Monday, July 02, 2007

Back in the Saddle

The SCL conference went well. My talks were well received in general. A couple of folks walked out of my last lecture when I inadvertently let it slip that Christianity was post-pagan and not, as we Protestants tend to think, post-Catholic. I think I then used "post-apostasy" as a synonym. Otherwise good times were had by all. The cigar and drink evenings in the cooling mugginess were great. I was threatened with bodily harm by a New York Times reporterette. The exact quote (leaving the newspaper of record an example) was "Sometimes, Evan, I just want to smack you." I assured her that the line was long for those who shared similar intentions.
Had another invigorating debate with an old friend whose shares the nonsensical notions of the allegorical interpretation of Holy Writ. If this is serving as powerful interpretation in the pulpits of the land, God help us all. As I have said before, it is an epistemology based only on the hubris of the speaker and the near infantile credulity of the hearer. All I had to ask to send its advocate into spiral of unsupportable claims was the simple, "How am I supposed to know that what you claim is true?"
My text did not get much attention but people, without prompting, came up to me to ask for copies of something I spoke on last year. That was The Word of a Gentleman and the Way of a Lady. So eager were these expressions that I have returned to the Abbey inspired to finish the new, combined edition which will also include a simple preface to mannered conduct which might be beneficial in most American social moments. I'll let you all know when it is done.


Matthew N. Petersen said...

The funny thing is that I feel exactly the same way about your method of interpretation--it is based on only the hubris of the speaker and the near infantile credulity of the hearer. Ok, I'd be a bit more generous and not include the second half. But if I ask you how you learned your method, you say "reason." If you ask your friend, he says "imitation of Christ and the Apostles."

So he does it poorly. Do children speak well? Then should you expect one who is seeking to imitate Christ as a dearly beloved child to be perfect? But far better a child that tries to imitate his parrents and fails than one who never even tries.

Kinda proud of that reaction are you? You think maybe you should consider if you accurately represent their position? Does it become acceptable to lie about what someone believes just because what you claim they believe is contrary to scripture? No, rather, it becomes worse.

"Judge not lest you judge, for by the same standard which you judge it shall be meted back to you." Do you really want Christ inspect your faith in him as thinly as you inspect a Catholic's faith?

Thomas Banks said...


Whatever the relative strengths and weaknesses of Evan's own methodology, one centrally based upon allegory doesn't much benefit us; all it requires of itself is a parallelism between two objects plausible enough to satisfy the palate of the average believer, e.g.,

"When David strikes the head from the Philistine, he unwittingly prefigures the issue, in 313 A.D., of the Edict of Milan, whereby through leading the Emperor Constantine to an extention of tolerance to the Believing, the Lord struck the Head from the City of Man and brought him into the fold of the City of God, reestablishing his sympathies with those of the One True Church."

Or something equally ludicrous.

Poetical suggestiveness is the name of the game, which leaves us with no opportunity to "Test everything, and retain what is good."

Matthew N. Petersen said...

Unless its more like an art--you can tell Shakespeare is good and Tom Clancey, well, isn't. Why can't we do the same sort of thing for interpretation.

You cannot tell me "The problem with this sort of interpretation is it can lead to anything. We cannot tell if such an interpretation is good or bad. Look at how bad it is." Uh...if we cannot tell when something is bad, how can we tall that is bad?

Thomas Banks said...

My point is not that we "Cannot tell if this sort of interpretation is good or bad" so much that this sort of interpretation purposfully removes from itself anything resembling accountability. Allegories of the type above are only falsifiable insofar as they allow the minds they lead the correct degree of satisfaction; if the metaphor is an attractive one (as many are that are nevertheless textually unfounded) the allegorist has done his job and pleased an audience that remains as unnourished as it was when it entered the cathedral.



Matthew N. Petersen said...

And anyway Tom, you take literature classes. Perhaps strict allegory isn't good, but Evan raises the same objection to making doctrine from narrative. do your professors determine which papers are good and which are bad? Do they just judge on grammar, or is there some standard they use to say "this analysis of what Shakespeare is saying is flawed. That one is good." And if they do have such a method...why can't we use in in our interpretations of scripture.

mavis said...

howdy evan. glad you are back. i heard this last week and it reminded me of you. and since i can't link to it (flash), i will just have to give you directions.
sermons - practical topics - studying scripture - "bending under the word"
all kinds of funny.

jasonvanb said...

I walked out of your last talk, but not because I was offended. I just had to leave. I was sorry I missed the rest of your talk. - Jason Van Bemmel, New Covenant Christian School

Matthew N. Petersen said...

I think I was a bit upset about your comments. Apologies.