The GBU last year used the Manuscript Bible Study method. We've moved this year to the (Observation, Interpretation, Application - same in French!) prepared questions method. Now, I had never really thought of MBS as bad - it just takes ages. In fact, I thought that I was using it in part in my Clifton SLOBS last year. That said, I don't think I've ever done a full MBS study. (With Clifton we used it with a suggested range of questions to consider until we arrived at a main teaching point and aim, and then went to suggested questions to use for the groups, because of time.) So I'd never considered what it actually is. My IFES team leaders here pointed out that what ends up being discussed is the points of the passage which most members find interesting. This may not be the emphasis of the passage. If the leader has prepared well, then it shouldn't be bad interpretation, but ultimately the group is in charge.
It struck me (acknowledging that I've been enjoying reading Vanhoozer's "Is there meaning in this text?") that this is essentially a postmodern hermeneutic: it dethrones the author (whether real or implied) and puts the reader in charge of meaning. Does the text itself have an intended meaning? Does it have an intended response?? These are rhetorical questions - responses would involve a dissertation the size of Vanhoozer's tome... but clearly the answer that MBS implies (even if it is used for better purposes) is that the reader is in charge of the text, its meaning, and the response. The author doesn't call for a response; rather, the reader responds to what the reader has decided of the text. Thus the reader conditions the text, rather than the text conditioning the reader.
As Christians, we have a resposability to be more careful readers than MBS allows/proscribes. We are made and redeemed to be in God's image: personal, communicating, responsable beings who act in covenant relationships with each other. We must be careful readers of each other's communication, and supremely careful readers of God's communication.
Of course, OIA questions don't guarantee this, but would seem to more carefully consider that there is an author with intended meaning and intended response.
(Vanhoozer's thesis is that text is coventantal communicative action. He has a lot more to say about it, and further logs may follow: I'm loving it! There's a lot more to consider about how much the response produced is part of the meaning too, and to what extent the author is responsable for responses - I hope he'll say more in what I haven't yet read. That also has implications for the proposed UK law on incitement to religious hatred: none of us act as if deconstruction is true, but as if we are creatures of real communicative action!)
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