“The Politics of Translation”

Christians’ attitudes toward modernity have primarily been characterized by a sense of inferiority. As John Milbank observes, “The pathos of modern theology is its false humility.” Our preaching and theology has been one ceaseless effort to conform to the canons of intelligibility produced by the economic and intellectual formations characteristic of modern and, in particular, liberal societies.

Christians in modernity thought their task was to make the Gospel intelligible to the world rather than to help the world understand why it could not be intelligible without the Gospel. Desiring to become part of the modernist project, preachers and theologians accepted the presumption that Christianity is a set of beliefs, a worldview designed to give meaning to our lives. As a result, the politics of Christian discourse was relegated to the private in the name of being politically responsible in, to, and for liberal social orders. We accepted the politics of translation believing that neither we nor our non-Christian or half-Christian neighbors could be expected to submit to the discipline of Christian speech. (Stanley Hauerwas, Sanctify Them in the Truth, pp. 192-193)


Private Bible Study is a Bad Idea

1. Small Group Bible Study is a Bad Idea.

What are the assumptions behind this being a good idea?
First, that we all “learn” better if we do not have that darn pastor with theological knowledge breathing down our necks. Second, that if we all pool our ignorance, surely we can come up with something that applies to our lives. Third, that it is unnecessary to have someone with the right answers (or at least the right foundation to think about the right answers) in the room when we get together as a group.

2. Individual Bible Study is a Bad Idea.

What are the assumptions behind this being a good idea?
First, that any individual can come to the Biblical text and come away from it with the correct understanding, if only one thinks long and hard about it. Second, that the Holy Spirit will automatically guide the person into the right understanding, if only he or she prays hard enough. (Of course, this begs the question why sincere and well-meaning–perhaps those two adjectives are the immediate problem–Christians can come to contradictory understandings of a text. Perhaps the Holy Spirit was having an off-day.) Third, that my interpretation is just as valid as your interpretation. Okay, perhaps this isn’t a direct assumption, but it surely follows from the way Americans tend to do things.

[If you want to know what I think are actual good ideas, keep reading. If you do not read below the break, save the commenting space for someone else.]
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