Reading the Bible in a Cultural Crisis

We hope that you will join us for the twenty-first annual Carmichael-Walling Lectures at Abilene Christian University on November 8. Dr. Wayne A. Meeks will be exploring the subject of Bible interpretation in and for contemporary culture, in two lectures:

1) Living by the Bible: the Bad, the Good, and the Question

The Bible has been used to justify most every moral abomination we can think of—cruel and unusual punishments, censorship, slavery, wars of aggression, xenophobia, racial segregation, oppression of women, child abuse, anti-Semitism, homophobia, authoritarian government, suppression of scientific inquiry—the list is depressingly long. Yet we also know that saintly lives, loving communities, and liberating movements have been shaped by the reading of this same book. In light of the Bible's Jekyll-and-Hyde role in our history, can we honestly urge people to live by it?

2) To Tell the Truth: Moving toward Greater Honesty

To judge from the number of public figures ready to tell us what "the Bible teaches" or "the Biblical doctrine" of this, that, and the other issue, we might think that it is a very simple matter to discover what "the Bible says." It is not. Indeed, that very metaphor is misleading. Any attempt to move toward greater honesty and faithfulness in interpreting and employing the Bible must begin by uncovering the ways in which our language masks the real processes involved when people invoke the Bible as authority. We must face up to the failures as well as the successes of modernist biblical theology and historical criticism. We must be candid about the politics of dishonesty that so frequently infects public displays of biblicism. We must analyze the curious irony that some people who regard themselves as "evangelical" are biblically illiterate. By taking these small steps toward honest self-awareness, can we discover in the traditions of the Bible and its reading communities a source for "radical hope" in a time of cultural crisis?

Wayne A. Meeks is Woolsey Professor of Biblical Studies Emeritus in the Department of Religious Studies, Yale University, where he taught from 1969 until 1999. Ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1956, he served as a university minister for a time in Memphis and later at Yale. He has been president of the Society of Biblical Literature (1985) and Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (2004–5). He is best known for his publications on the writings of the apostle Paul and on the Fourth Gospel, for his investigation of the social history of earliest Christianity, and for work on the formation of early Christian morality.

The Lectures are free and open to the public. They will be held in room 130 of the Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building at ACU at 4:00 and 7:30 p.m.

For more information, contact Jeff Childers at the Graduate School of Theology: (325) 674 3797 childersj@acu.edu.