On 5–6 April, I attended the annual Stone-Campbell Journal Conference. One of the most fascinating papers was that by David Fiensy.
The paper was rather innocuously titled “Interpreting Acts: The Value of Archaeology.” But David delivered a fascinating, eye-opening discussion of disease in the ancient Mediterranean.
David’s primary evidence is archaeologically preserved in bones and (yes) fecal deposits. This may make some of the content a bit awkward. But David’s research helpfully clarifies (and likely corrects) to how we should imagine the authors and audiences of the NT.
Another very interesting paper was by Jerry Sumney on Paul’s use of pre-formed material in 1 Corinthians. Jerry’s argument leads him to paint a picture of Paul in 1 Corinthians as less antagonistic to existing leadership and tradition.
This is ultimately more consistent with the portrayal of Paul in Acts. Jerry then understands Paul’s criticisms in Galatians to derive from the very particular context that letter addresses.
Also included at the beginning of this recording is a short reflection on Christian education that I was privileged to give when the scheduled speaker wasn’t able to attend.
H.-G. Gadamer concludes his essay on “The Universality of the Hermeneutical Problem” by commenting on the importance of language, with an interestingly theological turn. Gadamer suggests,
The … building up of our own world in language persists whenever we want to say something to each other. The result is the actual relationship of men to each other…. Genuine speaking, which has something to say and hence does not give prearranged signals, but rather seeks words through which one reaches the other person, is the universal human task – but it is a special task for the theologian, to whom is commissioned the saying-further (Weitersagen) of a message that stands written. (Philosophical Hermeneutics, 17)
To be sure, Christian Scripture and the broader Christian tradition can and do speak for themselves. But, it is doubtless specially incumbent upon those with vocations in theology, biblical studies, preaching, and other Christian education areas to see to the passing on of this testimony and to its interpretation in various contemporary milieux.
I’ve recently had the opportunity of working through Andrew Babyak’s article, “A Teaching Strategy for a Christian Virtual Environment” (Journal of Research in Christian Education 24, no. 1 : 63–77). A number of Babyak’s reflections are quite insightful and helpful. According to the abstract,
The current landscape in education is changing rapidly as online learning programs are experiencing great growth. As online learning grows, many professors and students are entering into new learning environments for the first time. While online learning has proven to be successful in many cases, it is not a journey upon which Christian professors or students should begin without some preparation. This article articulates a basic Christian teaching strategy by providing recommendations for those who are entering the online environment for the first time or desire to improve their online teaching effectiveness. These principles and recommendations are presented so that Christian professors can create Christian virtual environments in which they can have a significant impact on their students’ spiritual development in an online environment. It is critical that professors design their courses with the needs of online students in mind, ensuring that students of all learning styles are able to excel. Furthermore, professors should understand that online teaching often takes more time than traditional methods of teaching, increasing the importance of clear instructions and communication with students.
Spiritual formation continues to be an important element in Christian education. As Christian education continues to explore online modes of executing its mission, it is necessary for Christian education to give careful thought to the unique challenges that online modes involve for the spiritually formative aspect of its mission.
As one more preliminary way of puzzling out how “online” and “spiritual formation” might fit together in this context, I’ve uploaded to Academia.edu a draft of a current project that tries to address this question. Comments, thoughts, suggestions, and questions on the project are most welcome either here or on the review session page at Academia.edu.