Reflections on “Listening to the Word,” Part 1
In church bodies grounded in the Reformation “solas,” discussion of the interpretation of “sola scriptura” is fundamental, especially in light of the changing landscape of methodological and hermeneutical issues. Even more importantly, the sharing – and understanding — of perspectives from different historical and cultural contexts is a key issue in the globalization of the church. This is clearly important for closer working relationships of mutual interest, care, and support for one another in the larger fellowship of Confessional Lutherans. It also provides an opportunity to learn from one another and engage in self-reflection on our own work, whether within the LCMS or the SELK or whatever corner of the kingdom we might find ourselves put by God for service in Christ.
The engagement with the larger world of biblical scholarship also beyond our confessional commitments provides critical perspectives and insights, including not only the presence but the active participation of our faculty various academic circles and societies, most notably the annual Society of Biblical Literature meeting. It is important that we not only listen but that we earn the right to be listened to, and we have. As one major example, the work of colleague James Voelz in various scholarly circles for so many years, including the Mark seminar, has actually begun to create some discussion of his Mark commentary far beyond our traditional “CPH” circles.
In a similar vein, the attention given to us by our colleagues on the faculty of the LThH in Oberursal provided a more confessionally-collegial engagement with their work within contemporary European scholarship. The original modest goal was simply to “talk shop” together. This was healthy for us all. We were reminded of the academic world in which they have studied and in which their students and pastors have to operate. We were also reminded of our own collegiality that we dare never take for granted in a faculty that has multiple members in each department, informing, enriching, correcting and encouraging one another. (As several of the Oberurseler remarked: each one of us IS our entire department.) We were all engaged in the challenges of theological education and pastoral formation for the 21st century world, with many of the same currents and cross-currents in society and culture. And we mutually affirmed the helpfulness of sharing what are inevitably limited resources. We don’t need to be – and really can’t afford to be — independent islands, working only in our own contexts, cultures, and circles.