procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Monday, March 14, 2011

how to read a narrative

here's a great list of 10 questions on how to read narrative (biblical or otherwise).

  1. who is the hero?
  2. what constitutes the quest?
  3. who are the helpers and the antagonists? (this can include people as well as factors)
  4. do you sense the presence of the narrator anywhere in the text?
  5. what does the narrator do with the chronology of the events?
  6. what happens with the narrated time? (does it speed up, slow down, stop, are there gaps?)
  7. is the plot clear on its own, or is it only understandable within a larger narrative? (if the latter, what is the macroplot?)
  8. what can you say about the dialogues?*
  9. what word choices or other style/structure characteristics strike you?
  10. how is the unit divided? are there further subdivisions?
* i don't think the order is important, yet it is interesting that this comes so far down.

This list is adapted from Jan Fokkelman, Reading Biblical Narrative: An Introductory Guide (Louisville, K.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999 ET), as quoted in Provan, Long and Longman, A Biblical History of Israel (also Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), p90.

I was reading aBHoI as I think some more about narrative and history.

my question is: to what extent is it necessary to pursue/argue for/maintain the historicity of the claims to make sense of the text, particularly as one seeks to live a godly life in response to scripture? They (ch4 is mainly V. Philips Long's) argue that because biblical narratives make historical truth claims, 'ahistorical readings are perforce false misreadings' (p81).

i want to think some more on this.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

patients and clients

i've been meaning to write about this for a while now.

when i went to university the first time round, one of the first things we were told is that we didn't have patients anymore, we had clients. and we all nodded, recognising we weren't splint-makers, but health-service providers. we had an important task to work out in concert with our clients which services best fitted their needs. no more were we caring for, looking after, or helping people. we were professionals.

in the olden days, prosthetist-orthotists like me, wouldn't have been like me. they would most likely have been war veterans, with at the very least one prosthesis. their patients would have been people who lost their legs a little later than them, and, chances are, if they were up to it, would've been trained up to help the next lot.

but today, we're university educated, with a nice piece of paper, and we are the clients' health service providers.

i think my question is, what does this change in nomenclature mean for a) the way we treat patients, and b) for their expectations of us?

the words patient, treat, care, look after - all imply that there is something wrong. that there is something that needs to be made right. it is not about wants but needs. this doesn't mean the needs will always be met, that we will work toward goals, but if someone has lost a leg, their need is to be able to walk again, even if a wheelchair may be the best outcome considering various factors.

but the words client, health-service provider, management, service, imply a contractual relationship, where one's services are engaged for a particular agreed-upon purpose. the sense of caring for someone who unable is gone.

likewise, the recent don't dis- my -ability campaign baffles me. i get what it's saying. but, if i may make a tandem point (this is a blog, after all), part of being in community is helping those who need help. we (should) help people with prams on and off buses, we (should) give up our seats for others. yes, you can crawl the kokoda track, but why should that ever make it condescending for someone to offer or to receive assistance from a fellow human being.

after all, the worth of a person is not in what they can or can't do, or how many functioning limbs they have. but our value is in our created-ness, our innate image-bearing. and indeed, it is often those with so little who contribute so much - triumphing over adversity to achieve the unachievable.

in my short time working in the health-care industry, i have served patients from all walks of life - homeless, teachers, public officials, artists - and compassion, care and serving those unable to serve themselves has been what has driven the same level of care for all.

the road to clients is a road that means the end of multi-disciplinary teams, the end of public health care, the end of sympathy.

Those who are well have no need of a doctor, but those who are sick. Mark 2.17

you might want to make your own extrapolations for what this means in a ministry context.

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æ has written a great post, 10 thoughts about doubt

i added my own thought in the comments there, but thought i'd expand on it here:

doubt often drives us in the wrong direction. when we are faced with doubt, we tend to withdraw from those who (we think) don't doubt, not sharing with them. the people who are most likely to know what we're feeling, and to have been through what we're going through, are often ironically the last ones we share with.
and instead of being driven back to the bible to recall what we first believed, we read material of those we think are fellow doubters, but who never shared out faith in the first place. so if we are wondering about evil, we read 'God is not great'. if we wonder about whether we were brainwashed as a child, we read 'The God Delusion'.
in doubt, which happens to all, we need to go back to first principles. speak with, or read the thoughts of, fellow believers who have shared your doubts - what got them through? why did they believe despite their tragedy? how did they survive their philosophy degree without giving up hope?

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Monday, March 07, 2011

projected project

a couple of years ago i read a bit of Paul Ricœur at a reading group, from figuring the sacred. i didn't understand much, but over the next couple of years at college i kept trying to read him, using him for essays on the historical fall and historicity versus theological intent.

broadly speaking, he's been really stimulating for my thinking about hermeneutics - how we read the bible. Ricœur's big thing, best understood in contrast, is an hermeneutic of trust, not one of suspicion.

so what i hope to do is look at his work, and think about how some other guys in the hermeneutics field do it - people like Brevard Childs, John Goldingay, Walter Brueggemann, Francis Watson.

it doesn't mean i fully get him yet, nor do i expect to after this year. but i hope to be challenged about how to read the old and new testaments on their own and together, and to be able to keep pushing others to do their own thinking.

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