1. This is not something I'm working on, but I presented some armchair thoughts. Here is a paraphrase of my final slide, which suggested the following guidelines:
- Faith-filled scholarship needs to be cautious about the effect of scholarship on the faith of others. The primary issue is not precision in relation to truth. Insofar as it is about truth, biblical engagement is primarily about truth as it leads to forming Christian dispositions and life in the world.
- Thus, the primary "telos" of biblical engagement is not to arrive at a certain set of ideas. The function of the Bible as Scripture is not primarily about propositions but about God bringing a certain effect on God's people.
- Faith-filled scholarship appropriates Scripture with the law of love and the rule of faith as guiding principles.
- Pragmatism ultimately aims at "world adjusting success" rather than cultural success (Kitcher, 135). I would personally argue that this dynamic ultimately leads to a move away from fundamentalism as a biblical approach, even if many of its aims can coincide with what I consider a more "effective" understanding.
- Pragmatism privileges questions that matter to many people, rather than questions of individual interest, such as matters of interest to an individual scholar.
- If there is a spectrum between knowledge of reality "as it is" and knowledge as it affects our dispositions and the way we live, pragmatism is primarily interested in the latter and considers many debates about the former as nonsensical.
- I hear a lot of rhetoric about our actions flowing from our ideas. In practice, our ideas are often disconnected from our actions and, also quite often, we modify our ideas to fit with our fundamental dispositions or to fit with the groups to which we belong. Our fundamental dispositions and drives shape our ideas far more than our ideas shape our actions. See Jamie Smith.
- Ideas are primarily our God-given way of processing the real world. Ideas are tools to process the world as well as expressions of our deep seated desires and dispositions. Idea systems become more and more irrelevant when they delve into the spaces in-between the ideas that actually do express realia. At this point, thinking has become unhinged from realia, and we begin to ask how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
- This actually fits with an incarnational approach to revelation, IMO. The Bible is God meeting his people in their language games and forms of life. It is about God finding language that is effective to form their dispositions and ways of living at a particular time and place, not about presenting them with truths about underlying reality on its own terms. God is the ultimate pragmatist.
- First, my goal was not to endorse any particular scholarly hypothesis, but to show that even some eye-raising hypotheses could lead to the same telos as more traditional readings.
- My point was that the precision of one's understanding of truth need not have an effect on the telos in life. For example, one can derive the same implications from a story whether that story is historical or not. There are literary approaches that result in the same implications as the assumption that a narrative had no underlying sources.
- Here John Drury rightly noticed that I shifted into what he called "strategic pragmatism." Pastoral concerns might keep a pastor from ever mentioning certain ideas from the pulpit, even if they have some probability of being true. Abson Joseph mentioned that some classes might have no problem hearing about the Synoptic question, while the topic might best be passed over in the case of others.
- So perhaps my presentation was working in two distinct pragmatic directions: 1) Biblical scholarship can go a very long way outside the stereotypical parameters of fundamentalism and classic neo-evangelicalism and still lead to the same telos. In general, "truthfulness" is not bound to twentieth-century preoccupations with history and literality.
- And 2) Since the telos ultimately is not a set of ideas, our presentation of ideas should not become an obstacle to reaching the telos. Something can be "true" to varying degrees of precision, and some degrees of precision will be more useful in some situations than others.
Are these useful thoughts? Probably not to the vast majority of Christians. But they might be very useful to someone doing graduate work in biblical studies or who is involved in teaching the Bible on a graduate level.