some critique on dwelling in the Word
October 17, 2007
I finally figured out how to use my new phone as a modem (guess it would have been much quicker if I used the manual), this might make blogging much easier! This is the first of a number of posts, in which I’m trying to point how I’m currently contemplating the role of trained theologians in the emerging church. I mean, you need to understand, I have to figure out what to do with a masters degree in theology not an easy task if you have followed the emerging conversation.
I got introduced to “Dwelling in the Word” a little more than two years ago. Dwelling in the Word is a way of reading the Bible where the focus is on the text, listening to the text, and listening to each other. A typical session of dwelling in the Word would have someone reading a part from scripture while the rest listen. A second and third read would follow. For example with the second read someone can read the same text, while everyone follow in the own Bibles. A possible third read would be that everyone read the text on their own. Different variations might also be used. At some point the group would be urged to focus on that which stand out for them.
After this, a time of discussion would follow. This could be simply sharing what have stood out, or sometimes a specific question could be given early on, like: “What would this text say for what our church is currently busy with”. The discussion could be in the large group, but typically the group would divide into two’s, and share their thoughts to the friend with whom they are. Feedback would then be through each one sharing with the group that what their partner has said. The idea is not that an debate should break out, and typically the unwritten rule is that you don’t debate about anything which something has said. In a very pious way some would say that we may not argue with what the Lord say to each of us, although this isn’t everyone that use this that say this. I must however mention that at some occasions, when I’ve said something critical about the text, facilitators have tried to soften it.
It’s a great listening exercise, and many people who come out of churches where they have never been allowed to say anything or give an opinion like the idea that they can contribute to the conversation. And that is a good thing! I love that fact that everyone can talk together, share thoughts, discuss the Bible.
However, I have been picking up some problems. My biggest problem being that many times this leads to allegory, or even worse forms of reading the Bible. Allegory could be described as the process of spiritualizing a text. Usually this would mean that for every object in or aspect of a text, some other spiritual meaning would be found, and linked to the text. Even worse forms would be people directly applying text to this day in a haphazard way. I’ve been discussing this with some friends today, and we used the example of Luke 10. Forms of this bad way of reading the Bible is to interpret Luke 10 to be saying that we should appoint 72 missionaries in our church to go from town to town, and then saying that this is what the Bible said.
Although this is an extreme example, I have heard some pretty weird interpretations when busy with dwelling in the Word. Although I like the idea that anyone can join in on conversations in the church, I have doubts about the health of a pure round table conversation where those around the congregational table have a closed circuit conversation. But, more on the Round Table conversations tomorrow (hopefully), any thoughts on or stories about dwelling in the Word?