ‘theology’, so this second chapter is the first really substantive material in the book. And, after a couple of weeks’ working on the book, the enthusiasm I originally had for the project has finally kicked back in. Today’s challenge: I want to write about the ways in which ‘knowledge of God’ is not like knowledge of objects, and argue that it is in some ways like knowledge of a piece of music, and in other ways like knowledge of how to play a game – without giving up on a fairly robust realism. And while keeping all this at first-year undergraduate, introductory text-book level.

All of which means that I’m not really thinking about Mark, or about biblical hermeneutics at the moment. (Though the chapter I’m writing does involve an extended exegesis of parts of 1 John, so I hope I haven’t leapt over some horrible biblical studies vs. systematic theology divide in my mind.) But a break from Mark is probably a good thing: I had one of those ‘I haven’t a clue what I’m talking about – or whether, indeed, I am talking about anything’ moments when writing the previous, abortive entry on providence – nearly always (with me) a sure sign that I’ve started asking the wrong question, or at least mis-phrasing the question. I am aware of a niggling worry about my ability to acquiesce in Mark’s use of these prophetic texts, but can’t quite formulate that worry in a way that will allow me to address it.

Believing in providence

Mark makes the claim that what happened with Jesus took place ‘just as it was written’. What has happened in Jesus has enabled Jesus’ followers, they think, to see the truth of the scriptural texts. The texts were, as it were, set up beforehand with Jesus in mind. I don’t think we can get away from the fact that some such claim is being made in Mark’s text.

When reflecting on this a couple of years ago, I wrote the following:

I don’t really believe in such a providential ordering, not at the level of my deepest sensibility, not at the level of my basic stance towards the world – not in my gut. I’m reading (because it has been lent to us) Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, and have found it so packed with portent, each incident foreshadowed and wrapped with prophesied inevitability, that I cannot stomach it. καθὼς γέγραπται is not in my blood.

I find it difficult to sort out my options here. If I say that using these Old Testament texts Christologically is, in some sense, the right thing to do – what am I committing myself to?

Holding pattern

Sorry that there has been nothing posted here for a while. Several reasons:

(1) The Department of Lifelong Learning Theology Exam Board at the very end of July. A five-hour meeting with more paperwork before and afterwards than could be stuffed into an industrial shredder.

(2) The moving of the DLL Theology programme to its new home in the Department of Theology.

(3) My move from DLL to the Department of Theology, and handing over the reins of the part-time programme wholly to my colleague David Rhymer.

(4) Scrabbling to finish a couple of writing commitments that should have been dealt with a while ago: a review of three new undergraduate theology textbooks; the Grove booklet version of some lectures on Higher Education; and the editing of Serious Negotiations, a collection of Rowann William’s essays on various modern theologians.

(5) A quick holiday in Brentwood, house-swapping with Hester’s sister Ruth and her family – and visiting from there friends and family in the surrounding area.

(6) An absorbing e-mail conversation with my friend Susannah Ticciati about the metaphysics of the incarnation.

All in all, these things have distracted me from posting. There is more coming soon, though – I promise!