This morning, while walking Happy, I was listening to Dr. Peter Enns’ Podcast, “The Bible for normal people.” His guest was Cheryl B. Anderson. Dr. Anderson, was a trial lawyer in Washington DC for ten years before going to seminary to become a pastor. She was ordained in the Methodist church and started her pastoral ministry at an all-white church in the Nation’s capital. Dr. Anderson is an African American. She then went back to school and completed her Ph.D in Hebrew Bible concentrating on the ethics of the laws in the Old Testament. She is now professor of Old Testament at Garret Evangelical Seminary. She was a fascinating guest.
As they discussed how we interpret Scripture, especially the Old Testament, Dr. Anderson discussed the work of Audrey Lord who describes the “mythical norm” of biblical interpretation. The mythical norm is white, male, heterosexual, and affluent. The vast majority of biblical scholarship in the past few hundred years has been done, written about, and preached by white, heterosexual, affluent men. I don’t think this fact is necessarily controversial, but it is noteworthy. Anderson argues that it is naive for us to think that the social station of the people who have been translating our bibles, writing our commentaries, preaching our sermons, and compiling our systematic theologies, hasn’t impacted the way we read and understand the bible. If you are non-white, female, gay or poor, you may know exactly what Dr. Anderson is talking about.
Then Enns said this… “All theology has an adjective. There is no neutral theology, all theology is contextual and it always strikes me when people claim to have this, sort of, 30,000 foot above it all view, where ‘we’re just doing theology’, I think everyone who does theology is actually radically re-contextualizing a text that was written at a time and place by a people who had absolutely no idea of the stuff that we would be dealing with a few thousand years later…”
“All theology has an adjective.” Wow. I think he’s right. I fell into the trap that he describes where I assumed I was “above all that” and my theology was “adjectiveless”, but I am becoming more and more aware that I am just as prone to contextualization as the next person.
So, let’s play, “NAME THAT ADJECTIVE” shall we? Let’s do something vulnerable and admit our adjectives. I think if we are going to interpret scripture honestly, we need to first be honest with ourselves and admit the pre-dispositions that we bring to the text.
So, I will go first and then I invite you to share your “adjectives” in the comments. A reminder, this page, while public, is my public page and I want it to be a safe place for anyone and everyone to share. So a couple of ground rules.
- Be kind.
- Respect people who see things differently than you.
- Try to learn something instead of trying to teach something.
So here I go…
My theology is evangelical, New Covenant, white, affluent, heterosexual, love filtered Theology
If you look at my list, you will realize that I have lived my entire life in an extremely small sliver of Christendom. Once again, it would be naive to think that this hasn’t impacted the way I read scripture and interpret it. Awareness is the first step to correction. So, I am purposefully reading, listening to, and learning from people outside this small sliver these days, and I am growing so much!
Ok, your turn, share you adjectives below.
Having a hard time coming up with them? Are you wondering how to determine what your theological adjectives are? Well, look at the people you read, the commentaries you study, the Bible translation you use, the seminary you attended (if you went), the denomination of the church you attend, glance at your social media feed, and you will start to get a feel.
OK, really now, it is your turn… thanks for playing!