24 September 2006

Come Closer

So, there'll probably be more than the usual number of posts today because I've got quite a few things to write. Since they all have to do with church stuff, I don't feel bad posting them all today.

I'm really enjoying my New Testament class. This could be because it's taught by Dr. Wilfred Griggs, another man high up there on my list of great religious thinkers (along with OSC, CSL, and Hugh Nibley--in fact, he had an office across from Nibley for several years). I really like the way he's chosen to structure his class. First, he treats each gospel as the individual testimony of a man writing to a certain audience. Sometimes I get really annoyed at the way we read the New Testament, and more generally the Bible, in Sunday School. This probably has something to do with being an English major. Everyone's always trying to see past the text, to use what's written down as a general outline of what really happened, focusing on historical events rather than the actual writings of the apostles and prophets. Most people realize that the texts are subjective, having been filtered through human beings, but too often we treat that as something we have to get around or past in order to get to meaning. I like the way Griggs approaches the New Testament because he sees this weakness as a strength. The way different men write about the life of Christ says something about themselves, their purpose, and their audience. If we examine it instead of trying to ignore it, we can learn so much more--again, a plug for the English major.

Also, Griggs is not like most of the religion faculty at BYU. Most faculty I've heard about grade on your ability to either regurgitate the insights they've shared with you in class, or memorize the content of the scriptures, or simply be able to find content in the scriptures, as with open book classes. I guess these are ways to go about grading a religion course, since it's impossible to grade on testimony, but I don't believe they're very good ways. Instead, Griggs grades on your ability to create your own insights, even/especially when they don't agree with his perspective. It's much more true to the way I see the scriptures working in real life. It's not about getting the "right" answer, but being able to get answers of inspiration through the interaction of the scriptures, the Holy Ghost, and your life.

Finally, I like the fact that he's not even going to try to cover all four gospels in class--he says, and I agree, that all you'd be able to get to would be superficial Sunday School stuff. When I was taking my fundamentals of literary criticism class, a teacher who had studied at a Jewish college came to teach our class on Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed--interesting book by the way. She talked about taking a class wherein they were supposed to study Genesis. But, after a semester, they had barely finished chapter one! Now that's the kind of density with which we ought to study the gospel. (Not that I'm opposed to faster readings--a general overview is good--but in-depth readings get you a lot more.)

So our in-class discussions are only going to cover Matthew and Luke. But, so that we cover all the gospels, our two outside papers are on Mark and John. I usually hate writing religion papers--the Sunday School answers sound even more dull on paper--but I'm absolutely ecstatic about this one because it gives me a chance to really think about what each book is trying to accomplish.

I just finished reading through Mark, so I'll wrap up this post by giving you some of my thoughts on his gospel. Sorry that they're kind of still outline-y. I need to read through Mark again to refine my ideas.

  • Mark's thesis statement: Mark 1:1 "Jesus Christ, the Son of God"; specifically bearing testimony of Christ's divine nature, in opposition to the idea of Jesus as simply a great teacher or prophet.
  • Mark focuses on Christ's actions more than his doctrine (see Bible dictionary). Specific types of actions which seem to be more concentrated:
    • Confrontations with devils/evil spirits--they testify that He is the Christ. Account of the Legion of spirits cast into the swine much more detailed in Mark than Matt. Real opposition of evil to goodness of Christ.
    • Miracles--acknowledging his power and divinity. Also, authority over matter, life, and the elements.
  • Contrast between the Pharisees/Scribes and Christ: idle words versus actions. Pharisees concerned over specific, small doctrines and details. Christ paints righteousness with a much broader stroke.
  • Asking people to not tell about miracles--not be converted by heresay?
  • Parables in Mark are parables of how people act once they receive the gospel. Our testimonies shown through action.
  • Many implications that the gospel is for everyone--not just for the Jews, or the righteous.
Update: Additional posts have been scrapped for today. Stupid real life. :D

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