Six unspectacular things about me

Iyov has nominated me for the six unspectacular things about me meme.

I am always very diffident about naming other people for memes, so I will do what I generally do – list the things and say that if anyone reading this wants to participate, consider yourself tagged.   I will even edit this post to link to you if you wish – just let me know.

So, six things:

  1. I am the mother of two children who are both old enough to vote (ie they have both turned 18)! I find this difficult to believe.
  2. I am very bad at relaxation techniques that require me to visualise unreality (eg  “Picture yourself on a beach…” gets my mind insisting that, no, I am lying on the floor in the gym…)
  3. I luuuuurve dark chocolate
  4. I have been married to Bruce for 25 years and four days – but perhaps having been married 25 years is fairly spectacular??
  5. I like Facebook applications that allow me to contribute to people in developing countries/the environment and ones that grow things – one of my favourites is therefore H2Opia – I also like sending Karma, Lil Greenpatch and the Hatchery.  And yes, I will be your Facebook friend for Karma, H2Opia and Greenpatch.
  6. Ich kann ein wenig Deutsch und ich spreche es mit meine Tochter, manchmal beim Frühstück.  Bruce hat das nicht so gern.

Meme Terms and Conditions

  1. Link to the person who tagged you.
  2. Mention the rules on your blog.
  3. List six unspectacular things about you.
  4. Tag six other bloggers by linking to them.

Backgrounds of biblical scholars

I have been amazingly busy over the past week or two and only yesterday got around to reading James Crossley’s post from 27 August entitled Doubting Stephen.  In it he interacts with Stephen Law’s posts doubting the existence of Jesus (just go to his blog and scroll down from about here – there’s lots).  In concluding his comments, James says:

Well, just one aside that doesn’t have so much to do with Law’s arguments…My background in pre-university education was extremely a-Christian and a-religious (and even though I did a theology degrees and PhD I didn’t really think of it as being an overly Christianised context, though that may be more to do with my associations and things have certainly swung in the Christianising direction since those days). The past few years has made me think that this could be quite unusual for biblical studies, at least in British biblical studies. Would it be fair to say that most, many, some or few have been educated in contexts where the dominant Christian culture is evident? Just idle thoughts…

The very energetic discussion on his blog has largely been about his arguments with Law’s conclusions, so I decided to respond to this question here.

I think that in Australia a significant proportion of biblical studies is done from within a Christian context.  We have very few universities offering Studies in Religion/Religious Studies courses and the majority of people doing biblical studies are studying through an institution which has as its primary purpose preparing its students for some form of Christian ministry.  Even the theological faculties that are situated in universities rather than denominational colleges tend to be affiliated with one or more denominations and often some of the academic staff are funded by the denominations with which they are affiliated.  Some call themselves “Bible colleges” and others “faculties of theology”.  Bible Colleges tend to be theologically more conservative and more wary of more recent methods of biblical criticism, and both tend to offer qualifications in theology or divinity.  Most of the academic staff in these institutions are ordained, although quite a few have done very little in the way of pastoral ministry. When I did my bachelor’s degree, all the academic staff in my institution were ordained but there have been several non-ordained people employed there over the last decade or so – people who knew before they started their studies that they weren’t interested in being ministers.  These people are nevertheless practising Christians, not people who are studying Christianity “from the outside”.

I am sure this has implications for how people do biblical studies.  If the affiliated denomination understands the notion of the Bible as the inspired word of God to mean that it is God’s actual words, they will approach the text differently to those who do not believe this.  My own denomination says that Jesus is the Word of God and that the Bible bears witness to the Word.  In at least one of our Sydney churches, the affirmation that goes with the readings in worship is “in this is the Word of God”. I nevertheless approach the text from the perspective that what it says is relevant to the way I live my life.  I have been taught that when I look at it, I should be asking questions like “what does this say to me and to other Christians?” I have also been taught that I need to look at what the text was saying to its original audience, because that’s the key to what it might be saying to us, but my training said that this was a means rather than an end in itself.  The former is not a question that a scholar of Christian origins/early Christianity brings to the study of the text.  I’m not sure whether this means that they will come up with a “better” or “worse” understanding of the text, or just a different one.  I like to think that coming at the text from a faith perspective stops one from following some of the wilder flights of fantasy that I’ve seen indulged in by some “secular” scholars, but I suspect that they say the same about scholars who are practising Christians. :-)