Thursday, December 3, 2009

Point and Counterpoint

In the midst of the swamp of interpretational communities that we all navigate through, we can often lose sight of the service that people who take clearly defined positions provide all of us. It's fun to attack caricatures or parodies of well-defined positions, but well-defined positions allow us the luxury of providing a counterpoint to a well-made point.

As I've been teaching this last quarter, I found that many of the ideas that I want to communicate to people in the classroom often come out best as counterpoints. For instance, if I want to point out how every hermeneutic ultimately leaves some data unaddressed, it really helps to have students who have already adopted a well-defined hermeneutic. That is to say, it's really hard to make a counterpoint without a point.

On a good day, it all works. But on a bad day, my teaching style can vacillate between boring and raving. That's a problem, and it really doesn't work very well in the long run to simply look for caricatures to attack. So, much of my work is building a well-made points so that I can hopefully get to the place where I can offer a counterpoint. It's laborious, but it seems to be the way that works best for me.

Which brings me back to those well-defined positions, whether theological or scholarly, that I often use as touchstones in my thought in teaching. People or positions that I often perceived as enemies are starting to seem like friends because of the service that they provide for me.

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